by Bret Schnitzer
The city of Detroit, Michigan, developed from a French fort and missionary outpost founded in 1701 to one of the largest American cities by the early 20th century. As reflected by the emblems on its flag, Detroit has been governed by three world powers: France, Great Britain, and the United States. The city, settled in 1701, is one of the oldest cities in the Midwest. Detroit experienced a large scale fire in 1805 which nearly destroyed the city. After the fire, Justice Augustus B. Woodward devised a plan similar to Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s design for Washington, D.C. Detroit’s monumental avenues and traffic circles fan out in a baroque styled radial fashion from Grand Circus Park in the heart of the city’s theater district, which facilitates traffic patterns along the city’s tree-lined boulevards and parks. Main thoroughfares radiate outward from the city center like spokes in a wheel.
During the 19th century, Detroit grew into a thriving hub of commerce and industry, the city spread along Jefferson Avenue, with multiple manufacturing firms taking advantage of the transportation resources afforded by the river and a parallel rail line. Beginning in the late 19th and early 20th century, many of the city’s Gilded Age mansions and buildings arose. Detroit was referred to as the Paris of the West for its architecture, and for Washington Boulevard, recently electrified by Thomas Edison.
Following World War II, the Detroit area emerged as a global business center with the metropolitan area becoming one of the largest in the United States. The Detroit area is the second largest U.S. metropolitan area linking the Great Lakes system. Immigrants and migrants have contributed significantly to Detroit’s economy and culture. In the 1990s and the new millennium, the city has experienced increased revitalization. Many areas of the city are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and include National Historic Landmarks.
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