The New International Encyclopædia/Detroit
DETROIT. The chief city of Michigan, a port of entry, and the county-seat of Wayne County; on the Detroit River, 18 miles from Lake Erie, and seven miles from Lake St. Clair. It is in latitude 42° 19′ N. and longitude 82° 58′ W.; 85 miles east-southeast of Lansing, 285 miles east by north of Chicago, and 251 west by south of Buffalo (Map: Michigan, K 6). The altitude of Detroit is 661 feet; mean annual temperature, 48.4° F.—January, 24.6°; July, 72°; average annual rainfall, 36.19 inches.
The river, sometimes called ‘The Dardanelles of the New World,’ which is here the boundary between the United States and Canada, is half a mile wide and over thirty feet deep. It affords a splendid harbor, with a water-front of about nine miles. Fort Wayne, with its extensive works, commands the channel. Ferries connect with the Canadian side. The river contains many beautiful islands, which, with those on Lake Saint Clair, are popular as places of summer residence and as resorts. Grosse Isle is the largest of these river islands, and Belle Isle has been converted into the city's finest park.
The city has an area of 29 square miles, and is finely situated on ground rising gradually from the river. It has a reputation for broad, clean, well shaded and paved streets. Of a total of about 600 miles of thoroughfares, more than one-half is paved, the principal streets being laid with brick or asphalt. Most of the streets cross at right angles, but these are intersected by several broad avenues, radiating from the Grand Circus, a semicircular park of live and a half acres in the heart of the city. Woodward Avenue extends through this, and divides the city into nearly equal portions. This intersection of streets and avenues has resulted in a number of small triangular parks, some of which contain handsome fountains. Woodward Avenue, the principal business street, and at its northern end the centre of a fine residence district, is the location of many of the city's most prominent buildings. The Campus Martius, a considerable plot of ground about a half-mile from the river, is a part of Woodward Avenue. Jefferson Avenue, in part also an important business centre, and West Fort Street, contain costly dwellings. Michigan, Gratiot, and Lafayette avenues have many notable buildings; the banking houses of Griswold Street compare favorably with those of Wall Street, New York City. Grand Boulevard, 150 feet wide and paved with macadam, has its head at Jefferson Avenue, and its terminus at Fort Street, on the opposite side of the city. It surrounds the heart of the city, being about twelve miles long, and is a magnificent thoroughfare.
The street railway system of Detroit, operated over about 130 miles of track, is characterized by efficient and rapid service. On the roads of this system a series of interesting experiments have been conducted to determine a minimum fare and a maximum distance for one fare.
Buildings. The Wayne County court-house is the largest and one of the most attractive of the public edifices. The City Hall, facing the Campus Martius, is 200 feet long by nearly 100 feet wide, built of sandstone, at a cost of $600,000. On the Campus is the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, by Randolph Rogers, 55 feet high, and surmounted by a representation of ‘Michigan.’ The Majestic Building, near the City Hall, is one of Detroit's finest office-buildings. The post-office, Chamber of Commerce, Detroit Athletic Club house, Y. M. C. A. Building, and Harper and Grace hospitals are notable. Among the finest ecclesiastical structures are Saint Anne's (Roman Catholic), First Unitarian, First Presbyterian, Fort Street Presbyterian, Trinity (Protestant Episcopal), Sacred Heart of Mary (Roman Catholic), Woodward Avenue Baptist, Saint John's (Protestant Episcopal), and Christ Episcopal churches, and Temple Beth El. The Museum of Art has a library, and collections on art, archæology, science, local and general history, valued at $300,000. Its special features are the Stearns collection of Oriental curios, one of the finest in America, and the Scripps collection of old masters, which includes valuable specimens of famous artists.
Parks. The most notable feature of the public park system, which includes some twelve hundred acres, is the island park, Belle Isle, of 707 acres. It lies opposite the eastern section of the city, with which it is connected by an iron bridge, erected in 1889 at a cost of $315,000. Nearly a million and a half dollars have been expended in improving the natural features of this park. The beauty of its river location is supplemented by a series of interior lakes and canals, which extend around the island, while a further improvement is projected in the reclamation of the shoal at the western end of the island, which will add at least one hundred acres to its territory. Palmer Park (141 acres) on Woodward Avenue, six miles north of the City Hall, contains a famous log cabin, and other historical relics, and a large colonial casino. It was acquired by gift in 1894. Other parks are Clark (25 acres) and Voigt (9⅓ acres).
There are several cemeteries in the city, the most notable of which are Elmwood (Protestant) and Mount Elliott (Roman Catholic), both in the eastern section of the city, of great natural beauty and containing handsome monuments.
Institutions. Detroit has, besides numerous public and parochial schools and private secondary institutions of learning, a normal school (city), Detroit College (Roman Catholic), opened in 1877, the Detroit College of Law, the Detroit College of Medicine, which maintains schools of dentistry and pharmacy, and the Michigan College of Medicine and Surgery. The Detroit Bar Library has over 10,000 volumes, and there are several educational and institutional libraries. The public library, founded in 1865, contains over 166,000 volumes, and has established several branches, of which one is in each of the three high schools.
The city has a poor fund, administered by a Poor Commission. There are about thirty private charities. The Detroit Association of Charities is a general organization, representing a number of allied institutions. The House of Correction, which has a plant valued approximately at $500,000, with accommodations for 600 inmates, has a wide reputation as a reformatory institution. Besides the United States Marine Hospital, there are four large general hospitals, including Grace and Harper hospitals, in connection with which are training schools for nurses. Other institutions are Saint Mary's and Emergency hospitals, Home for the Friendless, Saint Vincent's Orphan Asylum, Protestant Orphan Asylum, Arnold Home for the Aged and Hospital for Incurables, Thompson Home for Old Ladies, Florence Crittenton Home, Deaconess's Home, and Home for the Aged Poor. In 1894 Detroit originated the scheme of cultivating vacant lots by aid of the unemployed. The success of the experiment led to its adoption in a number of other American cities, in most of which, however, it was conducted by authorized representatives of the municipality, or of charitable organizations, and not as a distinctly municipal enterprise.
Commerce and Industry. There are a number of conditions which favor Detroit as a commercial and industrial centre. Its position in the southeastern part of the Lower Michigan Peninsula gives it a natural command over the trade of that region, and, at the same time, places it within easy reach of the country to the south; while its location upon the narrow strait leading from Lake Erie to Lake Saint Clair, and thence to Lake Huron, brings it into relation with the immense lake traffic and with the Canadian trade, a number of the railroads of the Dominion naturally making their connection with those of the United States at this point.
Detroit ranks second among the northern border ports in the extent of its foreign trade, and is first in the amount of its exports. For the year ending June 30, 1901, the imports amounted to $2,867,000, and the exports $17,669,000. About three-fourths of the total trade is with Canada, and tlie larger part of the remainder with England. The principal exports are corn, wheat, oats, cotton, hogs, lard, hides, fur, beef, wool, lumber, etc. The number of vessels entering the port in the year above mentioned was 1660, with an aggregate tonnage of 266,700; the vessels clearing, 1615, with a total of 249,300 tons. The river is open to navigation about eight months in the year.
The manufactures are characterized rather by variety than by the predominance of any particular industry. Among the leading products are stoves, freight-cars, drugs, varnish, paint, and oils, some of the establishments that produce these articles ranking among the largest in the world. Detroit has also extensive dry docks and engine plants, and a very large seed house. At one time the city was a leading lumber market of the country, and the sawing and planing mill industry was extensive; all this has declined considerably, but there are a number of allied industries, such as the manufacture of furniture, carriages, and matches, which have attained importance. The preparation of furs for market is of less importance than formerly. The tendency of the iron and steel industry to localize near the supply of coal rather than of ore has delayed its development in Detroit, yet the product in 1900 was estimated at $3,198,000. The value of the foundry and machine-shop products ($8,943,000) exceeds that of any other industry. The manufacture of druggists' preparations has developed almost wholly since 1880, but now ranks second in the value of the product, $4,915,000. The slaughtering industry and the manufacture of malt liquors also are of recent development. Other important manufactures are those of chewing and smoking tobacco, cigars and cigarettes, and clothing. The capital invested in the various industries amounts to about $75,000,000, and the value of the product exceeds $100,000,000.
Government. The government is vested in a Mayor and a unicameral Council, elected biennially. There are a number of administrative boards and commissions, most of which, with other important municipal officials, are appointed by the Common Council on nomination of the Executive. The Board of Health is appointed by the State Governor; and commissioners of public works, parks, and boulevards, and police are now appointed by the Common Council, though after June 30, 1905, the Mayor will make these appointments. The city clerk, treasurer, justice of the peace, police justices, and members of the Board of Education, who serve for four years, are chosen by popular vote. There is also a Board of Estimates, constituted of two representatives from each ward and five members from the city at large, with certain ex-officio members, which acts upon the general city estimates and all other measures for raising money. The United States District Court for Eastern Michigan sits at Detroit, and the United States internal revenue office and the department in charge of the lake lighthouses, are located here.
Finance. The net debt of the city on July 1, 1902, was $4,873,656.38, the per capita debt being the exceptionally low figure of $16.24. The legal borrowing limit is fixed at 2 per cent. of the assessed valuation. The actual income for the fiscal year 1902 was $5,822,819.44, of which $3,807,506.57 was raised through a property tax, the largest of the other items being special assessments, $646,658.88. The expense for maintenance and operation and construction was $4,811,996.99, the expenditure for schools ($801,000) constituting the largest item. The city owns and operates its light plant and water-works. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1902, the expenditures by the Public Lighting Commission aggregated about $180,000, of which $99,000 was for operation and the balance for extensions. The water-works system comprises some 600 miles of mains, with the pumping station situated at the extreme southeasterly point of the city limits. The supply is taken from the Detroit River. The plant, which is valued approximately at $7,000,000, has a daily capacity of 103,000,000 gallons.
Population. Detroit is the fourth largest of the Great Lake cities, and ranks thirteenth among those of the United States. The following figures indicate its growth: in 1820, 1422; in 1860, 45,619; in 1880, 116,340; in 1890, 205,876; in 1900, 285,704. Of the last, 96,500 were foreign born, the German and Canadian elements being the largest. About two-thirds of the native born are classified as native white of foreign parents. The colored population numbers only 4100.
History. The site of Detroit was visited by a party of Frenchmen as early as 1610, and again by La Salle in 1670. but no permanent settlement was made until 1701, when Sieur de la Mothe Cadillac, the first Governor of the French territory in this vicinity, built here Fort Pontchartrain, and established a small trading village. On November 29, 1760, an English force, under Col. Robert Rogers, of ‘Rogers Rangers,’ look possession, and in 1763, from May 9 to October 12, the Indians under Pontiac besieged the garrison, making frequent attacks. After an heroic defense Detroit was saved, being the only frontier post west of Niagara and Fort Pitt which was not captured. In 1778, when a new fort, Fort Lernault, was built, the place had only about 300 inhabitants, all of whom lived in rude log cabins. Throughout the Revolution it was the headquarters of the English forces in the Northwest, and the point from which many Indian expeditions were sent to ravage the frontiers. In 1796 the English abandoned the fort to the Americans, who changed its name to Fort Shelby. After this the settlement grew slowly, aud in 1802 was incorporated as a town by the Legislature of the Northwest Territory; but in 1805 it was almost completely destroyed by fire, all the buildings except a warehouse and a bakery being reduced to ashes. On August 16, 1812, the fort was surrendered by General Hull to the English under General Brock. It was evacuated, however, the Americans reoccupying it September 29, 1813. In 1815 Detroit was incorporated as a village, and in 1824 was chartered as a city by the Legislature of Michigan Territory. It was the capital of the Territory from 1805 to 1837, and of the State from 1837 to 1847, when it was supplanted by Lansing.
Consult: Farmer, The History of Detroit and Michigan (Detroit, 1889); Burton, Cadillac's Village, a History of the Settlement, 1701-1710 (Detroit, 1896); chapters in Parkman, A Half Century of Conflict (Boston, 1892) and the Conspiracy of Pontiac (Boston, 1867); various papers in the Michigan Pioneer Collections (Lansing, 1877—); Farmer, “Detroit,” in Historic Towns of the Western States (New York, 1901).