Home of Motown, once a cultural center of the United States, Detroit has undergone many transformations since its birth. A struggling economy, political corruption, and urban sprawl have plagued the city for many decades, but it is once again emerging as a cultural metropolis. Below are some interesting facts about Detroit and its blossoming underground music industry.
Founded in 1701 by the French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, Detroit was a French settlement originally known as Fort Ponchatrain. Located on what is now known as the Detroit River, the settlement was a popular fur trading post until 1760 when it fell to the British. Established as an official town in 1802, Detroit was part of the Northwest Territory. A fire almost completely obliterated the city in 1805 burning down 299 of the city’s 300 buildings. Govener Judge Agusutus Woodward is responsible for rebuilding the city to overshadow the majesty of the former city. The University of Michigan was established by Woodward in 1817 and was originally located in Detroit. Those familiar with the Detroit area may also recognize the governor’s name to this day on one of the major avenues of the area.
Even before the auto industry exploded and made Michigan an industrial powerhouse, the city’s vast quantities of natural resources including iron ore, copper, and water made them the leading manufacturer of buggies, carriages, wheels, and bicycles. The famous Model T which was invented in 1908 resulted in an economic boom within Detroit and the Henry Ford company began paying its workers a ridiculously high wage of $5 a day. Between 1910 and 1920, the population of Detroit doubled.
The early 20th century brought a long stint of prosperity for the city as the automobile industry thrived, the J.L. Hudson store became one of the largest retail outlets in the world, and the United Auto Workers union was formed to protect the rights of the auto workers in the state. The city was also able to survive the crippling effects of the Great Depression due to the still flowering auto industry.
During WWII, the city of Detroit converted its auto manufacturing plants into hubs for the production of war machines such as tanks and planes, earning Detroit the nickname “The Arsenal of Democracy”.
The 1960s marked a pivotal time for the city as it became famous for the Motown record label and the production of some of the most prolific acts in popular music of all time. Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, and Diana Ross were all big names singed to the Motown label and solidified Detroit as one of the hotspots for the music industry.
Riots in Detroit in 1967 was the start of the decline of the city. Many individuals began an exodus from Detroit after an oil crisis left many factories on the decline and a great deal of individuals without jobs. Even though Detroit was falling out of favor with general public, the city’s attractions were gaining some resurgence. Joe Louis Arena was built in the 1980’s, the Millander Center opened and the Fox Theater was saved from distinction.
Today, the city of Detroit is slowly gaining some of the appeal that it once had with the introduction of the casino industry as well as new property being built including new stadiums for its sports teams. The city has attracted the younger crowd with its thriving underground music scene and attractive venues supporting said movement. Although not considered the “Paris of the Midwest” anymore, the cultural appeal is slowly returning to the city and eventually Detroit may once again become the music hotspot that it was during Motown days.
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