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Motor City - History and Diversity


An Early Birch Bark Canoe
An Early Birch Bark Canoe

Founded in 1701 by Antoine de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac, Detroit (whose original name was the much more French sounding Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit) who wrote in his diaries that water flowed gently down the Detroit River, trees were "marvelously lofty" and turkeys were so abundant that "20 or 30 could be killed at one shot."


The city changed nationalities 62 years after Cadillac landed here when the British acquired the settlement.  In 1796, it was the newly created United States who came to own the city and yet despite all these changes and the passing of time, even into the 1800s; the majority of Detroit's citizenry were of French descent.  That would start to change with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1840 which brought many nationalities into the booming town, the third largest, after St. Louis and Cincinnati, in the Midwest.  Fur trading was still one of the primary sources of revenue but the Detroit River and the Sauk Trail were necessary to the growing city for moving goods and people to faraway markets and commerce continued to increase the population and prosperity here.  The Potato Famine in Ireland, which took place in the mid 1800s, resulted in a large exodus of Irish moving into the west side of the city.  Since many came from County Cork, their neighborhood was soon known as Corktown.  In 1853, half of the city's Eighth Ward, which encompassed Corktown, was of Irish Descent. But other nationalities would soon join them bringing customs and culture and turning Detroit into a vibrant city. 


There was a time when Indiana had more automobile manufacturers than Michigan, but all that changed in the early 1900s and today the city is still known as the auto capitol of the world. 


Many of the city's buildings are architectural gems, designed by such famed architects such as Albert Kahn, who designed a number of Art Deco skyscrapers, and Eero Saarinen who was associated with the Cranbrook Art Museum for 25 years and whose home there is now open to the public.


Detroit is known for its diverse cultures.  Situated on the Detroit River, the city's downtown is becoming revitalized and its 300 year history is celebrated in many ways. It's a city that always been ready to soldier on, no matter what.  After a devastating fire in the early 1800s, it was written "we hope for better things, it will rise from the ashes."


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