Metro Detroit Fun Facts

This information is supplied as a public service by: Best Western Sterling Inn Banquet and Conference Center.

HISTORY: Detroit was founded in 1701 by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac in the name of Louis XIV of France at "le place de detroit"---the place of the strait. It has been under French, British and American rule. One of Detroit's historic landmarks is FORT WAYNE. The fort, named for General "Mad Anthony" Wayne, was built in the 1840's at the most strategic bend in the Detroit River. It was complete with a dry moat, casemates, tunnels, powder magazines, earthworks and a stone barracks building. Ft. Wayne has seen much active service. It was a troop training center during the Civil War and remained a key garrison in the Spanish-American War and World War I. It served as a major ordinance and vehicle supply depot during World War II.

FUN FACTS: The Motor City is known for its contributions to the automotive industry, so it probably comes as no surprise that Detroit installed the first traffic light (1915), the first mile of paved concrete road (1909) and the first urban freeway in the nation (1942). But did you know that Detroit:

PEOPLE FACTS: The MOTOWN SOUND, now based in Los Angeles, originated in Detroit and has been a major influence in the modern music world. Diana Ross and the Supremes captured nine gold records in less than 2 1/2 years. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Temptations, Martha Reeves and Vandellas, Stevie Wonder and Chuck Jackson, were among the early names on the talent roster. In 1968, Billboard reported that Motown established record sales in nearly every major country, making the Top Ten record sales in England, Israel, Argentina and Spain as well as the United States. Native Detroiters, Della Reese and Aretha Franklin, have also made their mark in the music world as have Detroit-born rock stars Alice Cooper and Ted Nugent. Another native Detroiter left his mark on the world in May of 1927 when he made the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris, France. His name Charles A. Lindbergh. He was born in Detroit in 1902 and grew up as a son of a Detroit school teacher. Many famous television/movie personalities were born in Detroit. Among them are Lily Tomlin ("Laugh-In"), Harry Morgan ("M.A.S.H."), Ed McMahon ("Tonight Show"), Piper Laurie, Sonny Bono, Robert Wagner ("Hart to Hart"), Tom Selleck ("Magnum, P.I."), and George C. Scott ("Patton").

Movie makers have frequently used Detroit as a location for films. "The Betsy," starring Laurence Oliver, was partially shot in the city as was "Blue Collar" with Richard Pryor. "Jimmy B. & Andre," starring Alex Karras, was filmed entirely in Detroit for television. The most recent feature-length film for theatrical release to be shot and produced entirely in Detroit is "Assignment: Berlin." It stars Eddie Mekka who played Carmine in TV's "Laverne and Shirley." And, look for "Tiger Town" starring Roy Scheider, "Beverly Hills Cop" with Eddie Murphy and "First and Goal" with Goldie Hawn, all filmed in the Metro Detroit area. LANDMARKS: The main focus in the development of "The Renaissance City" was the RENAISSANCE CENTER which contains the 73-story WESTIN HOTEL (the second tallest hotel in the world) with its eight-story atrium lobby. The Center also features dozens of restaurants, cocktail lounges, cafes, a world of retail shops, movie theaters and indoor recreation areas. Another riverfront development is HART PLAZA, named in honor of Michigan's late U.S. Senator, Philip A. Hart. This is now the permanent site of Detroit's popular summer ethnic festivals. The free festivals, which began in 1970 with four nationalities, are held every weekend from early May through September. There are now 22 weekends devoted to more than two dozen ethnic nationalities. The Detroit festivals were the forerunner of many such festivals both in Michigan and around the country. JOE LOUIS ARENA on the riverfront was named for Detroit's "Brown Bomber", Joe Louis Barrows. Born in Alabama, Louis moved to Detroit as a child and called Detroit home. In the 1930's and 1940's, Louis reigned as king of heavyweight boxers. Joe Louis Arena was the site of the 1980 Republican National Convention and is home to the Detroit Red Wings. The Arena seats 21,000 persons and was completed in 1979. A "must see" is the controversial "Fist" sculpture dedicated to Joe Louis at Woodward and Jefferson Avenues. OLD MARINER'S CHURCH, immortalized by Gordon Lightfoot in the song "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", was built in 1849 to serve seamen in the port of Detroit. The first regular Lenten noonday services in America began in the Church in 1877 and continue to this day. TIGER STADIUM is one of the oldest facilities in use in the American League. Baseball has been played on the site since 1900 and the Detroit Tigers have been part of the American League since 1901. Hall of Famers Ty Cobb, Mickey Cochrane, Sam Crawford, Charley Gerhringer, Hank Greenberg and Al Kaline all were Tigers. The stadium can accommodate up to 52,806 persons. BELLE ISLE, a 1,000-acre island in the middle of the Detroit River, is the nation's largest urban island park containing the first cageless zoo and the oldest public Aquarium in the Western Hemisphere. The Detroit Boat Club, located on the island near the Belle Isle Bridge, is the oldest boat club in the United States. The SPIRIT OF DETROIT is situated on the west side of Detroit's City Hall located on Jefferson Avenue and Woodward across from Hart Plaza. This statue represents the spirit of humanity and was done by Marshall Fredericks. It is affectionately known as the Green Giant!

The PYLON, on Hart Plaza, was designed as a dramatic terminus for Detroit's main street, Woodward Avenue. The artist, Isamu Noguchi, was inspired by the DNA molecule when creating this sculpture. The HORACE E. DODGE & SON MEMORIAL FOUNTAIN, also done by Noguchi, is in the center of Detroit's "people place" -- Hart Plaza. The fountain has computer-controlled jets of water and creates many dramatic effects. The FORD ROUGE PLANT located on the south side of I-94 in Dearborn is one of the largest industrial developments in the world. Totally self-contained, raw materials were brought in and the finished product was completed at this complex. The ROUGE RIVER runs behind the home of Henry Ford I and was named so because of the red mineral content of the water. It continues to the Detroit River and enters at the site of the Rouge Plant. The DETROIT/WINDSOR TUNNEL is the only underwater tunnel connecting two different countries. It is 53 years old and took 2 1/2 years to construct. The air in the mile-long tunnel changes every 90 seconds and connects Detroit with Windsor, Canada. The RENAISSANCE CENTER, designed by John Portman, began construction in May, 1973 and opened in April, 1977. At a cost of $350 million, it contains a half-acre lake, six office towers and 2 million square feet of glass. Berms along Jefferson Avenue house cooling, heating, ventilation, security and fire safety systems. The Westin Hotel within the Renaissance Center is 740 feet tall and has 1,400 rooms. The GIANT UNIROYAL TIRE on I-94 in Dearborn is the world's largest facsimile of a tire. A ferris wheel had once encircled it at the New York World's Fair. SIX TROLLEY CARS operate in the downtown Detroit area, running from the Renaissance Center to Grand Circus Park. The good 'ol summertime introduces the seventh trolley, the only open-top, double-decker trolley operating in the world. The PONTIAC SILVERDOME is home of the Detroit Lions, and the Detroit Pistons. The world's largest inflated roof covers the arena which seats 80,638 persons for sporting events, concerts and more. Air locks are required for vehicles entering and leaving the stadium. This vas also the site of Super Bowl XVI.


Last updated on: May 13, 1998