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Detroit, Michigan, USA

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Detroit is the largest city in the state of Michigan, with a population of 713,7771. It is located on the Detroit river between the Great Lakes Huron and Erie. A geographical oddity, because of a bend in the river, puts Windsor, Ontario, Canada directly south of downtown Detroit.


The city of Detroit was founded on 24 July, 1701, by Antoine de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac, as a fortified post to defend New France and prevent the Native Americans of the interior from trading with the English. He traded in furs and encouraged the Indians to settle there, and in eight months there were 6000 people living around the fort.

Lumber, silver, coal, and steel which were shipped on the Great Lakes formed the basis for Detroit's economy, until a new industry which needed, steel, coal, and skilled workers began... Today, Detroit is known as 'The Motor City' because of its importance in the automobile industry and 'Motown' because of artists like Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson Five, who brought a new kind of music to the world.


Located in Dearborn, between downtown and the airport, the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village is the most popular tourist destination in the area. Mr Ford collected historical buildings, including Edison's Menlo Park laboratories and the Wright brothers' bicycle shop, which he moved to Dearborn. This makes for a nice afternoon's walking tour through American history. The museum has a large collection of trains, cars, industrial power plants (including the earliest known steam engine, a fixed power plant used for pumping out a mine in Wales), electrical generators, agricultural machinery, the chair Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was killed, and a test tube containing Thomas Edison's last breath.

The museum is also home to a technical high school named the Edison Institute, which allows students to take a hands-on approach to history. The area is the home of several first-rate universities, including Wayne State university, which has the largest medical school in the country, UD-Mercy, Oakland, and Kettering (formery the GM Institute) and a number of other schools, such as the University of Michigan (located in the suburb of Ann Arbor, UM is, according to some, an overly-large state college which concentrates on sports at the expense of academics) and the Henry Ford Community College.


In the 1960s, the Detroit Tigers were a world class baseball team. Today, with a new stadium named after a bank, they can still occasionally play a very good game. The Detroit Lions football team(at the time of writing) is also moving to a new stadium downtown. Recently, the most popular spectator sports have been hockey, with a team called the Red Wings, and basketball, with the eponymous Pistons. Sailing and other watersports are popular on the many small lakes in the area. Bicycling is also a growing sport in Detroit, with the conversion of disused railways into cycle paths.

Life in the Big City

Detroit is a city of inconsistent extremes. Big manufacturing is still here, but many of the plants have moved to outlying areas, and the need for skilled labourers is not as great. There are wonderful cultural areas downtown, centring on Wayne State and the Detroit Institute of Arts, with Diego Rivera's mural, a socialist commentary on the modern industrial world, championed and paid for by Edsel Ford.

If you make a wrong turn taking the bridge to Canada, you can end up in Mexicantown, with wonderful, friendly restaurants, or driving down horrible, pothole-ridden streets by factories with broken windows, in a post-apocalyptic industrial wasteland. Gotham City was never this dark. At the same time, people are friendly, mid-western, and open, and if you move here you will make friends easily, find that the cost of living is fairly low, houses are reasonably cheap, and the quality of life is really pretty good. Some people wear T-shirts that say, 'Detroit: where the weak are killed and eaten', while others go out to eat at a wonderful restaurant in Greektown, and then go dancing afterwards at an alternative club owned by the Scottish heritage society. Large ethnic populations have given their flavour to the metro area, which can be seen in wonderful restaurants and festivals - Poles in Hamtramack, Lebanese in Dearborn, Greek and Mexican downtown.

Do go to Detroit - you'll be surprised. It isn't any more dangerous than any other city in the USA; just a little more honest!

1US census, April 2010.

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