A New Population Map of the City of Detroit 1934

The GIS and Cartography Lab in State Hall at Wayne State University is named for Floyd A. Stilgenbauer. He was a professor of geography and a pioneering cartographer in his time. He is credited with advancing proportional symbology with the likes of Erwin Raisz as well as led the Air Cargo Research efforts to plan for the advancement of shipping via airplanes rather than boats.

This map comes from the collection at the American Geographical Society Library at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.

A New population map of the City of Detroit including Hamtramck and Highland Park / by Floyd A. Stilgenbauer ; R. D. McKenzie ; assisted by Anthony E. Gerhardt

Map: Ford’s Tripmonitor Detroit Map 1983

This wonderful digital map was the first implementation of GPS tracking for cars that then plotted a vehicle based on its latitude and longitude. The Ford Motor Company engineer, Mark Jarvis noted that it was accurate within 400 meters (metric?).

A commentor on reddit noted that I-696 is disconnected in 1983 because the Suburbs were still arguing over the route it would take.

The Tripmonitor was before its time, but has aided Ford in advancing this GPS car console technology.

Read more on the Tripmonitor:

Tripmonitor utilized a magnetic compass and a series of sensors to determine the car’s location. Once calibration was completed, software was used to compensate for the vehicle’s magnetic properties in regards to compass readings. There were obvious issues with using a magnetic compass, however. Mainly because there’s just no reliable way to filter out the effects of things like nearby transformers on GPS systems.

Maps at Home with Aaron Foley and his Detroit Map Collection 1752 – 1950s saved from the Planning Department Trash

Aaron Foley is the Director of the Black Media Initiative at the Center for Community Media and a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford. He is the first and former Chief Storyteller for the City of Detroit and a prodigiously published writer and journalist with work at Jalopnik, Belt Publishing (3 books + multiple essays), and BLAC Magazine (former Editor in Chief).

What is your map at home (title, year, etc.)

There are five maps and all of them are transparencies — I assume they were used on projectors or lightboxes at some point. One is from 1752 and purports itself as the first found map of Detroit. The second is from 1810 and is a map of ribbon farms along the shorelines of the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair. The third is a map of Wayne County from 1855. The fourth is an annexation map of Detroit from 1931. The fifth is an undated street map that highlights public land use like cemeteries and parks, but if I were to guess based on some clues, it was produced after Detroit formed its current borders in the 20s but before the Ridgemont Golf Club in East Detroit (now Eastpointe) became a residential subdivision in the 1950s.

Where did you find/acquire the map?

In 2018, the Planning and Development Department at the City of Detroit was renovating its offices and throwing a bunch of things out. I was working at the City at the time and had a meeting on their floor and scooped them out the discard pile.

What made you hang it on your wall? What stood out to you? What details do you enjoy about the map?

What stands out to me the most about each map is that each one is a record of how Detroit became Detroit. The 1752 map is mostly in French, which recalls the city’s French settlement. The map of farms has a few names that are still around today — Kirby, Rivard, St. Aubin, Campau, Beaubien. My favorite is the annexation map because each part of the city and when it was annexed is dated, and you see just how rapidly the city grew in the 1920s, particularly the west side. Then you think of the architecture of the city and how it corresponds to the dates. If you overlaid a neighborhood map on this one, you’d see neighborhoods with older housing styles, like Corktown and Woodbridge, line up with where the oldest parts of the city are dated. Same with the newer parts of the city, like where Rosedale Park is — but then you have to imagine, large swaths of the west side was rural farmland at one point. I have an image of riding a horse southeast down Grand River and seeing nothing but fields, and then boom! — you’re in a “new development” in Woodbridge in the 1910s. 

I’d originally planned to hang them up in my apartment in Detroit, but life for me took some unexpected turns. I ended up doing a yearlong fellowship in California, which then segued into a job in New York. Back home, I loved having people over and entertaining and can’t wait to do that again when it’s safe, but when it is, all my guests will know where I’m from and why it’s important to me to have big reminders of that.

What in your background has drawn you to maps?

I’ve always been a Detroit history geek, and I didn’t realize it was a lifelong thing until I was going through some old papers recently and saw that I had been writing little things about Detroit neighborhoods going back to elementary school. And I’ve been a map fiend too — one of the best (or worst?) things my mother ever gave me as a kid was a world atlas she used as a kid. And now that I’m thinking about it, I used to flip through our Rand McNally road map book of Metro Detroit just for fun, and ended up memorizing a bunch of street names on all sides of town. Part of it too is just how big Detroit is, land-wise, and how much you can still learn about the city, even if you’ve lived there your whole life. 

Map: Population Changes 1950-1980 as projected in 1954

Detroit’s urban core lost significant population between 1940 and 1950. The City Plan Commission’s report in 1954 projected further loss through 1980. With hindsight at 20/20, it’s seems unimaginable that Mayor Cobo would push forward on efforts to clear more vacant land (Black Bottom) in the name of redevelopment when the expectation was to lose population in the urban core anyway or perhaps it was foreshadowing “urban renewal” plans?

Maps at Home with Ashley Flintoff and her 1895 Map of the Main Portion of Detroit

Ashley Flintoff is the Director of Planning and Space Management at Wayne State University and an alum of the University of Detroit Mercy’s architecture and Master in Community Development programs as well as WSU’s Master in Urban Planning program.

What is your map at home (title, year, etc.)

“Map of the Main Portion of Detroit”, Rand McNally Co., dated 1895

Where did you find/acquire the map?

I found it at a booth in Washington D.C.’s Eastern Market (ironic, I know!)

What made you hang it on your wall? What stood out to you? What details do you enjoy about the map?

I love that this map overlays specific amenities such as Eastern and Western Markets, select train depots and hospitals on a familiar street grid. The decision as to what locations to highlight is fascinating to me. It’s hanging in my living room with art depicting my favorite cities: Detroit and Baltimore.

What in your background has drawn you to maps?

My background is in architecture, community development and urban planning so I love how maps communicate the world through graphics.

Map: Detroit Free Press’ Census of Blight 1989

Data collection that catalogues the condition of every property in the city has been an on-going saga that began with the Detroit Housing Commission in the 1940s to inform “urban renewal” projects and most recently included the 2009 Detroit Residential Parcel Survey and the 2013 Motor City Mapping efforts. As far as I know there were no efforts between 1989 and 2009 to catalogue “blight” although blight reduction and demolition were a focus of every Mayor since 1940.

The Detroit Free Press’ “Census of Blight” was a seminal effort led by journalists after previous efforts were housed in quasi-governmental authorities such as the United Community Services, and then a handful of non-profit and private entities.

Citywide “blight” surveys:

  • 1940 – Blighted Areas, Detroit Housing Commission
  • 1960 – Deteriorating and Dilapidated Properties, United Community Services of Metropolitan Detroit
  • 1989 – Census of Blight, Detroit Free Press, 1989
  • 2009 – Detroit Residential Property Survey (DRPS), Michigan Community Resources (MCR) and Data Driven Detroit
  • 2013 – Motor City Mapping, Detroit Blight Removal Task Force, Loveland Technologies, and Data Driven Detroit

Maps at Home with Matt Baker and Al Engler’s map of Lake St. Clair

A map of Lake St. Clair might not seem to fit on a site all about Detroit. However the lake is a significant piece of Detroit history as it led to the narrow “strait” off of the lake where we now say Detroit. Cadillac’s 1702 map of Lake St. Clair is one of the earliest cartographic depictions of Detroit. Lake St. Clair is sometimes called the “sixth Great Lake” because of its size and significant.

What is your map at home (title, year, etc.)

Al Engler’s Fishing Guide of Lake Saint Clair / 1950’s?

Where did you find/acquire the map?

Some friends rented a now demolished mansion on Riverside Drive in Windsor back in 2005 to film a movie. It’s at the end of Pillette Road, which is directly across the river from the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle. One night after filming we decided to venture into the basement, and this map was hanging on the wall. I took it home and framed it and have been putting it up on the walls of our homes since then. It now resides on the kitchen wall in our house in Denver.

What made you hang it on your wall? What stood out to you? What details do you enjoy about the map?

I grew up on Lake St. Clair, and in Windsor and Detroit this is our “Great Lake”. The details are outstanding, and it’s not just a map but almost a brochure about the lake and surrounding area. There are notes about the types of fish and where is best to catch them, historical events mapped out across the lake, notes in the surround about other places to visit, tidbits about “Canada”, and even a note about the Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary in Essex County. I know of one other version of this, newer and more colourful, at a friend’s place in Windsor. The only other one I’ve seen is in a scene from the movie Gran Torino in Clint Eastwood’s basement.

What in your background has drawn you to maps?

Maps have been a companion to my travels since a young age. Communication and graphic design meet perfectly for me with mapping technology, and my work with Denver Public Schools has brought a new use of spatial information. I also married a cartographer!

New Numbering System Map of Detroit 1920

Effective January 1, 1921 the City of Detroit renumbered its street addresses. The Federal Lithograph Company with Frischkorn Real Estate Company produced this map to explain the numbering changes. Notably, the numbering on Grand Boulevard and in the Grosse Pointes, River Rouge, and Oakwood (later annexed) did not change.

Detroit had not yet annexed all of its current land, so you can still see Redford Township and Dearborn Township on Detroit’s present day Westside. Rouge Park only appears as “Detroit City Park” and Outer Drive is noted along its proposed route. Frischkorn Real Estate speculated to acquire land the along Warren Avenue in future Detroit. They later sponsored the Grandale and Grandale Gardens (Redford) developments just south of the “Russell Municipal Aviation Field.” I previously thought this was the current Aviation Subdivision, but that is further south and along the Detroit/Dearborn border.

Another oddity on this map that I think I got wrong before is that this map includes both Hamtramck city and Hamtramck Township. The northern sliver that was left of Hamtramck Township was annexed by Detroit just two years later in 1922.

Maps at Home with Jessica Jozwik and her 1865 Map of Detroit’s Elmwood Cemetery

What is your map at home (title, year, etc.)

Two Elmwood Cemetery maps from 1865

Where did you find/acquire the map?

I usually buy maps online wherever I can find them. The Elmwood maps came from John King Books. They are so good at finding unique things that can’t be found anywhere else.

What made you hang it on your wall? What stood out to you? What details do you enjoy about the map?

I like to own the maps and be able to get them out of my closet whenever I want to. I don’t to get to the library and wait for permission to see them. The Elmwood cemetery map is a frozen moment in time. It’s also very organic, not standard groupings of streets, no grid. It’s more like a golf course or a national park map than a city map.

What in your background has drawn you to maps?

A lot of maps I have are more survey maps or property or insurance maps. I have different maps that show buildings. The reason I like these maps is that they document a moment in time. If I wanted to see what my grandparents saw when they moved to Michigan. I can’t see that now, but I can see it through the maps and the buildings that used to be there. The streets too are fascinating because we can easily pour concrete now and some streets from those old maps aren’t there anymore.

Detroit Light Pollution Map 2019

This map may better be called “the state of urban sprawl.” Commercial corridors readily highlight, but there is also a general level of light pollution across the region of sprawl. The data for this map comes from NASA’s
Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS)
. One interesting addition to the map is tracking of “radiance” over time. Downtown has been getting brighter over the years.

Map: Proposed System of Expressways in Detroit 1946

This beauty of a map was included in volume 4 of the City of Detroit’s Master Plan in 1946.

At the time the Wayne County Road Commission defined expressways as:

“a thoroughfare with no traffic lights, no intersections at grade, with opposing traffic streams separated, and with entry and exit limited to a few chosen points.”

Not all of these became expressways thankfully, but the city does have a density of expressways primarily intersecting around Midtown.

Mental Maps of Detroit 1978

In 1978, the Detroit Free Press asked area residents to: “Draw a map of Detroit and include anything meaningful.”

“People see Detroit in strikingly different ways. The few blocks surrounding the house in which they live, a hodge-podge of restaurants, a bunch of freeways leading to suburban townships, some streets and buildings downtown.” – Tom Fox (May 6, 1978)

Susan Slameka, Lafayette Park
Jan Reed, Rochester
Jonathon McClinton, Greenfield (Westside)
Diane Schubot, Harrison Township
Kenneth Hughes, 30 (Downtown)
Theodore Bass, 17 (Eastside)

Maps at Home with Emily Sirgent and her Hand Drawn Detroit Wall Map

What is your map at home (title, year, etc.)

I’m an artist from France. Here’s a map of Detroit I did recently, handdrawn in black ink. The black patches represent vegetation, to highlight the opposition of urban and “green” areas. The map size is 60×80 cm. I reproduced every road, street, gardens, parks, etc in the most accurate way so people can relate to its city.

Where did you find/acquire the map?

I finished that map of Detroit last March 2020. It took me about 3 months to complete (about 500 hrs). I used OpenStreetMap and also a map included on my ipad. But some parts are also freely, creatively drawn especially the black patches, to contrast the industrial areas with the residential areas.

What made you hang it on your wall? What stood out to you? What details do you enjoy about the map?

I wanted to highlight the contrast between the urban/concrete side of a city and the nature/vegetation left in it. I’ve always had an interest for maps and also meticulous work.

What in your background has drawn you to maps?

It all started about 10 yrs ago, I think, with a series called “Industrial Sounds”, inspired by electronic music from Detroit (im a fan of Carl Craig) and the city itself, even though I’ve never been there. It’s on my website, you can also see more of the “Grid Zone” series in black and white.

Map: Heat Watch Detroit 2020

This past summer on August 8th, the City of Detroit, EcoWorks Detroit, and the Youth Energy Squad, and in partnership with CAPA Strategies and the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) conducted a community heat watch data collection via vehicle and bicycle (in Palmer Park and on Belle Isle). The resulting maps show the traverse points and temperature models for Morning, Afternoon, and Evening.

View the interactive map HERE

Map: Detroit – Three Cities in One 1958

New Detroit versus Old Detroit is not a new phenomena. The gears of development, blight reduction, and redevelopment have turned for decades. These forces follow familiar patterns with primary data collection on conditions, codifying communities through entities like block clubs, and the large scale leveraging of federal funds.

This map was included in the report: “Neighborhood Conservation: a pilot study summary” from 1958.

Map: Consolidating Detroit “Leftovers” Analysis 2009

This work is history now, but the push for consolidating and “right-sizing” the city has been met with concern and condemnation. Hamilton Anderson and Associates (HAA) has been at the forefront of leading efforts to reimagine the city through the Detroit Future City plan and this map shows their early concepts from December 2009.

The “leftovers” as HAA refers to them were “Study 01.” The areas identified from their overlay analysis were proposed as woodlands and connected greenways.

Maps at Home with Jacob Jones and two historical Detroit schools maps

What is your map at home (title, year, etc.)

I have two maps that are pretty similar

The first is titled “Greater Detroit High School Event Locator”

The second map is “the official map of the Detroit Public Schools” from 1977.

Where did you find/acquire the map?

I picked up the “Greater Detroit High School Event Locator” map at the Indian Village Yard Sale event a couple of years ago.

The 1977 map, my partner and I found tucked into the 1977 DPS directory (hence the fold lines).

What made you hang it on your wall? What stood out to you? What details do you enjoy about the map?

Growing up, my grandpa would take me to high school basketball games across the area. I saw every current NBA player from Michigan play while they were in high school. I lost my grandpa a few years back and hanging this map up in my home reminded me of the time we spent in the car, driving out to gyms across the region, hoping to get a glimpse at the next big star.

My partner’s mom taught at a school on the Eastside in 1977 and we thought it was so cool that we were able to find it on a map.

What in your background has drawn you to maps?

I’ve always loved maps. This love was intensified when I was working as tour director at Pure Detroit and studying history at Wayne. Being able to look at a map of Detroit and place the location of historical events and places within it gave me a powerful grasp of the City around me.

Maps at Home with Kaeleigh Herstad and a 1983 AAA Wall Map

What is your map at home (title, year, etc.)

It was made in 1983 by AAA and shows their recommended lodging and dining facilities in SE Michigan.

Where did you find/acquire the map?

We found it in the basement of an estate sale in SW Detroit.

What made you hang it on your wall? What stood out to you? What details do you enjoy about the map?

I wish I knew the backstory as to how it came to be in the home. It was displayed in the basement workshop area. We bought it and it was in our guest room, where it took up an entire wall, but kept falling… so it has been in the basement awaiting modification so we can hang it back up.

What in your background has drawn you to maps?

I didn’t realize the power of maps and how accessible a tool they can be until relatively recently! I didn’t think I could make ‘good’ maps. But training as an ethnographer and archaeologist helped me see how essential mapping is for heritage management, equity and social justice, and simply understanding how people perceive and move through their environments.

Map: The Geography of Albert Kahn’s Architecture in Detroit

I had always wanted to map out Albert Kahn’s architectural influence in metro Detroit, but never had the time to put into combing through books, records, etc.

Thankfully on the 125th anniversary of Albert Kahn Associates, the firm has made an interactive map (including walking tours) on their site. I was well aware of Kahn’s influence in Detroit and the metro area, but didn’t realize his work and firm completed 45,000 projects around the world.