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It’s time to move again in our “Great American Cities” series. This month, we head to the Midwest and my hometown – Detroit. The city has been in the news a lot the past several years because of its decline into bankruptcy. These days, however, it is slowly climbing out of the ashes and making big improvements.
Name – The original name of the city was le détroit du lac Érié. Given by French colonists, it means “The Strait of Lake Erie,” as it refers to the Detroit River connecting Lake Erie to Lake Huron.
Location – It is located in southeast Michigan in the Midwestern region of the USA.
Nicknames – Detroit has many nicknames: Motown because it was the headquarters for this musical genre in the 1950s, the Motor City because of the automotive industry that developed here, and Detroit Rock City because of all the rock stars from the city. Additional nicknames are The D, The 313, and Hockeytown, as the sport is very popular there.
Year Founded – The French colonists founded the settlement in 1701 and it was incorporated as a city in 1806.
Population – Since the 1960s Detroit’s population has been decreasing every year. It was once a city of 2 million people and one of America’s wealthiest cities. However, as of 2014 the estimated population was only 688,701, making it American’s 18th most populous city. The racial composition is 82.7% Black or African-American, 10.6% White, 6.8% Hispanic or Latino, 7.8% Non-Hispanic and 1.1% Asian.
Transportation – Detroit is located on the shores of the Detroit River and near the border of Canada. This makes it a port city transporting goods between the two countries. Detroit is also a major transport hub thanks to its international airport and train station. Mass transit in the city is primarily provided by a bus system. There is an elevated rail system called the People Mover that goes in a loop around the downtown area. Currently they are constructing a street car system that will connect the People Mover to a commuter rail. There are plans to extend the commuter rail out to the surrounding suburbs.
Famous Places – The Renaissance Center (or RenCen for short) is the headquarters of General Motors (GM) and is the most well-known place in the city.
Belle Isle is an island in the Detroit River that has an aquarium, disc golf course, botanical garden and a beach for swimming. The Detroit Institute of Art has a large art collection as well as film screenings.
The Heidelberg Project is an outdoor art project started by an artist who grew up in that neighborhood in order to revitalize it. Gambling is also popular as there are many well-known casinos. Hitsville U.S.A was the home of Motown music and now serves as a museum telling the history of the famous genre.
Culture – Much of the culture of Detroit revolves around the music. The city is the birthplace of the Motown record label with such artists as The Temptations, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. It’s also home to many rock bands such as KISS. Hip-hop and rap music are also a huge part of Detroit culture – it’s Eminem’s hometown (yes, 8 Mile is a real street) – and it’s also thought to be the birthplace of Techno.
When it comes to food, Detroit is famous for its many Greek restaurants and its Coney hot dog. There are two restaurants downtown that are next door to each other, both serving the famous dog. Try them both and take the ‘Coney Challenge.’
Sports Teams – Detroit is home to four major sports teams:
The arenas where the Tigers, Lions and Red Wings play are all in the downtown area and prominent features of the city. These are Comerica Park, Ford Field and Joe Louis arena respectively. The city has won titles in three out of the four major sports, with the Red Wings holding the most titles (11) of any American hockey franchise. They are second only to the Montreal Canadiens in professional hockey.