Detroit Cartography/Geography = DETROITography – we are all about maps and geography of Detroit. We like to write about maps that other people make about the City as well as create our own maps of Detroit. This blog was inspired by Mapping the StraitBostonography, and Mapping Manhattan.

“There are cities that get by on their good looks. Detroit has to work for a living.”
― Elmore Leonard

The City of Detroit has a deep history which has changed and shaped its unique geography, economy, and society. The Detroit River made the City a critical piece of the early economic and political landscape of the United States. The French built a Fort in what is now Detroit (de Troit = the strait) because it was an important point in the river where they could maintain control. The British captured Fort Detroit in 1760 and resisted a siege by Chief Pontiac.

In 1805, a great fire destroyed all of the Detroit settlement except for the brick chimneys of the houses. The new street design in the aftermath of the fire developed by Justice Augustus Woodward (appointed to run the Michigan Territory) was modeled after the hub-and-spoke design of Washington D.C. This gave Detroit a very unique street grid unlike many other cities, but it most closely followed the native american trails in the region.

Detroit was an important transportation hub for both immigrant migrations and the underground railroad and experienced a population boom as a result of the automobile industry. The importance of the automobile industry and Detroit’s manufacturing prowess earned it the nickname “The Arsenal of Democracy” and saw many industrial factories emerge along the skyline.

These historical events and many more recent have shaped Detroit’s geography and in many ways its current troubles and inequalities. Maps offer great insight into the past and help us visualize sometimes confusing information, but they are only one piece of the puzzle.


We map these lands, but they are not ours.

We acknowledge the history of Waawiyatanong (what is now called Detroit, Michigan) and wish to honor the Indigenous people who continue to steward this land.


Alex B. Hill

I started this project in an attempt to bring together various Detroit cartographers and their great work. I am Project Director of the Detroit Food Map Initiative, which has been mapping nutritional access of Detroit grocery stores, corner stores, and farmers markets since 2011.

Marques King

Architect, urban designer, and native Detroiter. He works for a non-profit developer on the east side of the city as well as principal of his own architectural firm, Fabric[K] Design, focused on small-scale neighborhood infill projects.

jacqui Au

Wanderer and thing-finder, promoting walkability awareness with a kick of whimsy through the Detroit Area Rambling Network.

Tyler Shelton

Currently works for the City of Detroit’s Enterprise GIS Team standing up systems and solutions for city data problems. Formerly a Graduate student in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at Wayne State University and Executive Board member of the Wayne State Student Urban Planners (WSSUP).

Matt Baker

Cartographic provocateur, bicycle commuter, plant eater, and Detroit advocate and land owner. GIS Analyst for Denver Public Schools, he has a soft spot for Detroit as a Windsorite.

Paul Jones III

Paul is a native Detroiter and recent graduate of the University of Michigan Master in Urban and Regional Planning program. Paul is passionate about the intersection of history, urbanism, and social justice in Detroit and is interested in empowering communities with a working understanding of how the built environment impacts daily life.

Lyz Luidens

Printmaker, teacher, and map enthusiast! She works in her print studio, the Prankster Press, housed in the Riopelle Artist Collective. Lyz leads The Detroit Atlas Project with funding from a Knight Arts Challenge Grant.

Joshua Akers

Assistant Professor of Geography and Urban Planning at UM Dearborn with research focused on economic geography, land markets, and the politics of blight. He spearheads the Property Praxis project and organizes the Urban Praxis Workshop.

Matt Hampel

Formerly a 2012 Code for America fellow in Detroit working on LocalData, DetroitWiki, and the Detroit Ledger. Matt is now Senior Software Architect at ReGrid/Landgrid/LOVELAND.