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So, You Think You Know Detroit?

Well, Here are Some Facts About Detroit You May Be Surprised to Learn


On July 24, 1701, a French explorer and nobleman by the name of Antoine de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac founded Detroit. The word Detroit is French for “strait,” and the French called the river “le détroit du Lac Érié,” meaning “the strait of Lake Erie.”

Today, 632,500 people live in the city, which is 139 square miles. You could fit Boston, Manhattan and San Francisco into Detroit.

The metropolitan area, known as Metro Detroit, is home to 4.3 million people, making it the second-largest in the Midwest after the Chicago metropolitan area, and the 14th-largest in the United States.

At Detroitisit find new reasons to love the city every day, and hope that our readers do as well.

Here, we’ll dive into the archives, dust off and share some interesting and fun facts about the city that you may not know.

  • Detroit River is actually a strait and not a river. A strait is a waterway that connects two larger bodies of water, and the Detroit River creates a passage between Lake Huron and Lake Erie.
  • Joseph Campau was among the wealthiest landowners in Detroit, and he was John R’s uncle. John R. Williams was the first mayor of Detroit and served five additional terms.
  • Detroit was named first American City of Design by UNESCO.
  • The nation’s first shopping mall, Northland Mall, opened in Southfield in 1957.
  • Henry Ford built his first car in Detroit in 1896.
  • The world’s first concrete road was built in Detroit in 1901.
  • The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the largest museum in the world dedicated to the African-American experience.
  • The nation’s first urban freeway, the Davison, was built in 1942.
  • Detroit was the first city to have a Tupperware party (1950s).
  • Detroit is home to America’s oldest active bowling center – The Garden Bowl.
  • Cadieux Café is one of the only places in North America where you can feather bowl.
  • Eastern Market is the largest open-air wholesale and retail market in the United States.
  • Belle Isle Park is the largest urban island park in the country. Designed by Frederick Olmstead, the architect of Central Park in New York City.
  • The first individually assigned phone numbers were in Detroit.
  • 70 percent of all the illegal alcohol that entered the U.S. during Prohibition came through Detroit.
  • The salt mines beneath Detroit could keep our food flavored for over 70,000 years.
  • The ice rink in Campus Martius Park is bigger than Rockefeller Center’s in NYC.

And finally, if you’re interested in seeing the city’s point of origin, head over to Woodward and Monroe, outside of PARC restaurant at 800 Woodward Avenue. You’ll find a plaque set into the ground near the fountain naming the place Detroit’s point of origin.

Detroit’s always been home to truly innovative thinkers, artists, amazing music, theatre and of course the automobile. As the city continues to redevelop and revitalize, at Detroitisit we believe this list will continue to expand with amazing innovation and many more firsts.


As always, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on all things Detroit.

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