Historic Small Towns, Villages and Cities
Several of the communities and neighborhoods within the Metro-Detroit area are actually cities in their own right that date back to the 1800s or before. Although engulfed by the larger metropolitan area, each community has its own unique character, history, natural resources, and downtown area.
In Wayne County, there are several cities, villages, and small towns that host community events and festivals, including Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Detroit, Hamtramck, Northville, and Plymouth, as well as the communities that make up the Downriver area.
According to Dearborn Area Living, the area five miles west of downtown Detroit was first settled by the French in 1786. Over time, a road developed along the Sauk-Fox Indian trail that became the main thoroughfare through the area. It was originally known as Chicago Road but eventually became Michigan Avenue. The City of Dearborn (originally a stagecoach stop) was not incorporated until 1929.
While Dearborn is best known as the birthplace of Henry Ford and was greatly influenced by Ford Motor Company, it was once farmland and supported a brick-making industry. These days, Dearborn is the 10th largest city in Michigan and home to The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. While the area always attracted a diverse group of immigrants because of the auto plants, in recent years it has become home to a large Arab population. Annual Dearborn events include:
- May/June: FFDAS Mutt Strut (Ford Field), Garden Party & Tea
- September/October: Hog Heaven, Pumpkin Patch
- November/December: Festival of Trees, Brunch with Santa
In 1963, parts of Dearborn Township and a small section of Inkster that connected them were officially incorporated into the City of Dearborn Heights. Annual Dearborn Heights events include:
- May/June: Spirit Festival
- July/August: City-Wide Garage Sale, Chili Cook-Off and Picnic
- September/October: Fall Book Sale
City of Detroit
Detroit was originally a fur-trading center founded by the French in 1701. Over the next few decades, control of the area fell to the British and finally the Americans in 1796. It was incorporated into a city in 1815.
While Detroit will forever be known by its Motor City moniker, its original industries included stove manufacturing and shipbuilding. In the 1960s, the city's music industry earned it yet another nickname: Motown.
- Between the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, Detroit is the country's biggest international border crossing.
- Detroit was home to the first concrete road before Henry Ford formed the Ford Motor Company in 1903 and GM in 1908.
- The Renaissance Center is perhaps the most distinctive building in the Detroit Skyline. It opened in 1977.
These days, the Detroit People Mover can take residents and visitors alike to many of the city's attractions, including three casinos, Campus Martius Park, Ford Field, and Comerica Park. Several neighborhoods within Detroit host summer concert series, including Midsummer Nights in Midtown and Rockin' on the Riverfront.
Annual Detroit events include:
- January/February: North American International Auto Show, Winter Blast!
- March/April: Art X Detroit, Walk America (Detroit), St. Patrick's Day Parade, Detroit Music Awards
- May/June: Downtown Hoedown, Detroit Electronic Music Festival, Festival of the Arts (now midsummer concert series), Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Target Fireworks, Eastern Market's Flower Day, River Days and Parade of Lights
- July/August: Comerica CityFest (New Town, 2009), African World Festival, Michigan State Fair (ended 2009), APBA Gold Cup
- September/October: Labor Day Parade, Detroit International Jazz Festival, Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix (to return in 2012), Dally in the Alley, Focus: HOPE Walk for Diversity, Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Bank Marathon
- November/December: America's Thanksgiving Parade, Noel Night (Midtown)
Detroit's Downriver area refers to several communities located south of Detroit along the Detroit River. The communities include Allen Park, Brownstone Township, Ecorse, Flat Rock, Gibraltar, Grosse Ile, Huron Township, Lincoln Park, Melvindale, River Rouge, Riverview, Rockwood, Romulus, Southgate, Taylor, Trenton, Woodhaven, and Wyandotte. The area is known for its boating, fishing and bird watching. In addition to the Downriver Cruise (a large car show), the area is known for the Grosse Ile IslandFest. Annual Downriver Events include:
- May/June: Grosse Ile IslandFest Festival, Melvindale Days
- July/August: Allen Park Street Art Fair, Ecorse Water Festival, Summertime Fun Festival, Telegraph Tomorrow Car Cruise, Mid-Summer Festival, Uncle Sam Jam, Wyandotte Street Art Fair
- September/October: Apple Festival, Pointe Mouillee Waterfowl Festival, Pumpkin Festival, Scarecrow Festival
- November/December: Boar's Head Festival, Parade of Lights
Grosse Pointe is actually made up of five villages/cities or “pointes” and is located along Lake St. Clair about 10 miles northeast of downtown Detroit. At one time Grosse Pointe was a resort community known as “The Newport of the Midwest.”
These days, Grosse Pointe is an affluent community that has its own marina; diverse, historical architecture; and a wealth of social and recreational opportunity. Grosse Pointe hosts a concerts series in the summer, as well as several sailing races.
While the City of Hamtramck still reflects its large Polish population, the area was first settled back in 1796 by the French. In fact, the area was home to German farmers long before Poles moved into the area in the early 1900s to work at Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company. The population growth eventually resulted in Hamtramck becoming a city in 1922. These days, Hamtramck encompasses many ethnicities, including immigrants from Yemen and Bangladesh. Annual Hamtramck events include:
- January/February: Paczki Day, Hamtramck Blowout
- May/June: St. Florian Strawberry Festival
- September/October: Labor Day Festival, Polish Day Parade, Planet Ant Film & Video Festival
The City of Northville straddles both Wayne and Oakland Counties. The area was settled in the 1800s as part of Plymouth Township and eventually became a village in 1867 and a city in 1955. The city is known for its Victorian-era housing, quaint small-town atmosphere, and rolling landscape.
The city is also home to Northville Downs Racetrack, the Marquis Theatre (a children's theater), shops, galleries, and restaurants. Mill Race Historical Village is a small area just east of the downtown district that contains several historic buildings, the collection of which represents an earlier era in the city's history. The city hosts a farmer's market and two concert series: Tunes on Tuesdays and Summer Friday Night Concerts. Annual Northville events include:
- May/June: Arts and Acts
- July/August: Buy Michigan Now
- September/October: Victorian Festival, Ghoultide Gathering, Car Tunes Fall Festival
- November/December: Christmas Tea, Holiday Light Parade
Plymouth is known for its quaint, historic downtown that hosts several festivals, including one of the state's first ice festivals. The last decade's seen a shift from stores and boutiques to restaurants and night spots, including sports bars, pubs and a dueling-piano bar. The City of Plymouth hosts a farmer's market and a summer concert series. Annual Plymouth events include:
- January/February: Ice Sculpture Festival
- May/June: Green Street Fair
- July/August: 4th of July Parade, Art in the Park,
- September/October: Pumpkin Palooza, Fall Festival, Chili Cook-Off