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20 Cool and Interesting Facts about Detroit

Updated on April 18, 2014

Detroit is a city in southeastern Michigan and the seat of Wayne county. It is the most populous city in the state and the tenth largest in the United States. Detroit is known as the Motor City as it is the birthplace of the automobile industry and the largest producer of motor vehicles in the U.S. Here are 20 cool and interesting facts about Detroit.

1. There are more than 300 public schools in Detroit, including senior high schools, junior high schools, and trade schools. Colleges and universities in the Detroit metropolitan area include Wayne State University, with an enrollment of more than 30,000 students; the University of Detroit, operated by Jesuits; Oakland University, in nearby Rochester; and the Dearborn branch of the University of Michigan. The Merrill-Palmer School in Detroit and the Cranbrook schools in Bloomfield Hills are well-known private schools in the Detroit area.

Skillman Branch, Detroit Public Library
Skillman Branch, Detroit Public Library | Source

2. The Detroit Public Library, one of the largest in the United States, holds more than 2 million volumes. Two new wings completed in 1963 doubled the size of the library. About 30 branch libraries and 400 deposit collections in public buildings facilitate the use of the library's resources. There are special collections relating to automotive history and labor. The Burton Historical Collection, specializing in books and manuscripts on the old Northwest Territory and on early French and British colonies in North America, is a distinguished research collection.

3. The libraries of Wayne State University, adjacent to the Detroit Public Library, increase the available research facilities in Detroit. The Labor History Archives of the university, established in 1960, contains records relating to the American labor movement, particularly industrial unions, and related reform movements in America. The Archives of American Art, located in the Detroit Institute of Arts, collects and preserves information relating to American artists.

Detroit Historical Museum
Detroit Historical Museum | Source

4. The Detroit Historical Museum is one of the finest municipal museums in the United States. Its changing historical exhibits tell the story of life in Detroit during the city's 250-year history. The Kresge wing of the museum was opened in July 1968. The museum also administers the Ulysses S. Grant House on the Michigan State Fair Grounds, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle in the Detroit River, and the Fort Wayne Military Museum.

5. The Ford Museum and Greenfield Village are popular attractions in Dearborn, which adjoins Detroit on the southwest. The Detroit Institute of Arts, in the Cultural Center near Wayne State University and the Detroit Historical Museum, was forced to add two wings to accommodate its ever-increasing collection of masterpieces. The Cranbrook Institute in Bloomfield Hills operates a science museum and a planetarium.

6. Detroit has long been closely associated with the development of modern architecture and design. In the 1920s the Cranbrook Foundation in Bloomfield Hills obtained the services of the great Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen to design the Cranbrook buildings and to head the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Saarinen, whose son Eero Saarinen also was a famous architect, attracted a number of artists to Bloomfield Hills, including Carl Milles, the Swedish sculptor.

7. Detroiters enjoy the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in the Ford Auditorium of the Civic Center. Concert artists, ballet and dance troupes, and symphony orchestras perform at Detroit's Masonic Temple. Each spring the Grand Opera Association presents the New York Metropolitan Opera Company, and in summer band concerts are performed under the stars on Belle Isle and at the Michigan State Fair Grounds. The Meadowbrook concerts at Oakland University are also popular.

Detroit Free Press
Detroit Free Press | Source

8. Theatrical entertainment in Detroit includes New York productions at the Fisher Theatre, as well as professional summer stock and amateur groups. Wayne State University sponsors two theaters, the Jessie Bonstelle Theatre, which produces contemporary plays, and the Hilberry Classic Theatre devoted to Shakespearean productions. Oakland University also sponsors professional theater productions.

9. Detroit is served by two metropolitan newspapers, the morning Free Press and the evening News, as well as by major television and radio stations.

10. Few buildings remain from Detroit's early history because the disastrous fire of 1805 razed much of the city. Subsequent industrial expansion and urban renewal have also taken their toll. The Detroit Historical Museum reconstructed the J. Bell Moran House, the home of an early French settler. The museum also has a comprehensive display depicting "The Streets of Old Detroit."

11. Fort Wayne, now a military museum, is said to be the best preserved preā€“Civil War fort in the Middle West. It was authorized by the Congress in 1841 and was completed 10 years later. Greenfield Village, built by Henry Ford and opened in 1929, contains 100 reproductions or restorations of historic buildings, including the homes of Thomas Edison, Daniel Webster, Luther Burbank, Orville Wright, and Henry Ford, and the Logan County Courthouse and the Clinton Inn. Cranbrook Institute has the largest collection of works by the noted Swedish sculptor Carl Milles to be found outside of Sweden.

12. Comerica Park in downtown Detroit is the home of the Detroit Tigers baseball team. The Detroit Pistons basketball team plays home games at the Palace in Auburn Hills. The Detroit Lions football team plays at Ford Field in downtown Detroit. The Joe Louis arena, also downtown, is the home of the Detroit Red Wings hockey team and the site for boxing matches.


13. Detroit has undergone a building boom since World War II. Hundreds of new buildings, public and private, have been erected, including many skyscrapers. The 26-story Detroit Bank and Trust Building (1964) was built on the site of Fort Lernoult, a British fort. The Detroit Civic Center, built on the downtown riverfront, offers large convention facilities in Cobo Hall and the Convention Arena. The McGregor Memorial Center, designed by the American architect Minoru Yamasaki, was completed in 1958 on the campus of Wayne State University. More recent buildings are the Renaissance Center (four 39-story office buildings surrounding the 73-story Detroit Plaza Hotel, opened in 1977) and the Medical Center, with four major hospitals.

14. Detroit has many parks, playfields, and playgrounds covering more than 6,000 acres (2,400 hectares). These facilities, as well as golf courses, driving ranges, artificial ice-skating rinks, outdoor swimming pools, and recreation centers are under the jurisdiction of Detroit's Parks and Recreation Department. Kensington Metropolitan Park, 35 miles (56 km) to the northwest, Stoney Creek Metropolitan Park, 30 miles (48 km) to the north, and six other parks operated by the Five-County Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority provide recreational facilities for the metropolitan area. Metropolitan Beach, on Lake St. Clair, is one of the largest freshwater public beaches in the world.

15. The Detroit Zoological Park, located in southern Oakland County, was a pioneer in the display of animals in natural settings. The Holden Museum of Living Reptiles and a penguin house, both opened in the 1960s, are special attractions. A children's zoo and aquarium located on Belle Isle are also city operated.

16. Belle Isle, about 2 miles (3.2 km) long and 1 mile (1.6 km) wide, lies in the middle of the Detroit River about 2 miles northeast of the Civic Center and less than a half-mile offshore. It was purchased by the city in 1879 and its area of approximately 1,000 acres (400 hectares) has been developed with rose gardens, picnic and playground areas, an athletic field, bridle paths, and a municipal golf course.

17. Detroit's transportation services include domestic and international airlines, nationwide bus lines, major railroads, and foreign and domestic steamship lines. Detroit Metropolitan Airport, in western Wayne county, handles domestic and international flights, while Coleman A. Young International Airport (formerly, Detroit City Airport), within city limits, provides shorter flights, to midwestern cities. Fifty domestic and foreign steamship lines serve the city. Passenger, cruise, and excursion boats operate between Detroit and other Great Lakes ports. International shipping reaches the port of Detroit via the St. Lawrence Seaway. During the ice-free seasons cargo vessels, including grain, coal, and iron-ore carriers, line the Detroit River piers.

18. Limited-access expressways speed vehicular traffic in and out of Detroit. The Edsel Ford Expressway (I-94) runs east-west through the city and connects Detroit with the southwestern tip of Michigan via one of the longest toll-free roads in the United States. The John Lodge Expressway runs northwest from the Civic Center in downtown Detroit and connects with the highway to Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Muskegon in west central Michigan on the shore of Lake Michigan. The Walter P. Chrysler Expressway, providing a direct, limited-access freeway to the Straits of Mackinac in northern Michigan, and the Jeffries Freeway, connecting Detroit with Toledo and other cities of the south, are the latest in Michigan's Detroit-centered highways.

19. Within the city limits, Detroit depends on motor transportation. The city never has had a subway or elevated transit system. Trolley cars have given way to buses, although the agency operating the municipal bus system is still called the Department of Street Railways. Rush-hour traffic in Detroit, in the mornings and evenings, presents many problems for commuters and residents alike.

20. Detroit has a strong mayor-type government. The mayor and nine-man council are elected in a nonpartisan contest held every four years, the year following the U.S. presidential election. The city clerk and treasurer are also elected on the same ballot. The councilmen are all elected at large. The man receiving the highest vote automatically becomes the council president and acting mayor in the absence of the elected mayor. The city charter was adopted in 1918.


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