Detroit history

Pat Ibbotson/"Eloise: Poorhouse, Farm, Asylum and Hospital 1839-1984"

We recently stumbled across some cool, old photographs of life at one of the most well-known psychiatric hospitals in Michigan: Eloise.

Celebrating the holidays was an important part of life for the people who lived and worked at Eloise, which was located a few miles outside Detroit in Wayne County. 

House fire in Detroit.
Dave Hogg / Flickr

"Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus."

 "We Hope for Better Things; It Shall Rise From the Ashes."

Fr. Gabriel Richard wrote that after a tremendous fire in 1805 that destroyed most of Detroit.

Those words from the French-Canadian priest became the motto of city - a city whose history is filled with many different kinds of fires.

Michael Jackman spells out this history in his story for The Metro Times.

Listen to our conversation with Jackman below.


illustrations by Patrick McEvoy and graphic design by Carl Winans / http://www.folktellerstories.com/

The Nain Rouge. Detroit's little red hobgoblin. The harbinger of doom and disaster.

The legend of the Nain Rouge goes back to the very earliest days of Detroit's history as a French settlement.

Now, the story of the Nain Rouge is being told through a series of fiction books, a graphic novel and a planned short film. Josef Bastian is the writer and creator of the Nain Rouge Trilogy and the Nain Rouge Graphic Novel. Bastian is a partner in Folkteller Publishing with Carl Winans, who is a producer and digital story-teller.

There are two dirty little secrets about journalism most people don’t realize. One is that we assume that the good is normal. If you work hard, are not flamboyant, take care of your business and don’t kill your family, you may well live happily ignored by the media.

Same goes for your community, if it is solvent and your elected officials aren’t stealing or worse.

While great breakthroughs in science or human achievement do get recognized, news tends to be about system or human failures, which is one of the reasons journalists tend to be unpopular.

We come to show you that the mayor is a crook, the legislature incompetent, your schools are failing to educate "Susie," that your city is bankrupt and the water polluted.

Col. Frank J. Hecker House in Detroit
User: Werewombat / Wikimedia Commons

The talk about blight and crumbling buildings in the city of Detroit can easily drown out another fact: The city is home to some stunning buildings that have a long history.

One of the gifted architects who helped Detroit earn a reputation as the "Paris of the West" was Louis Kamper. He envisioned not just office buildings and fabulous homes, but also bridges, hotels, police stations, and even a bathhouse on Belle Isle.

Historian Bill Loomis blogged about Kamper for the Detroit News. He says Kamper helped define the character of city's downtown architecture. 

Dittrich Furs today
User: Jamie / Flickr

When the French built Fort Pontchartrain on the banks of the Detroit River in 1701, there was a very big reason why: fur.

The trappers who brought their pelts to the fort gave Detroit its first industry.

In the 300-plus years since, Detroit's fur industry has seen good times and bad. And it is still standing in 2014.

Writer Josie Schneider tracked this history in her story for Hour Detroit magazine called Passion for Pelts. In her piece, Schneider stated that the fur industry literally formed the city of Detroit.

Detroit Historical Society

Detroit turns 313 years old next week. The Detroit Historical Society is celebrating with a week's worth of programming beginning tomorrow. 

July 24th marks the day when the French explorer Antoine Cadillac landed on what would later become the city of Detroit.

Each day the group will host a different event- including storytelling, a classic car show, and film screenings.

Bob Sadler is with the Detroit Historical Society. He said celebrating the city is especially important now.

"And based on Detroit’s history of being a hard-working, very creative and entrepreneurial town, I have every reason to believe that we’re reinventing ourselves again," said Sadler. 

Some of the events include: Arsenal of Democracy, Detroit is America’s Motor City, The Streets of Old Detroit, and one of the newer exhibits, the Gallery of Innovation. 

The Detroit Historical Museum is in Midtown Detroit. All of the week's events are free.

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

For months, we’ve been embroiled in Detroit’s bankruptcy and attempts to save what there is worth saving.

It is hard to pick up any national publication without finding stories about Detroit, few of them good. There are a spate of new book titles too, which mostly chronicle the city’s decline and fall.

Yet I’ve just been reading an utterly fascinating and inspiring new book about a time when Detroit really did save, or at least help save, the world.

The book, just published by Houghton Mifflin, is The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Ford Motor Company, and Their Epic Quest to Arm an America at War.

This is a book with characters larger and more bizarre than life. It tells the story of a Detroit-based triumph that the experts said was impossible. And every word in it is true.

User: Goodiez / flickr

 

Why is it that one product will resonate with a group of consumers, while a similar one just can't quite catch on?

It's the sort of dilemma you can imagine Don Draper and Peggy Olson trying to figure out in an episode of "Mad Men."

Turns out, it was a dilemma for a major tobacco company: trying to figure out why Detroit smokers were so loyal to the competition – in this case, Kool cigarettes in the 1970s.

Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist who looked into this bit of tobacco history for Motor City Muckraker.

*Listen to the full interview above.

I flew to Florida early last month, and while in the air re-read from cover to cover the one indispensable book that explains as nothing else what really happened to Detroit.

Eighteen years ago, University of Pennsylvania historian Thomas Sugrue published a volume mind-blowing in its brilliance of analysis and depth of research.

The title, “The Origins of the Urban Crisis,” is somewhat misleading.

This really is the book on how Detroit was destroyed - and destroyed itself - over the last 70 years.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s historic Brewster-Douglass housing projects will finally come all the way down sometime this spring.

The final stage of the ongoing demolition effort at the 18.5 acre site started Monday. Officials say it will last for another two months, while land restoration will continue throughout the summer.

Andrew Jameson / wikipedia.org

A few centuries ago it was not uncommon to hear Detroit referred to as "The Paris of the Midwest."

Just look at the history of Detroit and you can see that there are good reasons to link Detroit and France. The city’s early settlers were, by and large, French and French Canadian. But unlike, say, Quebec, Montreal, or New Orleans, there is no special "French feel" to Detroit beyond some French street names.

We wondered why Detroit's modern identity is so lacking in that French influence. For some insights, we turned to Guillaume Teasdale, a history instructor at the University of Windsor.

Listen to the full interview above.

Credit Goldnpuppy / Wikimedia Commons

As Michigan cities age and populations shrink, some say that demolishing  abandoned buildings is essential to reviving these cities and stabilizing neighborhoods.

Take Detroit, for instance. One estimate puts the number of buildings set to be demolished at 10,000.

But amid the demolition, is there room to preserve historic structures? How do we determine what should be torn down and what's worth rescuing and restoring?

To help answer those questions, Preservation Detroit and the Michigan Historic Preservation Network just completed a survey of six historic areas in Detroit. They're hoping to bring a preservationist's point of view to decisions about blight and demolition.

Emilie Evans is a preservation specialist with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, and she joined us today.

*Listen to the story above.

Mercedes Meija / Michigan Radio

Wheelhouse Detroit, a bike shop right next to the Renaissance Center, puts on all sorts of guided bike tours through the city — tours of churches, urban agriculture, and painted murals. But for those looking for something, well, a little more creepy, the shop also offers a haunted bike tour that takes brave riders through cemeteries, ghostly spots, and long-gone homes with a murderous past.

The ride takes you to the cozy, produce-filled confines of Eastern Market down to St. Aubin Street, which, as the tour guides will tell you, was once a hot spot for the Purple Gang, a gang of bootleggers and hijackers who ran booze from Canada to Detroit. The gang, which got its start when Michigan banned alcohol in 1917, remained active up until the early 1930s.

DetroitWiki

The United Sound Systems building on Second Street in Detroit could be demolished in an I-94 expansion plan. The recording studio has a rich musical history dating back to the 1930s.

Artists such as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis and George Clinton have recorded there.

Birg Niagara. The tall ship can be seen during the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 celebration in Detroit Sept. 4-10, 2012. The ship will be outside the GM Ren Cen.
Flagship Niagara League / Facebook

There's a huge party happening right now on Detroit's Riverfront!

It's the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812.

The War of 1812 was when Great Britain and the new United States of America slugged it out over trade, over the British habit of grabbing American ships and sailors and forcing them to serve King George (yes, THAT same King George we beat in the Revolutionary War!!)

The War of 1812 Bicentennial and Navy Week are being celebrated this week with events happening from downtown Detroit to Lake St Clair.

via Walter P. Reuther Library / Wayne State University

Forty-five years ago this week, Detroit erupted into five days of racial violence that left 43 people dead, more than 450 injured, and thousands of buildings burned and looted.

Many people are still trying to get a handle on what that event really signified—and what to call it.

Dan Krichbaum clearly remembers the scene from 1967 as he drove from Ann Arbor to southwest Detroit, where he headed a small Methodist congregation.

Divers took to the Detroit River to try and bring up a long-submerged cannon Wednesday.

Detroit Police Underwater Recovery Team divers discovered the Revolutionary War-era cannon in July. It’s the fifth such cannon pulled out of the river since the 1980s.

Detroit Police say a British vessel capsized leaving Fort Detroit in 1796, losing five cannons.