Detroit History: From Destruction to Toasting to A Bright New Future

Detroit History | By Sherry Trautman | Traveling Michigan

Detroit Michigan is defined by the strength and resilience of its people. It's important to understand the city's history so we can respect where it's been so we can raise a toast to where it's going. 

Just in the past 3 years, its breathtaking and thrilling to watch such powerful revitalization efforts happening all over the city and surrounding regions. 

See my article on Matador network about the city's massive efforts

  • Detroit is the largest and most populous city in Michigan.  
  • The Motor City is a major port on the Detroit River, one of the four major straits that connect the Great Lakes system to the Saint Lawrence Seaway.
  • The Detroit Metropolitan Airport is among the most important hubs in the United States

The metropolitan area, known as Metro Detroit, is home to 4.3 million people, making it the second-largest in the Midwest after the Chicago metropolitan area.

Townhouse RestaurantTownhouse Restaurant

Interesting Detroit History

In 1701, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, which is the future city of Detroit.

Detroit is named after the Detroit River, which links Lake Huron and Lake Erie. The word "detroit" is French for "strait."

In the 19th century, Detroit became a bustling industrial hub and was the 4th-largest in the nation in 1920, after only New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia.  The booming auto industry greatly affected their influence.

As the auto industry expanded during the 20th century, Detroit and its surrounding areas enjoyed quick growth.  

Due to industrial restructuring, loss of jobs in the auto industry, and people moving out of the city, Detroit lost a large amount of its population from the late 20th century to the present.

In 2013, Detroit became the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy, when the city government regained control of Detroit's finances.

What is Detroit Famous For?

It's fascinating to learn all about Detroit History by visiting the locations listed below.

  • Detroit took on the nickname "Motor City."
  • The state's automotive industry provided the model for mass production that other industries incorporated into their own processes.
  • Henry Ford pioneered the use of the assembly line in manufacturing automobiles

In 1959 Berry Gordy launches Motown Records. Five Big Music Stars discovered by Mr. Gordy include:

- Michael Jackson (the Jackson Five)
- Stevie Wonder
- The Temptations
- The Supremes (Diana Ross)
- Marvin Gaye

Was Detroit the Richest City in the World?

In the 1950's, Detroit was the wealthiest city in the world.

8 Celebrities Born in Detroit Michigan

- Tim Allen
- Sonny Bono (1935)
- Jerry Bruckheimer (1945)
- Alice Cooper (1948)
- Francis Ford Coppola (1939)
- Jeff Daniels
- Eminem
- Tom Selleck (1945)

Detroit Pistons' History and Their New Performance Center

The Detroit Pistons play an import role in Detroit History. The Pistons franchise began in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1937. The team played under the original owner, Fred Zollner.

Where did the Detroit Pistons Name Originate?

Zollner’s business manufactured pistons for automobiles, so he named his team the Fort Wayne Pistons. 

Zollner wanted the best advantage for his team, so in 1957, he decided they would move to Detroit, Michigan.  Zollner retained the Pistons name because it made perfect sense with Detroit’s automotive identity.

Pistons Historical Progression

The Pistons played in the Olympia Stadium and then moved to Cobo Arena in 1961. 

In 1974, Zollner sold the Pistons to Bill Davidson for $6,000,000.00. The team moved to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1978 when Isiah Thomas was drafted shortly thereafter. Chuck Daly was the Pistons coach in 1983 and lead the Pistons to playoffs for nine seasons.

In 1988, the Pistons were relocated to the Palace of Auburn Hills. The team was called the “The Bad Boys” of basketball due to aggressive players such as Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, Dennis Rodman, Adrian Dantley and Mark Aguirre.  It payed off as the team became back-to-back champions in 1989 and 1990.

The Pistons appeared in the NBA Finals two consecutive years, and in 2004 they became champions with a starting squad of Richard Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, and Tayshaun Prince.

The Detroit Pistons moved yet again to Little Caesars Arena in 2017, sharing the space with the Detroit Red Wings for the first time since Olympia Stadium.

Check out the new Detroit Pistons Performance Center

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.

~Henry Ford

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When we were wandering around Belle Isle, I discovered this very cool round abandoned structure. I was reading that it used to be a zoo on Belle Isle in Detroit! You can still see the gates to get into the zoo, some cages and exhibits but it now stands abandoned. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In 1947, the Belle Isle Zoo was downsized to a children’s zoo and finally closed in 2002. Bummer, huh!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #deservetopreserve #abandoned #abandonedzoo #belleisle #belleislepark #detroit #abandoneddetroit #photooftheday #michigan #michigander #michiganphotographer #detroitmi #detroitmichigan #motorcity #detroitcity #detroitdecay #detroit_igers #detroitlove #forgottenplaces #beautyindecay #urbanexploration #urbanexplorers #explore #michiganaddict #detroitgraphiti #urbanexplore #abandonedplaces #beautyindecay #deserve2preserve

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About the Lead Author | Sherry Trautman

Thanks for stopping by!

Our Words of Wisdom: “Never follow anyone else’s path. Unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path, then by all means follow that path.”

"Sherry & Chris"

We're Sherry and Chris the founders of one of Michigan's most comprehensive and Top Travel Blogs!

    Sherry Trautman is a seasoned business owner and a multifaceted content creator, deeply entrenched in the world of travel in Michigan. With her extensive background in writing, editing, photography, marketing, website design, web mastering, social media, and publishing, she is the driving force behind the acclaimed Michigan Travel site "" A lifelong Michigander, Sherry's journey began in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan led her to St. Joseph during her formative years, and further to Kalamazoo for her higher education. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design and Fine Art from Western Michigan University. Her career initially blossomed in Battle Creek, where she contributed significantly to aviation, marketing, and the art industry.

    In 2018, Sherry, alongside her husband Chris, embarked on a passionate endeavor with the inception of This venture was not just a business but a full-time commitment to exploring and celebrating the diverse landscapes and communities of Michigan. Together, they tirelessly traverse the state, curating unique experiences, capturing stunning visuals, and weaving engaging narratives that showcase Michigan's rich cultural tapestry and natural beauty. From her early experiences in different Michigander locales to her extensive professional background, Sherry's life and work epitomize a deep-rooted expertise in Michigan travel, making her an authoritative voice in this niche.

Sherry & Chris are at the Inn at Bay Harbor and looking out at the lake.
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