Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Detroit

DETROIT, the largest city of Michigan, and the county-seat of Wayne co. It is on the Detroit river, along which it extends for about 12 miles. It is also on the shores of Lake St. Clair. The city has an area of about 94 square miles, and is beautifully situated on ground which rises from the river. The great bodies of water adjacent to the city tend to moderate climatic conditions, and its elevation of 576 feet above sea-level has much to do with the very high average of health conditions in the city and its surroundings. The city, both commercially and industrially, is one of the most important in the United States. It is on the lines of the Canadian Pacific, the Grand Trunk, the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, the Pere Marquette, the Wabash, the Michigan Central, and other railroads. Its industries are widely diversified. There were in 1920 over 3,100 different classes hundreds of commodities of world-wide uses. It stands prominently among the cities of the United States in the production of automobiles, adding machines, soda and alkali products, stoves, steamships, gas engines, aeroplanes, hydraulic hoists, automobile parts, varnishes, paints, and oils, drugs, and pharmaceutical products. Wholesale and jobbing interests also play an important part in the business life of the city. The Detroit river carries an immense freight traffic. Nearly 40,000 vessels yearly, carrying a total tonnage of approximately 100,000,000 tons, valued at more than a billion and a quarter dollars, pass before the city.

Detroit had in 1920 14 State banks, 5 National banks, 6 trust companies, and a Federal Reserve bank, with aggregate resources in the neighborhood of a half billion dollars. The total capital, surplus and undivided profits of the banks aggregated $50,000,000, and the total deposits amounted to nearly $425,000,000. The exchanges in the clearing house for the year ending Sept. 30, 1919, amounted to $4,032,443,000. Several of the largest manufacturers of automobiles have their plants in Detroit. These include the Ford Company, Packard Motor Car Company, the Hudson Company, the Paige-Detroit Company, and others. During the war the city developed a great shipbuilding industry which has been continued and vessels are made not only for inland waters but for ocean travel.

There are over 700 miles of streets, the greater part of which are paved. The principal streets are laid with brick or asphalt. The streets in general cross at right angles, but these are intersected by several broad avenues radiating from the Grand Circus, a semi-circular park of 5½ acres in the center of the city. Woodward Avenue, extending through this, divides the city into nearly equal portions. There is an attractive system of parks, including an island park known as Belle Isle. This contains 707 acres, and lies in the center of the Detroit river, about 3 miles from the heart of the city. There are many handsome public buildings, including the Wayne County Court House, the City Hall, Post-office, and Detroit Athletic Club House, and the Y. M. C. A. building and several hospitals. Many of the churches are also notable for the beauty of their architecture. The Museum of Art contains a library and valuable collections of classical art, modern paintings, furniture, etc.

The educational system is maintained according to the highest modern standards. There are 160 public and 75 private schools, including 10 high schools, and 4 junior high schools. In connection with the school system are operated three college units, including a medical school, a normal school, and a junior college. These eventually will comprise the University of the City of Detroit. In addition to the public schools there are 60 parochial schools and numerous private institutions. The city spends approximately $6,000,000 to maintain this school system.

The city is notable for a large number of handsome business buildings, hotels and theaters.

Detroit was founded by the French explorer Cadillac, in 1791. After the site was chosen, a palisade inclosure was erected and called Fort Pontchartrain. The name Detroit is after the French “d'étroit” meaning the strait, and was so called because of its situation on the narrow strait now known as Detroit river, connecting Lake St. Clair with Lake Erie. The French ruled the region until 1760, when they were superseded by the English, who in turn held it until 1796, when it was conquered by General Wayne. The English again assumed control in 1813, but Commodore Perry's victory of Lake Erie gave the entire territory to the United States. The city has shown a remarkable increase in population in recent years. The figures are as follows: (1900) 285,705; (1910) 465,766; (1920) 993,678.