Skip to main content

9 Things You Don’t Know About Detroit, Michigan

In Detroit Life Is Worth Living!

Detroit was founded in 1701 by the French official Antoine de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac. Originally a fur-trading post, it was named Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit. The word détroit is French for "the narrow place," or strait. Detroit is located at the narrowest point of the channel that connects Lake Superior and three lower Great Lakes.

Do you want to know some more facts about Detroit? Keep on reading!


1. For some time it has been considered the world capital of auto manufacturing. General Motors has its headquarters in Detroit. The headquarters of Ford and Chrysler is located in nearby Dearborn and Auburn Hills, respectively.

2. Detroit is the largest city in Michigan. It covers an area of 139 square miles (360 square kilometers). It long has been one of the leading industrial centers in the United States. Located on the Detroit and Rouge Rivers, it is directly opposite Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Its strategic location has made the city a major U.S. port. Such products as lumber, salt, and manufactured goods have been moved by ship and rail from Detroit to the Great Lakes basin and as far away as the East Coast. In the 20th century, Detroit's economy was closely tied to the auto industry. As auto sales suffered, so did the city's economy.

The Auto Industry

3. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Detroit benefited from renewal. Although the auto industry remained important, the economy also relied on high-tech industries and medical research. Money from new investments spurred improvements in the inner city. Many buildings and educational facilities were built. The Max M. Fisher Music Center (known as the Max) opened in 2003. It is the home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

4. The auto industry witnessed a severe financial crisis in 2008–10. Both General Motors and Chrysler underwent successful government bailouts. By 2011, the auto industry had turned itself around. Detroit's economy has also ventured into other areas, including the life sciences, fuel-cell technology, information technology, and advanced manufacturing.

5. Detroit's population declined by 25 percent between 2000 and 2010. Michigan was the only state in the nation to lose population during that decade. Several factors contributed to the city's steep population loss: the major decline in the auto industry; the mortgage crisis affecting the housing industry; and the relocation of many African Americans to the suburbs.

Scroll to Continue

The City's Declining Population

6. The city's declining population, as well as the loss of manufacturing jobs, contributed to its growing financial problems. In March 2013, Governor Rick Snyder placed Detroit under state control.

On July 18, Detroit became the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy. The city's debt was estimated at $18.5 billion. It was expected that nearly all of the city's creditors would have to accept reduced payments as part of the bankruptcy process.

What would happen to the pension benefits of retired city employees was a key concern. In what was called the "Grand Bargain," a consortium made up of private foundations pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to help minimize the financial impact on the city's various sectors. City retirees agreed to a 4.5 percent decrease in their pensions.

The agreement allowed Detroit to officially exit bankruptcy in December 2014. But the city continued to lose residents. The 2020 census showed a total population of 639,111—a decline of 10 percent since 2010. City leaders remained committed to developing strategic plans to revitalize Detroit. They sought to create new job opportunities, enhance the quality of housing, and provide more transportation options.

Museums in Detroit

7. Detroit has many museums. The Detroit Historical Museum features exhibits on the history of southeastern Michigan as well as the city itself. Other cultural highlights include the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Motown Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The city's beautiful Belle Isle Park is located in the Detroit River. This 983-acre (398-hectare) park was designed in the 1800s by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The park includes a beach, marine museum, and meeting hall. The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle has one of the largest publicly owned collections of orchids in the country.

Sports in Detroit

8. Detroit is home to several professional sports teams. The Detroit Tigers play in the Major League Baseball (MLB). The Detroit Red Wings play in the National Hockey League (NHL). The National Football League (NFL) is represented by the Detroit Lions. And the Detroit Pistons play in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Festival in Detroit

9. The International Freedom Festival was organized in Detroit and Windsor, Canada, in 1959. It marked the birthdays of Canada (July 1) and the United States (July 4). The festival was intended to honor the friendship between Canada and the United States.

With the opening of Detroit's RiverWalk in 2007, the festival was transformed into the Detroit RiverDays. Windsor, in turn, celebrates with a two-week-long Summer Fest. Another popular annual event is America's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Detroit's parade is second in size to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Related Articles