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Detroit (pronounced ) (French: Détroit, pronounced /detʀwa/) is a city in Wayne County in the state of Michigan, in the Midwest region of the United States. Established in 1701 by French fur traders, today it is best known as the world's automotive center and an important music capital — legacies celebrated by the city's two familiar nicknames, Motor City and Motown.
Located along the Detroit River — French: Rivière du Détroit, i.e. "River of the Strait" — and across from the Canadian city of Windsor, Ontario, the city is the seat of Wayne County and the center of a tri-county industrial zone (including Oakland and Macomb counties) that is among the most significant in the American Rust Belt. The Interstate 75 corridor running through Oakland County has been nicknamed by civic leaders as Automation Alley.
Detroit is the United States' 11th most populous city, with 911,000 residents in 2003, according to United States Census Bureau estimates.
"Detroit" is sometimes used as shorthand for the Metro Detroit region, which is also unofficially referred to as "Southeast Michigan." Residents are generally known as "Detroiters."
The Detroit skyline at night.
- Main article: History of Detroit, Michigan
French officer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded a fort and settlement at the site of Detroit in 1701. Originally the settlement was called Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit after the comte de Pontchartrain, minister of marine under Louis XIV and for the river that connects Lakes St. Clair and Erie. The British gained control of the area in 1760 and thwarted an Indian attack three years later during Pontiac's Rebellion. In 1796 Detroit and its surrounding areas passed to the United States, and from 1805 to 1847 the town was the territorial and state capitol of Michigan. Though Detroit fell to the British for a short time during the War of 1812 (see: Battle of Detroit), it was recaptured by Gen. William Henry Harrison in 1813.
Detroit was incorporated as a city in 1815.
Situated strategically on a strait along the Great Lakes waterway, Detroit emerged as a key transportation center. The city grew steadily during the 1830s, and subsequent decades saw substantial growth in the shipping, shipbuilding and manufacturing industries. A thriving carriage trade set the stage for the work of Henry Ford, who in 1899 built his first automobile factory in Highland Park, an independent city within Detroit. Ford's manufacturing innovations as well as significant contributions from many other automotive pioneers such as William C. Durant, the Dodge brothers and Louis Chevrolet, solidified Detroit's status as the world's car capital, and the blossoming industry spurred the city's spectacular growth during the first half of the 20th century.
With the factories came high-profile labor strife, climaxing in the 1930s as the United Auto Workers initiated bitter battles with Detroit's auto manufacturers. The labor activism established during those years, which brought fame and notoriety to hometown union leaders such as Jimmy Hoffa and Walter Reuther, remains a key feature on the city's cultural and political landscape.
Detroit has endured a painful decline during the past several decades, and is often held up as a symbol of Rust Belt urban blight. The city's population has plummeted since 1950 as residents have moved to the suburbs, particularly following the 12th Street Riot in 1967. Large numbers of buildings and homes were abandoned, with many remaining for years in states of decay. Recent urban renewal efforts have led to the demolition or renovation of several abandoned skyscrapers and large buildings, the razing of old houses for new housing developments, and an expedited process to remove abandoned homes near schools. Still, many abandoned buildings remain in numerous blighted areas.
During the latter half of the twentieth century, Detroit's crime figures were often among the highest in the country. Though those figures have decreased in recent years, the crime rate remains high, and the murder rate--partly caused by gang-related activity--is one of the highest in the United States.
"Renaissance" has been a perennial buzzword among generations of city leaders, particularly during the construction and completion of the Renaissance Center, but it was not until the 1990s that Detroit enjoyed something of a bona fide revival, much of it centered downtown. In 1996 a state referendum paved the way for three Detroit casinos—MGM Detroit , Motor City Casino and Greektown Casino —with the goal of increasing tourism and stemming the flow of gambling dollars to nearby Windsor, Ontario.
In 2000, Comerica Park replaced historic Tiger Stadium as the home of the Detroit Tigers—a move that brought some controversy—and Ford Field (2002) brought football's Detroit Lions back into Detroit from suburban Pontiac. The 2004 opening of the Compuware Center gave downtown Detroit its first significant new office building in a decade. Significant landmarks such as the Fox Theater and the Gem Theater have been restored and now host concerts, musicals and plays. Many downtown centers draw partons and host activities; Greek Town, the farmers market and the State Fair grounds nad the new Campus Maritaus.
As the city prepares to host a number of major events in coming years, including the 2005 MLB All Star Game and Super Bowl XL, it faces the challenge of cleaning up and improving its image for an international audience.
A simulated-color satellite image of Detroit taken on NASA's Landsat 7 satellite.
Detroit is located on the north bank of the Detroit River, between Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair, in southeastern Michigan. It lies north of Windsor, Ontario—Detroiters sometimes quip that Canada is "our neighbor to the south." Detroit features two public border crossings, the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, with a railroad tunnel also connecting the two countries.
Detroit completely encircles the cities of Hamtramck and Highland Park.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 370.2 km² (142.9 mi²). 359.4 km² (138.8 mi²) of it is land and 10.8 km² (4.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 2.92% water.
In the satellite photograph [left], the two large bodies of water are Lake St. Clair (northernmost) and Lake Erie. Also notice the three systems of roads: the oldest French roads running perpendicular to the river, radial roads from a Washington, D.C.-inspired system and true north-south roads from the Northwest Ordinance township system.
Detroit sits atop a large salt mine.
Detroit is sometimes called D-Town or The D by locals, notably those within the hip-hop community.
Within the entertainment industry, Detroit is widely regarded as one the country's strongest markets—perhaps the strongest in per capita terms—particularly in live music and theater. In 2004, as in most previous years, DTE Energy Music Theater in nearby Clarkston, Michigan was the No. 1 summer concert venue in the United States in both attendance and box office gross, according to Pollstar and Billboard magazines. Sister arena The Palace of Auburn Hills typically ranks in the top three, often ahead of such high-profile venues as New York's Madison Square Garden. Music has been the dominant feature of Detroit's nightlife since the late 1940s, and both city and suburbs teem with live music venues.
One of the highlights of Detroit's musical history was the success of Motown Records during the 1960s and early 1970s. The label, founded in Detroit by Berry Gordy, Jr., and housed at the "Hitsville U.S.A." building on West Grand Ave. until 1972, was home to some of the most popular recording acts in the world, including Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, and Detroit area natives Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & the Supremes, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Four Tops, and Martha Reeves & the Vandellas. The city is also regaurded as the quintessential Rock 'n Roll town, due tio its receptive and enthusiastic rock music audiences.
In recent years, Detroit has assumed a kind of gritty, hip cachet around the world, thanks largely to such modern ambassadors as the White Stripes, techno music, Eminem and the film 8 Mile, along with the nostalgic revival for '60s rock acts The Stooges and MC5. Sales of Detroit fashions and memorabilia have surged, with brands such as Made in Detroit and Pure Detroit enjoying overseas success.
International documentarians, particularly from the United Kingdom and France, have increasingly trained their cameras on Detroit, exploring the city's cultural heritage and playing up its status as a working-class creative hotbed. 
The Detroit Institute of Arts houses what is considered to be one of the most prominent American collections outside New York City, and features showcase pieces by Diego Rivera, Picasso and Van Gogh along with such hometown artists as Charles McGee .
The city is home to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Opera House. Major theaters include the Fox Theatre, Masonic Temple Theatre , Fisher Theatre , State Theatre , Music Hall , and the Detroit Repertory Theatre .
Major parks include Belle Isle, Palmer Park, River Rouge Park, Chene Park and Campus Martius Park. Other city recreational facilities include municipal golf courses (William Rogell, Rouge, Belle Isle, Palmer Park), Northwest Activities Center, Detroit Zoo and the Belle Isle Aquarium (though unfortunately, the Belle Isle Aquarium and Zoo are closed as of April 2005, though there is a movement to reopen them).
Other cultural centers include the Motown Historical Museum, Detroit Historical Museum, Museum of African American History, Detroit Science Center, Tuskegee Airmen Museum, Historic Fort Wayne, Dossin Great Lakes Museum and the Belle Isle Conservatory.
A memorial to Joe Louis at the intersection of Jefferson and Woodward Avenues was dedicated on October 16, 1986. The sculpture, commissioned by Sports Illustrated magazine and executed by Robert Graham, is a 24-foot-long arm with a fisted hand suspended by a 24-foot-high pyramidal framework.
Founded in 1907 by two Russian immigrant brothers in Detroit, Faygo soda remains a Detroit tradition, and is sold internationally.
On the festival of Fat Tuesday (also known as Pączki Day, though traditionally celebrated by Poles on Fat Thrusday ), occurring on the last Tuesday before Lent, many metro Detroiters join in the festivity by indulging in jelly-filled donuts called pączkis. The nearby city of Hamtramck is noted for its pączkis.
Detroit is said to be home to the Nain Rouge, the red dwarf who is said to attack people and bring bad luck to the city.
Information on the Nain Rouge and other Detroit oddities has been compiled at the Web site Mythic Detroit.
Detroit in literature
Detroit (and its suburbs) is the setting for a number of novels and short story collections, including:
Detroit in the movies
Detroit is a setting and/or filming location for several Hollywood feature films including as well as some television series:
For a more extensive list, see: Detroit in the movies
The city faced a large number of arsons, often in the city's many abandoned homes, each year on Devil's Night, the evening before Halloween. The Angel's Night campaign, launched in the late 1990s, draws thousands of volunteers to patrol the streets during Halloween week. The effort has largely squelched Devil's Night arson: In 2002, there were just 110 fires during the Oct. 29–31 period, according to city officials, representing a 30 percent decline in total fires and a 41 percent decline in suspicious fires. In 2003, the three-day number was 117.
Throughout the city, French colonial influence is found prominently in place names (Gratiot Ave., Beaubien St., Chene Park), though only a small percentage of area residents are descended from 18th-century French settlers.
Detroit's population increased more than sixfold during the first half of the 20th century, thanks largely to a massive influx of Southern migrants—both white and black—who came to the area for the burgeoning automobile industry jobs. Metro Detroit residents with Southern origin possibly comprise a majority of the region's population; they most certainly do in suburban sectors such as Downriver, where newcomers established communities upon their arrival. Traces of the Southern accent can still be heard in these areas, mingling with the more nasal Midwest accent to create a distinctive pattern of speech.
Detroit's ethnic communities are largely the descendants of those Poles, Irish, Italians and Greeks who made their way to the city during its early 20th-century industrial boom.
Detroit is also home to large Chaldean and Arab American populations, and suburban Dearborn is home to the country's largest concentration of Arab Americans. Recently, the area has witnessed the growth of Asian American and Hispanic communities. The southwest side of the city contains a large Mexican American community, while significant populations of Chinese, Indian, Korean and Filipino ancestry are found in Oakland County, notably in Troy.
African Americans are a major racial group in the area, numbering more than 1 million. About three-fourths of them live within the city limits. Other communities with large black populations include Southfield, Pontiac and Oak Park. The Michigan Chronicle , the state's largest black-owned newspaper, is based in Detroit.
While less prevalent than in the 1970s and 1980s, perceptions of racial segregation continue to provoke criticism and soul-searching in the Detroit area. 8 Mile Road, the boundary between the city and suburban Oakland and Macomb counties, is more than a line on a map; it is often held up by politicians and sociologists as a symbolic dividing wall between blacks and whites. On the east side, the aptly (although unintentionally) named Alter Road separates Detroit from affluent Grosse Pointe. Detroit is more than four-fifths African-American, while nearby Livonia (pop. 100,545) has been described in news reports as "the whitest American city" as the 2000 census revealed that 97 percent of its population identified themselves as white.
Some of the Current and historic neighborhoods in Detroit include: Black Bottom, Corktown, Chaldean Town , Cultural Center, Mexicantown, Poletown , Greektown, Indian Village, New Center, Old Redford , Palmer Woods, Rosedale Park , Warrendale, Springwells , Del Ray , and East English Village .
As of the census2 of 2000, there are 951,270 people, 336,428 households, and 218,341 families residing in the city. The population density is 6,855.1/mi² (2,646.7/km²). There are 375,096 housing units at an average density of 2,703.0/mi² (1,043.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 81.55% Black or African American, 12.26% White, 0.33% Native American, 0.97% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 2.54% from other races, and 2.32% from two or more races. 4.96% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 336,428 households out of which 33.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 26.7% are married couples living together, 31.6% have a female householder with no husband present, and 35.1% are non-families. 29.7% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.2% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.77 and the average family size is 3.45.
In the city the population is spread out with 31.1% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 29.5% from 25 to 44, 19.3% from 45 to 64, and 10.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 31 years. For every 100 females there are 89.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 83.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $29,526, and the median income for a family is $33,853. Males have a median income of $33,381 versus $26,749 for females. The per capita income for the city is $14,717. 26.1% of the population and 21.7% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 34.5% of those under the age of 18 and 18.6% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Population in 2003 was 911,000, according to U.S. Census estimates, making Detroit the 10th largest U.S. city. That is down from the 2000 census number of 951,270, continuing a decades-long population slide within the city limits. (Population peaked at nearly 2 million during the 1950s.) Steady growth continues, however, in Metro Detroit, the eighth most populous metropolitan area in the United States, with 5.5 million people.
In 2004, Men's Fitness magazine named Detroit the fattest city in the U.S.
Detroit and its suburbs constitute a manufacturing powerhouse, most notably as home to the American automobile industry and the Big Three auto companies. General Motors is based in Detroit, Ford Motor Company in nearby Dearborn, and one of the two world headquarters for DaimlerChrysler in Auburn Hills (the other is in Stuttgart, Germany). But the auto industry is far more than the Big Three. Dotting the Detroit landscape are countless offices and plants in the automotive support business: parts, supplies, electronics, and design. It is not uncommon in Detroit to hear radio ads or to spy billboards in which multimillion-dollar auto corporations make insider sales pitches to one another. But there's a flip side to the automotive dominance: Because of its almost singular dependence on the auto industry, Detroit is more acutely vulnerable to economic cycles than most large cities.
Including the Big Three, there are 17 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in metro Detroit, including Kmart Corporation, Borders Books and Music, Comerica Inc., Federal-Mogul, Kelly Services and Lear Corporation. Metro Detroit is also home to the national pizza chains Domino's and Little Caesars .
Other major industries include advertising, computer software and casino gambling .
In addition to property tax, the city levies an income tax of 2.65% on residents, 1.325% on non-residents, and 1.6% on corporations.
Law and government
The city is run by the mayor and a nine member city council, elected at large on a nonpartisan ballot. Municipal elections are held every year congruent to 1 modulo 4 (e.g., 1993, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, ...). The current mayor is Kwame Kilpatrick. See also List of mayors of Detroit, Michigan.
As with most large urban centers in the United States, Detroit consistently supports the U.S. Democratic Party. No Republican has been elected mayor of Detroit in the past 40 years.
Widely considered a hot rising political star when he won election in 2001, Democratic Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been dubbed "America's hip-hop mayor" because of his fond appreciation for black youth culture. Since taking office, however, the mayor and his administration have found themselves dogged by ongoing accusations of scandal and impropriety. Detroit's major media have relentlessly pursued the stories, including reports of wild parties involving strippers at the mayoral mansion , though the mayor has strongly denied accusations of wrongdoing. He has also been criticised for his lack in improving the city.
In 2004, following numerous scandals and legal decisions, a court-ordered reorganization of the Detroit Police Department was underway with supervision of the FBI.
Colleges and universities
Once the home of the University of Michigan, which was founded in Detroit in 1817 then later moved to Ann Arbor in 1837, Detroit has several universities and colleges within its borders, including:
Detroit is home to professional teams representing the four major sports in North America. All but one play within the city of Detroit (basketball's Detroit Pistons play in suburban Auburn Hills). (See also: U.S. cities with teams from four major sports.)
There are three active major sports venues in the city: Comerica Park for baseball, Ford Field for football and Joe Louis Arena for ice hockey.
Like many industrial cities, Detroit is known for its avid fans, particularly in such blue-collar sports as football (Detroit Lions) and hockey (Detroit Red Wings). Detroit is perhaps the most fervent hockey hotbed in the United States. A Red Wings marketing campaign in the late 1990s launched the nickname Hockeytown, a city moniker subsequently embraced by local fans and national media.
In college sports, the University of Detroit Mercy has a NCAA Division I program, and Wayne State University has both NCAA Division I and II programs.
A world record was set on December 13, 2003, when the largest crowd in basketball history — 78,129 — packed Ford Field to watch the University of Kentucky defeat Michigan State University, 79–74.
Detroit is home to the Detroit International Marathon , which crosses the border into Canada via the Ambassador Bridge and returns to the United States through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. It is the world's only cross-national marathon.
Detroit was also the former home of a round of the Formula One World Championship, holding a race on the streets of downtown Detroit from 1982 until 1987, after which the sanction moved from Formula One to Indycars. CART continued downtown until 1992, when the race was moved to another temporary course on Belle Isle where the race remained through 2001.
Comerica Park will host the 2005 MLB All Star Game in July 2005, and Ford Field will host Super Bowl XL in February 5, 2006.
Professional sports teams
Because of its gateway between the United States and Canada and its major industrial status — along with its major highways, rail connections and international airport — Detroit has been an important transportation hub.
Detroit is the crossroads for several major Interstate Highways, including I-75, I-94, and I-96. Also the city has two international border crossings, the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, both linking Detroit to Windsor, Ontario on the Canadian side by crossing the Detroit River.
Transit services in the City of Detroit are provided by the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT), they provide an extensive, if not erratic, bus service throughout the city and very near suburbs. Service in the suburbs is provided by Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART). In recent years the Southeast Michigan Transportation Authority has been established with the goal of expanding and integrating the transit systems located in the Detroit Metro area.
Detroit also has a light rail system known as the People Mover, providing a 2.9 mile loop in the downtown area. Although it has faced massive criticism for its lack of punctual service and high cost, the People Mover continues to operate daily.
Notable persons of Detroit
Detroit's rich musical heritage has produced a vast roster of hit makers, from R&B artists such as Smokey Robinson and Aretha Franklin to rockers such as Bob Seger and Ted Nugent. Artists such as Eminem and Aaliyah are among the celebrities who have kept the musical pipeline flowing.
The auto industry has spawned its own cast of significant names, particularly such pioneers as Henry Ford, William C. Durant and the Dodge Brothers.
Detroit has been home to luminaries from in virtually every major sport, including boxing Joe Louis, baseball (Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers), hockey (Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings), basketball Isiah Thomas of the Pistons) and football (Barry Sanders of the Lions).
For a more extensive list see People from Detroit.
Detroit has several sister cities, including