Detroit is the largest city in the U.S. state of Michigan, and is the seat of Wayne County. It is the major city among the primary cultural, financial, and transportation centers in the Metro Detroit area, a region of 5.2 million people, and serves as a major port on the Detroit River connecting the Great Lakes system to the Saint Lawrence Seaway. It was founded on July 24, 1701, by the French explorer, adventurer, and nobleman Antoine de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac.
In 2010, the city had a population of 713,777 and ranked as the 18th most populous city in the United States. The name Detroit sometimes refers to the Metro Detroit area with a population of 4,296,250 for the six-county Metropolitan Statistical Area, the United States' 13th-largest, and a population of 5,218,852 for the nine-county Combined Statistical Area as of the 2010 Census. The Detroit–Windsor area, a critical commercial link straddling the Canada–U.S. border, has a total population of about 5,700,000.
Known as the world's traditional automotive center, "Detroit" is a metonym for the American automobile industry and an important source of popular music legacies celebrated by the city's two familiar nicknames, the Motor City and Motown. Other nicknames arose in the 20th century, including City of Champions beginning in the 1930s for its successes in individual and team sport, The D, D-Town, Hockeytown (a trademark owned by the city's NHL club, the Red Wings), Rock City (after the Kiss song "Detroit Rock City"), and The 313 (its telephone area code) Detroit became known as the "great arsenal of democracy" for its support of the U.S. role among the Allied powers during World War II.
Detroit and the surrounding region constitute a major center of commerce and global trade. The Detroit area emerged as a metropolitan region with construction of an extensive freeway system in the 1950s and 1960s which has expanded in ensuing decades. Freeways and transit systems have facilitated movement throughout the region with millions of people taking up residence in the suburbs. Between 2000 and 2010, the city's population fell by 25%, from the nation's 10th largest city to 18th. Commensurate with the shift of population and jobs to its suburbs, the city has had to adjust its role within the larger metropolitan area. Downtown Detroit has seen an increased role as an entertainment hub in the 21st century, with the opening of three casino resort hotels, new stadiums, and a revitalized riverfront. The metropolitan region currently holds roughly one-half of the state's population.
There, in 1701, the French officer Antoine de La Mothe Cadillac, along with fifty-one additional French-Canadians, founded a settlement called Fort Ponchartrain du Détroit, naming it after the comte de Pontchartrain, Minister of Marine under Louis XIV. France offered free land in order to attract families to Detroit, which grew to 800 people in 1765, the largest city between Montreal and New Orleans.
François Marie Picoté, sieur de Belestre (Montreal 1719–1793) was the last French military commander at Fort Detroit (1758–1760), surrendering the fort on November 29, 1760 to the British. The region's fur trade was an important economic activity. Detroit's city flag reflects this French heritage. (See Flag of Detroit, Michigan).
During the French and Indian War (1760), British troops gained control and shortened the name to Detroit. Several tribes led by Chief Pontiac, an Ottawa leader, launched Pontiac's Rebellion (1763), including a siege of Fort Detroit. Partially in response to this, the British Royal Proclamation of 1763 included restrictions on white settlement in unceded Indian territories. Detroit passed to the United States under the Jay Treaty (1796). In 1805, fire destroyed most of the settlement. A river warehouse and brick chimneys of the wooden homes were the sole structures to survive.
From 1805 to 1847, Detroit was the capital of Michigan. As the city expanded, the street layout plan developed by Augustus B. Woodward, Chief Justice of the Michigan Territory was followed. Detroit fell to British troops during the War of 1812 in the Siege of Detroit, was recaptured by the United States in 1813 and incorporated as a city in 1815.
Prior to the American Civil War, the city's access to the Canadian border made it a key stop along the underground railroad. Then a Lieutenant, the future president Ulysses S. Grant was stationed in the city. His dwelling is still at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. Because of this local sentiment, many Detroiters volunteered to fight during the American Civil War, including the 24th Michigan Infantry Regiment (part of the legendary Iron Brigade) which fought with distinction and suffered 82% casualties at Gettysburg in 1863. At the arrival of the First Volunteer Infantry Regiment in Washington, Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying "Thank God for Michigan!" Following the death of President Abraham Lincoln, George Armstrong Custer delivered a eulogy to the thousands gathered near Campus Martius Park. Custer led the Michigan Brigade during the American Civil War and called them the Wolverines.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many of the city's Gilded Age mansions and buildings arose. Detroit was referred to as the Paris of the West for its architecture, and for Washington Boulevard, recently electrified by Thomas Edison. Strategically located along the Great Lakes waterway, Detroit emerged as a transportation hub. The city had grown steadily from the 1830s with the rise of shipping, shipbuilding, and manufacturing industries. In 1896, a thriving carriage trade prompted Henry Ford to build his first automobile in a rented workshop on Mack Avenue. During this period, Detroit expanded its borders annexing all or part of several surrounding villages and townships.
With the introduction of Prohibition, smugglers used the river as a major conduit for Canadian spirits, organized in large part by the notorious Purple Gang. Strained racial relations were evident in the 1920s trial of Dr. Ossian Sweet, a black Detroit physician acquitted of murder. A man died when shots were fired from Ossian's house into a threatening mob who gathered to try to force him out of a predominantly white neighborhood.
Industry spurred growth during the first half of the 20th century as the city drew tens of thousands of new residents, particularly workers from the Southern United States, to become the United States' fourth largest. At the same time, tens of thousands of European immigrants located in the city. Social tensions rose with the rapid pace of growth. The color blind promotion policies of the auto plants resulted in racial tension that erupted into a full-scale riot in 1943.
Consolidation during the 1950s, especially in the automobile sector, streamlined the supply chain. An extensive freeway system constructed in the 1950s and 1960s had facilitated commuting. In 1940, the city held about one-third of the state's population, while the metropolitan region currently holds roughly one-half. Commensurate with the shift of population and jobs to its suburbs, the city's tax base eroded.
In June 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a major speech in Detroit that foreshadowed his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. two months later. During the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Detroit witnessed growing confrontations between the police and inner city black youth, culminating in the Twelth Street riot in July 1967. Governor George W. Romney ordered the Michigan National Guard into Detroit, and President Johnson sent in U.S. Army troops. The result was 43 dead, 467 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. Thousands of small businesses closed permanently or relocated to safer neighborhoods, and the affected district lay in ruins for decades.
Renaissance has been a common theme among city leaders, reinforced by the construction of the Renaissance Center in the late 1970s. This complex of skyscrapers, designed as a city within a city, together with other developments, slowed and eventually began to reverse the trend of businesses leaving Downtown Detroit by the late 1990s.
In 1980, Detroit hosted the Republican National Convention which nominated Ronald Reagan to a successful bid for President of the United States. During the 1980s, vacant structures were demolished to make way for new development and revitalization.
In the 1990s, the city began to receive a revival with much of it centered in the Downtown, Midtown, and New Center areas. One Detroit Center (1993) arose on the city skyline. In the ensuing years, three casinos opened: MGM Grand Detroit, Motor City Casino, and Greektown Casino which debuted as resort hotels in 2007–08. New downtown stadiums were constructed for the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions in 2000 and 2002, respectively; this put the Lions' home stadium in the city proper for the first time since 1974. The city also saw the historic Book Cadillac Hotel and the Fort Shelby Hotel reopen for the first time in over 20 years. The city hosted the 2005 MLB All-Star Game, 2006 Super Bowl XL, 2006 World Series, WrestleMania 23 in 2007, and the NCAA Final Four in April 2009 all of which prompted many improvements to the downtown area. In 2011, Detroit Medical Center and Henry Ford Health System substantially increased investments in medical research facilities and hospitals in the city's Midtown and New Center.
The city's riverfront is the focus of much development following the example of Windsor, Canada which began its waterfront parkland conversion in the 1990s. In 2001, the first portion (stretching from Joe Louis Arena through Hart Plaza) of the International Riverfront was completed as a part of the city's 300th anniversary celebration. In succeeding years, the waterfront gained miles of parks and fountains. In 2011, the Port Authority Passenger Terminal opened with the river walk connecting Hart Plaza to the Renaissance Center. This development is a mainstay in the city's plan to enhance its economy through tourism. Along the river, developers are constructing upscale condominiums such as Watermark Detroit. Some city limit signs, particularly on the Dearborn border say "Welcome to Detroit, The Renaissance City Founded 1701." From 2010 to 2012, Detroit emerged as one of the top five cities for job growth in the U.S.