Historically, the Civic Center in downtown Detroit started as a fur trading post and grew into a frontier military station. Cadillac Square was formed with 1-meter (3-foot) flagstones before it was paved, and the marketplace sold produce and goods, much like the Eastern Market today.
The city of Detroit was founded on July 24, 1701, by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. With a pledge of patriotism, he demonstrated community ideals and the courage to foster them.
In the middle 1700s, Detroit was turned over to the British as a spoil of the French and Indian War (1755–1763), but by 1796, George Washington forced the British out of the city and the American Flag was raised over Fort Pontchartrain.
A devastating fire swept Detroit in 1805 that destroyed each one of its 200 structures and left only a stone warehouse standing. Following the War of 1812, the development of the steamboat, and the opening of the Erie Canal, Detroit began to experience dramatic growth again and finally was incorporated as a city in 1815.
By the time Michigan was admitted to the Union as the twenty-sixth state in 1837, Detroit had become a significant station on the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a secret system that helped fugitive slaves reach freedom in the northern states and Canada. Eight years later, the city was honored to hold President Andrew Jackson's funeral.
With the dawning of the Industrial Age, new products surfaced, and the manufacture of stove and kitchen ranges became Detroit's leading industry. Tastefully complimenting the ranges, additional consumable products emerged, like Vernors Ginger Ale, Stroh's Beer, and the famous Sanders candy, cakes, and ice cream. Having all the goods, Detroit needed a place to promote their treats, and the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau was born, the world's first such organization.
With the population rapidly multiplying, communities and businesses were prospering. Ford Motor Company was established, and the introduction of the assembly line revolutionized the auto industry. Detroit put America on wheels. The daily wage paid five dollars. The year was 1921, and the Detroit Times newspaper was purchased by William Randolph Hearst.
Making headlines was nothing new to Detroit. The following decade brought with it the retirement of baseball's great Ty Cobb, the grand opening of the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the unveiling of the Ambassador Bridge. The bridge connected Detroit to Canada and was hailed as the longest international suspension span in the world. Complementing the bridge, travelers could also gain international entry to Canada via the new Windsor Tunnel.
Business for Detroit merchants boomed until the Great Depression, which temporarily slowed the city's progress. But in the world of sports, there was no depression. Detroit teams were still making headlines.
In 1935, the Tigers captured the World Series; the Lions were National Football League champions; and the Red Wings won hockey's Stanley Cup. Detroit was riding high, and the world was still watching. In 1937, Mr. Joe Louis Barrow (Joe Lewis), the Brown Bomber, won the world's heavyweight boxing championship. On the eve of World War II (1939–1945), Joe Louis was a good guy to have on your side.
During World War II, Detroit played a key role as the nation's "Arsenal of Democracy." Economic growth during the mid 1940s placed Detroit at the forefront of the nation's industrial fields, including salt products, electric refrigeration, seeds, adding machines, stove manufacturing, and of course, automobiles.
In turn, the city engineers designed a massive freeway system to transport the fruits of the automobile industry. However, for progress there was a price. Many public housing units were destroyed in order to accommodate the planned freeway expansion. Public housing residents were evicted and offered no plan for relocation. The city of Detroit did not comply with the Federal Housing Act 048, which required alternative housing for dislocated renters. In effect, the city created 17,000 refugees and wide distrust for local government.
Thereafter, the city's middle-income population began to shift to more suburban locales, and the nation's first shopping mall opened in Southfield in 1954. Northland Mall was the harbinger of the new suburban lifestyle.
The following decade, Detroit recovered under Mayor Jerome P. Cavanaugh's administration. The formerly distressed city became a model of social progress. In July 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led a massive civil rights movement in Detroit; still, Detroit was not an island unto itself. The riots in July 1967 shattered the city like a terrifying earthquake. The shock was to prove painful, indeed. On the heels of freedom and turmoil, Berry Gordy created the Motown Sound and taught the nation—and indeed the world—a new way to sing. By the year's end, New Detroit was founded.
Billed as the United States' first " urban coalition, " New Detroit organized to improve education, employment, housing, and economic development. With strong leadership and community support, New Detroit set a new pace for the city. Soon afterwards, business leaders founded Detroit Renaissance to help formulate the city's economic future. In 1971, Henry Ford II, head of Detroit Renaissance, Inc., announced plans for the construction of the largest privately financed project in the world—The Renaissance Center.
Celebrated in rebirth, Detroit's renaissance was an attempt to protect the value of existing investments and future profit opportunities in the downtown hub. The city's first black mayor, Coleman Young, took office in 1974 to build Detroit's assets. Mayor Young sought to improve racial equality in city government and increase solidarity among African-American residents. He served an unprecedented five terms.
With the 1980s, the revival continued. Detroit hosted the thirty-second Republican National Convention at the new Joe Louis Arena. The Millender Center and Greektown's Trappers Alley Marketplace opened. Complementing new business, the Detroit People Mover provided another source of downtown transportation—a monorail. Expansion of the $225 million Cobo Conference/Exhibition Center was completed, and sports enthusiasts were thrilled. Detroit hosted the first Grand Prix on the city streets, and Super Bowl XVI played to a sold out crowd at the Pontiac Silver-dome. Sparky Anderson and the affable Detroit Tigers captured the 1984 World Series, and the Pistons secured consecutive NBA championship titles in 1989 and 1990.
Metro Detroit's prosperity continued in the 1990s. Chosen as a site for World Cup Soccer in 1994, the Silver-dome earned the unique opportunity to host the first indoor soccer championship in World Cup history. The American automobile industry and the Metropolitan Convention and Visitor's Bureau celebrated their Centennial, and the decade ended with another block-buster season in sports. The Detroit Red Wings won back-to-back National Hockey League Stanley Cup Championships and kept Lord Stanley's cup for two years, 1997 and 1998.