USA Michigan 

A Guide to Detroit

A city of shimmering skyscrapers, Detroit was founded by the French fur trader Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac in 1701. It is situated on Detroit River near Lake Erie in the southeast of the mitten-shaped state of Michigan thrusting into the Great Lakes. In 1825 the Americans and British gained control of this vast area previously inhabited by Native Americans. The Erie Canal improved lake transportation enabling Michigan to be reached by settlers and massive immigration followed in the 1840s. Copper was mined in north Michigan in 1850, a bigger mining boom than the Californian Gold Rush of 1849.

Originally a shipbuilding centre, Detroit became a manufacturer of various modes of transport. That was eclipsed in 1896 when Henry Ford began making automobiles. General Motors, Chrysler and Pontiac moved to Detroit in the 1920s when ‘Motor City’ was born. The resultant exploitation of workers led to violent confrontations with management. Trade unions came into being and labour regulations were drawn up.

The monumental Renaissance Center on the riverfront, headquarters of General Motors, is the focal point of the city. Summer festivals and the famous Jazz Festival are held in Hart Plaza on the riverfront. The Greek quarter and restaurant area are east of downtown on Monroe Avenue.

Main attractions downtown include the Charles H Wright Museum of African-American History, an enormous building on E. Warren Avenue, which outlines the important influence the large African-American population has had on the city’s cultural and commercial development; the Detroit Institute of Arts on Woodward Avenue dominated by the giant 27-panel mural, ‘Detroit Industry’, by artist Diego Rivera, which portrays the struggling workers under the yoke of industrialization. The museum also houses pre-Columbian, Native American and African art as well as 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings and 19th century American paintings; the Detroit Historical Museum near Wayne State University featuring the city’s automobile history together with a display of ‘The Streets of Old Detroit’.

Situated on W. Grand Boulevard, the Motown Historical Museum pays tribute to the brand label ‘Motown Sound’, a mixture of rhythm and blues, pop and soul. Many talented singers like Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder and others are honoured in this museum of music.

Historic Fort Wayne and Tuskegee Airmen Museum along the Detroit River on the southwest side of the city, incorporates old buildings from Fort Wayne, the city’s last military bastion. Belle Isle Park in the river is home to Dossin Great Lakes Museum dedicated to the maritime history of the lakes.

The Henry Ford Museum and the open-air Greenfield Village are in Dearborn, 8 miles west of downtown. The complex contains the US’s most impressive collection of Americana - vintage cars and wonderfully diverse memorabilia such as the cot George Washington used during the Revolutionary War, the chair Abraham Lincoln was shot in, and the bicycle shop of the aviation pioneering Wright brothers.
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