Subject of the Month: 2017

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August 2017

Map of Detroit with Marked Locations

Selector: Clayton Hayes

Though Detroit was founded in 1701, it can be argued that it did not develop into a city in the modern sense until after the American Civil War. As with many American cities, the Industrial Revolution and, later, the auto industry sparked a period of growth that shaped Detroit into the city we know today. This guide provides a glimpse into that process, highlighting materials on the physical city itself including architecture, the city's layout, and Detroit's history.


The Virtual Motor City Collection

The Virtual Motor City Collection is a collection of photographs from the Reuther Library's archive that were taken by Detroit News photographers between the late 19th Century and the 1980s. These photographs provide a glimpse into Detroit's past, showing the city as it has grown and changed through the decades. We have mapped a small fraction of the collection below, and some background information has been provided where available.

Questions? Comments? See anything that looks out of place? Send me an email and let me know.

Map completed with the assistance of Shelby Fox-Purrier.

Websites, August 2017

Historic Detroit website

Historic Detroit

Historic Detroit's tagline aptly describes their mission: "Every building in Detroit has a story - we're here to share it." Founded by writer and photographer Dan Austin, the site contains a wealth of information on Detroit's physical spaces, both past and present.

Virtual Motor City Collection website

Virtual Motor City

Almost 40,000 images taken by Detroit News photographers from the late 19th Century up to and including the 1980s. This includes mostly photos taken in Detroit, but there are plenty dealing with other subjects as well.

WSU Yamasaki Legacy website

WSU Yamasaki Legacy Project

The Wayne State University Yamasaki Legacy project provides information and contextualization on renowned architect Minoru Yamasaki. It examines his designs on the WSU campus, as well as discussion his global influence.

Ethnic Layers of Detroit website

Ethnic Layers of Detroit

Ethnic Layers of Detroit is an ongoing interdisciplinary project engaging faculty and student researchers in creating, documenting, and sharing multilayered multimedia narratives of Detroit’s ethnic histories. It provides a deeper look into specific stories in and around Detroit.

Databases, August 2017

Picture of the Display


Detroit's Growth, Outward and Upward

Historic Detroit website Detroit's Growth Outward

This map, originally published in a 1926 County Manual for Wayne, Michigan, shows how the borders of Detroit grew via the annexation of land from 1806 to 1926. The city's borders today remain largely the same as they were in 1926.

Historic Detroit website Detroit's Growth Upward

How was the skyline of Detroit changed throughout the years? This image tracks all of the buildings that have held the title of "Tallest Building in Detroit," from the Hammond Building, the city's first "skyscraper," in 1889 to the Renaissance Center in 1977. See if you can find all of them on the map of Virtual Motor City images elsewhere in the guide!


AIA Detroit cover

AIA Detroit

The American Institute of Architects Guide to Detroit Architecture, by Hill and Gallagher

This architectural guidebook provides information on many notable Detroit buildings and architects, focusing primarily on commercial structures.

Buildings of Detroit cover

The Buildings of Detroit

A History, by W. Hawkins Ferry

One of the most comprehensive guides to Detroit's buildings, providing photographs and historical information on both commercial and residential structures of note.

Detroit Historic Places of Worship cover

Detroit's Historic Places of Worship

compiled and edited by Collum and Krueger

A collection of photographs and descriptions of historic churches in the Detroit area.

Forgotten Landmarks of Detroit cover

Forgotten Landmarks of Detroit

by Dan Austin

This book profiles 15 buildings that once stood in Detroit, but have since been demolished.

Guardian Building cover

The Guardian Building

Cathedral of Finance, by James W. Tottis

Profiles the Guardian Building in Detroit's Downtown, including exterior and interior photographs and information on its architect, Wirt C. Rowland.

Lost Detroit cover

Lost Detroit

Stories Behind the Motor City's Majestic Ruins, by Dan Austin

This book profiles 12 notable Detroit buildings that had, at the time of publication, fallen into disrepair.

Motor City Marquees cover

Motor City Marquees

A Comprehensive, Illustrated Reference to Motion Picture Theaters in the Detroit Area, 1906-1992, by Stuart Galbraith IV

Detroit was, and perhaps still is, known for its many opulent movie palaces. This work provides information on many of them, stretching back to the turn of the 20th Century.

Parnassus on Main Street cover

Parnassus on Main Street

A History of the Detroit Public Library, by Frank B. Woodford

A history of the Detroit Public Library, from its beginnings in the old Michigan Capitol Building up to 1965, the time of this book's publication.

Burnham of Chicago cover

Burnham of Chicago

Architect and Planner, by Thomas S. Hines

Though most famous for his work in Chicago, Daniel Burnham designed several of Detroit's earliest skyscrapers.

Cass Gilbert cover

Cass Gilbert, Life and Work

Architect of the Public Domain, edited by Christen and Flanders

A prominent architect responsible for the design of many U. S. government buildings in Washington, D. C. and New York City, Gilbert also designed the Detroit Public Library's main branch.

Industrial & Commercial Buildings cover

Industrial & Commercial Buildings

by A. Kahn, Inc.

Published by the A. Kahn, Inc. architecture firm, this book provides a wealth of information on Kahn's works.

Legacy of Albert Kahn cover

The Legacy of Albert Kahn

by W. Hawkins Ferry

This serves as a compilation of the works of Albert Kahn, not only in Detroit, but across Michigan and the rest of the world. It provides floor plans and blueprints for several of Kahn's buildings, along with some biographical information for context.

Yamasaki in Detroit cover

Yamasaki in Detroit

A Search for Serenity, by John Gallagher

This book provides information on the Detroit buildings of famed architect Minoru Yamasaki, along with profiling the architect himself.

Detroit in its World Setting cover

Detroit in its World Setting

A Three Hundred Year Chronology, 1701-2001, edited by David Lee Poremba

Published three hundred years after the founding of Detroit in 1701, this book provides a survey of the city's history over that time period.

Detroit, Race and Uneven Development cover

Detroit, Race and Uneven Development

by Joe T. Darden

Discusses the effects of race, economic condition, and Urban Renewal on the city of Detroit's development.

Echoes of Detroit cover

Echoes of Detroit

A 300-Year History, by Irwin Cohen

Published the year before Detroit's three hundredth anniversary, this book provides a history of the city over that time period.

Hidden History of Detroit cover

Hidden History of Detroit

by Amy Elliot Bragg

Profiles the early years of Detroit, from its founding in 1701 to the 19th Century, in an engaging and interesting style.

Making of Black Detroit cover

The Making of Black Detroit in the Age of Henry Ford [eBook]

by Beth Tompkins Bates

Describes the experiences of the black population in Detroit during the early 20th Century, including the Great Migration and interactions between Ford and the black community.

Old Slow Town cover

"Old Slow Town"

Detroit During the Civil War, by Paul Taylor

Provides a description of the city of Detroit before, during, and after the American Civil War.

On This Day in Detroit History cover

On This Day in Detroit History [eBook]

by Bill Loomis

For each day of the year, this book provides an anecdote from Detroit's past, ranging from the city's founding in 1701 to the book's publication in 2016.

Origins of the Urban Crisis cover

Origins of the Urban Crisis [eBook]

Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit, by Thomas J. Sugrue

An examination of the city of Detroit after World War II, dealing specifically with its social, racial, and economic conditions.

Redevelopment and Race cover

Redevelopment and Race [eBook]

Planning a Finer City in Postwar Detroit, by June Manning Thomas

Provides information on the development of Detroit after World War II, including the effects of Urban Renewal on the city's black population.

This is Detroit cover

This is Detroit

1701-2001, by Arthur M. Woodford

An excellent survey of Detroit's first 300 years, including many interesting photographs.

Videos, August 2017

Detroit's Pattern of Growth

This short film, a production of Wayne State University and published in 1965, traces the history of Detroit's growth and provides some insight into how the layout of the city developed in the way that it did.

Creating Community: Lafayette Park

(WSU authorized and on-site users)
This short documentary film provides a history of the development of Detroit's Lafayette Park neighborhood, designed by former Bauhaus architect Mies van der Rohe and regional planner Ludwig Hilberseimer, with landscaping by Alfred Caldwell.