Your streets witness our struggle
Your bricks show are our rage through the emptiness of each house shuttered, of each factory closed
We've lived through the ups and the downs
But we remain, Detroit
We can never turn our backs on you Detroit, because we are you"
The Motor City. Motown. The D. Hockeytown. The Arsenal of Democracy. The Paris of the Midwest.
In the mid-20th century, Detroit was the fifth-largest city in the United States, the center of its powerful auto industry, and a bustling hub of music and culture. Things have changed a lot since then; Detroit is now the 24th largest city in the country.note It still remains the largest city in the State of Michigan and the focal point of the Great Lakes State's main population center (with a metropolitan population of 4.3 million, or slightly less than half the total state population of 9.9 million) and economic engine.
The Detroit area is the center of America's automotive industry. Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis North America (better known as Chrysler) have headquarters there and it is known as the "Motor City" for this very reason.note Its most recognizable structure is the Renaissance Center, a cluster of late-'70s-era skyscrapers that serve as GM's headquarters. The Center notably clashes with the rest of the city's skyline, built much earlier in the century; at the time it was built, it stood as a promise for a bright future for the city, and it now serves as a visible reminder of the region's stagnation.
It is geographically notable for a few reasons. Despite being separated from Windsor, Ontario by the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair, it features the busiest U.S.-Canada border crossing—the Ambassador Bridge. It is also the only place in the contiguous 48 States where Canada is south of the U.S., since Windsor juts out to the west just so.note Detroit itself is surrounded by smaller independent municipalities, which form the Metro Detroit area. With both a Spanish Univision station in Detroitnote and (until it was shut down in 2012) a CBC tower in Windsor rebroadcasting the main Francophone feed from Montréal, it was for many years the only area in North America where you could watch free-to-air TV in three languages.note
The Metro Detroit area is home to a myriad cultures and ethnicities, including one of the largest Arab populations in North America, centered in Dearborn (with a sizable Lebanese outpost in West Bloomfield — where they get along rather interestingly with the large Jewish population - and the world's biggest Iraqi Catholic population outside Iraq, centered in the northeast exurbs of Utica and Shelby Township, where they get along rather interestingly with the existing predominance of Albanians and Macedonians). It is also very economically and racially-segregated, with poorer minorities living in the city, the white working-class in the eastern suburbs and the Downriver areanote next door to the city to the southwest, and the predominantly white, Indian American, and Asian American upper-middle-class in the northwestern suburbs/exurbs and the Grosse Pointesnote just east of the city proper. The Metro Detroit area is one of the most racially segregated in the nation.
This inequality is just one reason that Detroit has one of the least-flattering public images of any major city in the country. The decline of the American auto industry in the The '70s, combined with simmering racial, economic, and labor tensions, have made it the poster child for, and butt of many jokes about, urban decay and inner-city squalor for much of America. Detroit has lost 60% of its peak population since 1950 (from 1.8 million to less than 700,000). For decades, mentions of Detroit in the national media and pop culture have typically referred to it as a Place Worse Than Death, and the crumbling ruins of some of its more destitute neighborhoods have honestly been described as looking post-apocalyptic. This tends to seriously annoy Detroiters, who feel that the city's bad reputation is making it harder to revitalize. They also feel that many of the jokes are tired, clichéd, and lazy. The city filed for bankruptcy in 2013, becoming the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history. Since the bankruptcy, the city's finances are much more stable, and there are a number of projects for growth across the city (especially in Downtown and Midtown). That being said, city redevelopment can be a slow process, as the experiences of many other cities in the U.S. can tell. In recent years, however, the city has seen a number of new major retail openings to compete with those party storesnote , Amocos-turned-BPs, Borons-turned-BPs, Perry Drugs-turned-Rite Aids and Arbor Drugs-turned-CVS Pharmacies.
Detroit is also known as "Hockeytown" due to the Detroit Red Wings, one of the "Original Six" teams of the NHL, and one of four such teams in the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Divisionnote , and a perennial Stanley Cup contender. The city has teams in all four major sports, but those have been somewhat less successful, though the Pistons had a few dominant runs in basketball and the the Tigers have had their moments in baseball. The Lions, on the other hand, are truly abysmal and have the longest championship drought of any football team, having not won an NFL title since before the Super Bowl even existed.
The two primary sides; the East Side and the West Side; are divided by Woodward Avenue, a major thoroughfare designated as Michigan state highway M-1, although there are several lesser-known sides within these two larger sides. Woodward Avenue features a brand new streetcar line called the QLine, opened in 2017, which connects downtown, midtown and New Center, where one of its stops is located across from the city's Amtrak station. Woodward is one of six wide, major throughfares that radiate from the city center into the surrounding suburbs (Woodward extends as far north as Pontiac in neighboring Oakland County), and in some instances, well into outstate Michigan.note
Fell into a Dork Age during The '70s as its status as the metro area's main employment center was displaced by new office centers in the suburbs, and was really showing by The '90s when Woodward Avenue through the heart of downtown was lined with wig shops, check-cashing places, and other Wretched Hive mainstays.
Downtown would escape from this Dork Age at the Turn of the Millennium, beginning with the Tigers' relocation to Comerica Park, and by the time of Quicken Loans' relocation of its headquarters from Livonia to Campus Martius in 2010 and the subsequent reoccupation of Downtown's formerly-abandoned skyscrapers, this Dork Age had ended.
Downtown is encircled by a one-way elevated light rail track called the People Mover, which has seen varying ridership levels since its 1987 opening, but is really useful for somewhat quick (and loud!) travel to various downtown hotspots for those who prefer not to walk (which is typically faster anyway), connects to the aforementioned QLine at two locations, and it gets especially packed during sporting events and conventions.
Midtown Detroit: Located across Interstate 75note from downtown, Midtown covers about two square miles of the city, and features a collection of hospitals named the Detroit Medical Center.
Some of the more notable subdistricts include:
- Art Center: Located at the northernmost end of midtown; it features several notable museums, most notably the Detroit Institute of Arts; the main branch of the Detroit Public Library, the main campus of Wayne State University, and historic Victorian homes on Ferry Avenue.
- Brush Park: An area east of Woodward and on the other side of I-75 that is home to numerous Victorian style residences that were originally built for Detroit's wealthiest. During the 20th century, the neighborhood fell on hard times, and many of these homes were left behind to deteroiate, with a decent number being damaged beyond repair and subsequently demolished. Since relatively late in The '90s, however, many of the remaining homes have been grandfully restored, and new developments have been constructed on many once-vacant lots, including the only Whole Foods Market grocery store to ever be opened within Detroit city limits.
- Cass Corridor: Covers blocks on both sides of Cass Avenue north of I-75, originally one of Detroit's most wealthiest districts up until the mid-20th Century, it has received an incredible appearance makeover, played in large part by Wayne State. Basketball's Pistons and hockey's Red Wings both play at Little Caesars Arena. Built in 2017, it serves as the anchor of the neighborhood's southern end.
- Campus Martius Park: For many years a messy convergence of wide roads that was very pedestiran unfriendly, anchored by the 1001 Woodward Avenue skyscraper, starting at the Turn of the Millennium, it was replaced with a traffic circle featuring parks and monuments, emerging as downtown's main gathering spot.
- Capitol Park: When Michigan attained statehood in 1837, the first state capitol buildingnote was located within this park. That building has been long demolished, but the park itself continues to thrive, especially as the surrounding blocks have seen gentrification during The New '10s, particularly after the Detroit Department of Transportationnote relocated its downtown hub away from the park to another downtown location in 2009.
- Financial District: Detroit's historic financial district, dating back to the 1850s, several ornate skyscrapers can be found in this district, including the Guardian Building, the Penobscot Building, and One Woodward Avenue.
- Grand Circus Park: A half-circular park bisected by Woodward Avenue, several notable skyscrapers surround it, the Detroit Opera House anchors the east half, and Comerica Park, the home stadium of baseball's Tigers, is located at the park's northeast corner.
- Greektown: Established by Greek-Americansnote , the neighborhood, centered on Monroe Street, nowadays is more well known for its bustling Greek restaurants and the Greektown Casino Hotel, one of the city's three casino resorts.
- Sugar Hill: Contains Forest Avenue, and Garfield and Canfield streets between Woodward Avenue and John R. Street, the main draws being an art gallery and luxurious lofts and offices.
Some of the more notable subdistricts include:
- Boston-Edison: A historic neighborhood centered on Chicago Boulevard and Boston Boulevard between Woodward Avenue and Linwood Street containing large mansions which have been home to such notable residents as Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford, S.S. Kresge and Kmart founder Sebastian S. Kresge, and former Detroit mayor James Couzens.
- Chaldean Town: This neighborhood, located along 7 Mile Road immediately east of Woodward Avenue, became a Chaldean Christian enclave in The '60s, and to this date continues to attract newcomer immigrants to Detroit, who then move on to the northern suburbs while retaining ownership of the neighborhood's businesses.
- Hamtramck and Highland Park: A pair of separately-incorporated cities that do share a border with each other for about a quarter-mile,note but are otherwise completely surrounded by Detroit. Hamtramck is noticeably more densely-spaced and was the metro area's Polish enclave for generations,note although numerous Arabic and Asian immigrants have also begun moving into the area. Highland Park, historically a blue-collar community, suffered a massive population loss after Ford and Chrysler closed their plants in this enclave in favor of more modern ones in the suburbs, and nowadays has a similar reputation as Detroit, if not worse (for instance, their only high school closed in 2015 and was quickly demolished, and many of its residential streets, most notably Avalon and Buena Vista streets, lacked streetlights).
- Milwaukee Junction: The location of junctions and crossings between a number of railroad mainlines, numerous large industrial buildings were constructed in the surrounding neighborhood starting in the 1890s, including Cadillac's original assembly plant, Fisher Body Plant 21, Fisher Body Plant 23, the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, and assembly plants for Studebaker, Dodge, and Regal Motor Car.
- Palmer Park: A large park located along the west side of Woodward south of 7 Mile, with a neighborhood comprising apartment buildings abuttng the park's southern edge.
- Palmer Woods: An upper-class neighborhood north of Palmer Park, known for its large elm trees and large brick and Tudor homes on large lots.
- Sherwood Forest: Located between Palmer Woods and Livernois Avenue, the neighborhood was established in 1917 and is similar in character to Palmer Woods.
- Belle Isle: A city park-turned-state park that comprises an entire Detroit River achipelago. Tourist attractions include the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, and the Belle Isle Aquairum. Every Memorial Day weekend, it also hosts the Detroit Grand Prix race.
- East English Village and Morningside: These two neighboring upper-class neighborhoods share a border with Grosse Pointe, and feature wide streets lined with brick and tudor homes of various sizes, predominantly large and luxurious, which seems natural given its location.
- Eastern Market: The largest historic public market district in the United States, it is home to public market sheds, numerous food wholesaling and processing businesses, and fine restaurants. Unfortunately, the district was basically cut in half when the Fisher Freeway Connector to Gratiot Avenue was built in the 1960s.
- Indian Village: Established early in the 20th century, its famous homes were originally built for some of Detroit's most prominent citizens.
- Lafayette Park: An urban renewal project constructed on the site of the African American enclave of Black Bottom, featuring large parks and apartment buildings of varying heights, from low-rise apartments to apartment towers.
- Noham or Banglatown: Named for its location just north of the City of Hamtramck, this neighborhood began gaining Bangladeshi-American residents at the Turn of the Millennium, and by 2015, they were joined by artists, and, of course, hipsters.
- Poletown: A Polish-American neighborhood sandwiched between Eastern Market and Hamtramck, a large portion of it was controversially completely demolished in 1981 for a General Motors assembly plant. The remnants of the neighborhood are now generally termed Poletown East.
- Rivertown: Located along the Detroit River just east of downtown, it experienced a decline throughout the 20th century before resurging in The '90s, and is now home to new residential developments, including Harbortown, an upscale high-rise apartment complex that also features a marina.
That said, the west side also has a few off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods of its own, historically especially along Rosa Parks Boulevard, which was renamed in honor of the prominent Civil Rights Movement leader (who, in fact, resided in Detroit for her later life) in 1976 after its previous name, 12th Street, had become more well known for being the center location of the five-day 1967 riots, which wrecked the city's public image for a generation.
- Brightmoor: A neighborhood that was settled in 1922 by workers from Appalachia, who were drawn to the city's automotive manufacturing plants. Once The '80s rolled around, however, residents began leaving the neighborhood in droves, and crime became the main driving force in the population decline as homes and businesses became abandoned. Fortunately, by The New '10s, non-profit organizations have begun the process of restoring Brightmoor's formerly prestige image.
- Grandmont and Rosedale Park: Two adjacent neighborhoods centered around the six-way intersection of Grand River and Fenkell avenues and the Southfield Freeway (M-39) that began development in the 1910s-20s on land deeded by former U.S. president Andrew Jackson in 1835 and feature large homes in a multitude of architectural styles with street names adopting an English country theme.
- Old Redford: Formerly part of Redford Township, it was annexed into Detroit in 1926. It features a small business district anchored by the Redford Theatre, an indoor movie theater that specalizes in screenings of the sort of films that you can typically see on Turner Classic Movies; and decent residential streets.
- Parkland and Warrendale: Two neighborhoods that are located on the far western side of the city and each share a border with the cities of Dearborn and Dearborn Heights.
- University District: Anchored by the University of Detroit Mercy, the city's other main university, it's a middle-class district which features a variety of architectural styles on tree-lined streets.
- Woodbridge: Located across the John C. Lodge Freeway, M-10, from Wayne State's main campus, the neighborhood was originally developed starting in 1870 with many upper-class houses, and is seeing rapid redevelopment thanks to its close proximity to Wayne State.
- Boynton and Oakwood Heights: Two adjacent neighborhoods southwest of Delray and Springwells that both make up the southernmost section of the City of Detroit, thanks to their being sandwiched between the cities of Dearborn, Melvindale, River Rouge, Ecorse, and Lincoln Park; they became infamously notorious for severe pollution originating from local industrial complexes, to the point that the 48217 ZIP Code, which is shared by these neighborhoods, is frequently ranked as Michigan's most polluted ZIP Code. Tons of houses that were too close to Marathon's refinery have been demolished in an attempt to mitigate this.
- Corktown: Detroit's original Irish neighborhood, which dates back to the 1850s, it is still primarily residential, despite being right across the Lodge Freeway from downtown. It was cut in half in The '60s by the construction of I-75, with the northern half becoming North Corktown, and the southernmost portion similarly was demolished and reveloped into an industrial development known as West Side Industrial. Baseball's Tigers called this neighborhood home from 1912 to 1999 before their relocation to downtown.
- Delray: Originally a Hungarian neighborhood, it fell on hard times in The '70s and has never recovered since. The fact that numerous industrial buildings are in the area (including the Ford River Rouge Complex and Zug Island) and that a decent chunk of the neighborhood was recently wiped out to make room for a second bridge to Canada doesn't help matters much.
- Hubbard Farms: Located across I-75 from the American customs plaza for the Ambassador bridge, this neighborhood features architectural styles spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries along its residential streets, and is also home to Clark Park.
- Mexicantown and Springwells: Two neighborhoods that span along Vernor Highway from Corktown to the border with the City of Dearborn, about half of their residents are Mexican-American. Mexican restaurants and bakeries are abundant here, and it has seen some gentrification since The '90s.
Films set in Detroit or its nearby communities:
- 8 Mile
- Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)
- Beverly Hills Cop (the film and its two sequels are set in Detroit before shifting to Beverly Hills)
- Beverly Hills Cop II
- Beverly Hills Cop III
- Brick Mansions (the English remake of District 13)
- Collision Course
- The Crow
- Detroit takes place during the infamous 1967 12th Street riot, specifically focusing on the Algiers Hotel Incident where three black teenagers were beaten and killed by Detroit police under suspicious circumstances.
- Detroit Rock City
- Don't Breathe
- Dreamgirls (following the famous Motown music label and genre; the play is based in Chicago, but the movie places it in Detroit to make it closer to its inspiration).
- Four Brothers
- Gran Torino (Highland Park)
- Grosse Pointe Blank (Grosse Pointe)
- It Follows: the protagonists live in the well-to-do suburbs, and venture into the decrepit inner city for a number of scenes. Yara remarks about the racial and economic divide, reminiscing on how, when she was younger, her parents wouldn't let her travel south of 8 Mile Road, even to go to the state fair. The large body of water seen several times in the movie is not the ocean, but Lake Erie.
- Max Keeble's Big Move (Robe briefly referred to it, although he mixed it up with Chicago).
- Only Lovers Left Alive: one of the vampire characters lives here, both for its music scene and because its relative desolation allows him to be left alone.
- Out of Sight (based on the novel by beloved Detroit resident Elmore Leonard)
- Sparkle (the remake takes place in Detroit of the 1960s)
- The Upside of Anger (Bloomfield Hills)
- The Virgin Suicides is also set in Grosse Pointe. Jeffrey Eugenides' Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Middlesex is also set in Detroit.
- White Boy Rick
TV shows set in Detroit:
- 8 Simple Rules
- Bob Hearts Abishola
- Detroit 1-8-7
- Freaks and Geeks (faked-up Clinton Township)
- God, the Devil and Bob
- Good Girls
- Hardcore Pawn
- Home Improvement (Royal Oak)
- Hung (shot in West Bloomfield)
- Low Winter Sun
- The Loud House (fictionalized Royal Oak)
- RoboCop: The Series
- Sister, Sister
- Transformers Animated
Video games set in Detroit:
- Asphalt Xtreme
- Battle Cars
- Burnout Revenge
- Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
- The Crew
- Detroit: Become Human
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution
- Formula One: Built to Win
- Ghost Hunter
- Grid Autosport
- Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition
- Neo Scavenger
- Race Driver: Grid
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Musical acts from Detroit:
- Alice Cooper
- Anita Baker (born in Toledo, Ohio but raised in Detroit, started her music career there, and currently lives in Grosse Pointe).
- Aretha Franklin
- The "Belleville Three", Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson, considered the creators of techno music
- Big Sean
- The Black Dahlia Murder
- Bob Seger (Lincoln Park)
- Danny Brown
- Della Reese
- The Dirtbombs
- Eminem (born in Saint Joseph, Missouri, though he spent most of his life in nearby Warren, and currently lives in another suburb, Rochester Hills)
- Esham (born in New York City; formed the Detroit-based rap label, Reel Life Productions)
- House of Krazees
- Iggy Pop and The Stooges: Mostly associated with Ann Arbor, but definitely part of the Detroit protopunk scene in the late '60s.
- Kid Rock
- Madonna (born in Bay City [116 miles to the north], but raised in Rochester Hills, a suburb in Oakland County)
- The MC5 (formed in Lincoln Park), even referenced in "Motor City Is Burning" from Kick Out the Jams.
- Mitch Ryder
- Most of the Motown Records artists in the 1960s and 1970s, including but not limited to the Four Tops, the Temptations, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.
- Psychopathic Records artists Insane Clown Posse, ABK, Big Hoodoo, Blaze Ya Dead Homie and Zug Izland.
- Sixto Rodriguez (subject of the Oscar winning documentary, Searching for Sugar Man)
- Ted Nugent
- Uncle Kracker
- The White Stripes
Professional Wrestlers from Detroit:
- Bruiser Brody
- Kevin Nash (born in the city proper and also lived in Trenton)
- Alex Shelley is from Detroit. For a while, he teamed up with Chris Sabin, who's from Pickney, as the "Motor/Murder City Machine Guns" , themselves often times paired Kevin Nash as their manager.
- Sgt. Slaughter
- George Steele (raised in Madison Heights)
- Rick and Scott Steiner (Bay City)
Celebrities from Detroit:
- Grant Achatz, a Molecular Gastronomist chef, currently based out of Chicago, who got his start in cooking with his family's chain of kosher pie restaurants in Oakland County.
- Mitch Albom, sportswriter for the Detroit Free Press who moonlights as an author, most notably Tuesdays with Morrie.
- Tim Allen (Birmingham)
- Lucille Ball (briefly lived in Wyandotte during her childhood)
- Kristen Bell (Huntington Woods)
- Jim Benton, creator of It's Happy Bunny (Bloomfield Township)
- Jerry Bruckheimer
- Bruce Campbell (Royal Oak)
- Ben Carson: Neurosurgeon, Republican politician, and as of 2018, United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Moved to Baltimore to work at Johns Hopkins Hospital; currently a resident of Florida.
- Dave Coulier (St. Clair Shores)
- Jeff Daniels (grew up in Chelsea)
- Dann Florek (Flat Rock)
- Max Gail, best known as Wojo on Barney Miller (Grosse Ile)
- Nerds Are Sexy poster girl Judy Greer (raised in Redford and Livonia)
- David Alan Grier
- Butch Hartman (Highland Park and New Baltimore)
- Tom Hulce (raised in Plymouth). Famous for playing Pinto, Mozart, and Quasimodo.
- Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics, producer of many DC films and TV shows, and writer of some famous comic storylines, including Infinite Crisis, Flashpoint, and Blackest Night (raised in Grosse Pointe and Clarkston).
- Casey Kasem
- Carrie Keranen (Oak Park)
- "Dr. Death" Jack Kevorkian, famously portrayed by Al Pacino in HBO's You Don't Know Jack.
- Keegan-Michael Key
- Richard Kiel
- He may not sound like it, but James Lipton, host of Inside the Actors Studio was born and raised in Detroit.
- Lee Majors (Wyandotte)
- Dwayne McDuffie
- Tim Meadows (Highland Park)
- S. Epatha Merkerson, a.k.a. Lt. Anita Van Buren
- Man of a Thousand Voices Rob Paulsen (raised in Livonia, Rochester, and Grand Blanc)
- George Peppard
- Gilda Radner
- Sam Raimi (Royal Oak)
- Mary Lynn Rajskub (raised in Trenton)
- Joyce Randolph
- Sam Richardson
- Tim Robinson
- Mitt Romney was born in Detroit and raised in Bloomfield Hills. His father, George Romney, was president of the American Motors Corporation;note the elder Romney was also a Republican Governor of Michigan in the '60s, and was a vocal supporter of the Civil Rights Movement and of equality for blacks within the LDS Church, and a candidate for President in 1968.note
- Michelle Ruff
- Chris Savino was raised in Royal Oak and used the city as the main inspiration for his show The Loud House.
- Tom Selleck
- J. K. Simmons (Grosse Pointe)
- Tom Skerritt
- Lily Tomlin
- Courtney B. Vance
- Billy West
- Robin Williams spent about half his youth in Bloomfield Hills (his dad was an exec at Ford) and half in New-Age Retro Hippie country, Marin County, California.
- John Witherspoon