Beginnings[ edit ] Augustus Woodward's plan for the city following fire. Detroit, settled in , is one of the oldest cities in the Midwest. It experienced a disastrous fire in which nearly destroyed the city, leaving little present-day evidence of old Detroit save a few east-side streets named for early French settlers, their ancestors, and some pear trees which were believed to have been planted by early missionaries.
After the fire, Judge Augustus B. Woodward designed a plan of evenly spaced public parks with interconnecting semi-circular and diagonal streets. Although Woodward's plan was not fully implemented, the basic outline in still in place today in the heart of the city. Main thoroughfares radiate outward from the center of the city like spokes in a wheel, with Jefferson Avenue running parallel to the river, Woodward Avenue running perpendicular to it, and Gratiot , Michigan , and Grand River Avenues interspersed.
A sixth main street, Fort , wanders downriver from the center of the city. After Detroit rebuilt in the early 19th century, a thriving community soon sprang up, and by the Civil War , over 45, people were living in the city,  primarily spread along Jefferson Avenue to the east and Fort Street to the west. As in many major American cities, subsequent redevelopment of the central city through the next years has eliminated all but a handful of the antebellum structures in Detroit.
The oldest remaining structures are those built as private residences, including a group in the Corktown neighborhood and another set of houses strung along Jefferson Avenue—notably the Charles Trowbridge House , the oldest known structure in the city , the Joseph Campau House , the Sibley House , the Beaubien House , and the Moross House Other extant pre structures include Fort Wayne ; Saints Peter and Paul Church and Mariner's Church ; and scattered commercial buildings one in Randolph Street Commercial Buildings Historic District , for example ; Unfortunately, the demolition of historic structures continues into the present day: Rise of industry and commerce[ edit ] As Detroit grew into a thriving hub of commerce and industry, the city spread along Jefferson, with multiple manufacturing firms taking advantage of the transportation resources afforded by the river and a parallel rail line.
The shipyard that eventually became the Dry Dock Engine Works-Detroit Dry Dock Company Complex opened on the Detroit River at the foot of Orleans in ; Parke-Davis established a center between East Jefferson Avenue and the river in the s; another pharmaceutical firm, the Frederick Stearns Company , built a plant in the same area in the s. Globe Tobacco built a manufacturing facility closer to downtown in The rise of manufacturing led to a new class of wealthy industrialists, entrepreneurs, and professionals.
Some of these nouveau riche built along East Jefferson, resulting in structures such as the Thomas A. Wells House , the John N. Bagley House , and the Frederick K. However, Detroit began increasingly to turn away from the river, and other citizens pushed north of downtown, building houses along Woodward in what was at the time a quiet residential area.
Many of these neighborhoods have disappeared under 20th-century commercialization of the Woodward corridor, but some Victorian structures remain, notably the Elisha Taylor House and the Hudson-Evans House , both near the Woodward East Historic District ; and the Col.
Near the end of the 19th century, apartment living became more acceptable for affluent middle-class families, and upscale apartments, such as the Coronado Apartments , the Verona Apartments , the Palms Apartments , the Davenport Apartments in the Cass-Davenport Historic District , and the Garden Court Apartments were constructed to meet the new demand.
Immigration[ edit ] Detroit has long been a city of immigrants, from the early French and English settlers in the 18th century, through the Irish who settled in the Corktown neighborhood in the s, to the Greeks, who settled in the Greektown neighborhood in the early 20th century and the southern whites and African-Americans who came to Detroit in the years before the Great Depression. Detroit's industrial boom in the later 19th century created yet another stream of immigrants into Detroit.
Perhaps the most significant contingents during this period were the German and Polish immigrants who settled in Detroit in the —s. Germans came first, establishing German-speaking churches, primarily on the east side of the city, including Saint John's-St. Luke's Evangelical Church , St. Boniface and Gethsemane Evangelical Lutheran Church Close behind, a wave of Polish immigrants established east-side Roman Catholic parishes such as St.
Josaphat's , St. Stanislaus , and St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church Birth of the automobile[ edit ] Around the start of the 20th century, entrepreneurs in the Detroit area—notably Henry Ford —forged into production of the automobile, capitalizing on the already-existing machine tool and coach-building industry in the city. Automobile assembly and associated manufacturing soon dominated Detroit, and the newly minted automotive magnates built commercial and office buildings such as General Motors Building , the General Motors Research Laboratory , and the Fisher Building Changes wrought by the automobile[ edit ] The development of the automobile industry led to rising demands for labor, which were filled by huge numbers of newcomers from Europe and the American South.
Between and , the city's population soared from , to over 1. The population boom led to the construction of apartment buildings across the city, aimed at the middle-class auto worker.
At the same time, new upscale neighborhoods farther from the center of the city sprang up, including Boston-Edison , Indian Village , and Palmer Woods. The wealthy moved into these more exclusive neighborhoods as the once-exclusive Woodward Avenue neighborhoods such as the Warren-Prentis Historic District and the Willis-Selden Historic District became mixed with apartments and commercial buildings.
As the population spread outwards, new churches were constructed to serve the newly populated areas, notably the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament , the Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church , the Metropolitan United Methodist Church , and the St.
Theresa of Avila Roman Catholic Church The rise of the automobile also required rethinking transportation within the city. The Chestnut Street-Grand Trunk Railroad bridge was a result of a grade separation that unsnarled train and automobile traffic. Automobile wealth led to a boom in downtown Detroit business, and the construction of a collection of earlyth-century skyscrapers.
The most notable of these is the Art Deco National Historic Landmark Guardian Building , but numerous other significant office buildings such as the Vinton Building , the Barlum Tower , and the Lawyers Building were also constructed. The building boom was not confined to businesses. Shopping districts sprang up along Park Avenue , Broadway , and Woodward.
Extravagant movie theaters such as the Fox and the Palms were constructed. African-Americans[ edit ] During the early years of Detroit, the African-American population was relatively small. However, the Second Baptist Church ; rebuilt was founded with an African-American congregation in the s; the church played an instrumental role in the Underground Railroad , due to Detroit's proximity to Canada. The auto boom of the 20th century changed the population, and in the years following World War I, the black population of Detroit soared.
In , fewer than blacks called the city home;  in more than 30, blacks lived in Detroit. Dunbar Hospital founded , the Ossian H. Sweet House , and the Sugar Hill neighborhood. However, other structures, such as the Breitmeyer-Tobin Building are tributes to the slow integration in the latter half of the 20th century.