Map: Detroit’s Pattern of Growth 1960s

This gem of a video (from sometime in 1960s?) that I wish I had known about years before now has been circulating on social media, but needs to be shared more widely.

Former Chair of the Geography Department at Wayne State University, Robert J. Goodman (d.2005), and Gordon W. Draper created this important look at the history behind Detroit’s street patterns.

“To an overhead observer the street pattern of Detroit presents a strange mosaic of conflicting systems which seem to start and end with no apparent reason and to have no relation with each other.”

Who knew that Gratiot jumps one block north before Brush St. so as not to cut through Elijah Brush’s orchard? Or that Detroiters donated 90% of the land in order to create Grand Boulevard? Did you know the Streets in Highland Park are narrower because that city is much older than the areas of Detroit that grew around it? Even Palmer Woods and Sherwood Forest neighborhoods were labeled as “exclusive” at the time with their curved street patterns.

It is all to easy to forget the deep history of Detroit from the original Indian trails that inspired the spoke streets to the varied roads patterns planned at different points in the city’s history. Don’t forget you can use your hand as a map of Detroit if you ever get turned around.


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