Map: Sundown Towns of Metro Detroit

This map comes from the only database of Sundown Towns created at the History and Social Justice project at Tougaloo College in MIssissippi.

“A sundown town is not just a place where something racist happened. It is an entire community (or even county) that for decades was ‘all white’ on purpose.”

Notoriously known for its “point system” the Grosse Pointe community are called out specifically in this map along with Wyandotte and Dearborn.

Map: Large Water Leaks in Detroit 2019

University of Michigan researchers used DWSD billing data from July 2019 to create a snapshot of what water leakage looks like across the city. Aging housing and deteriorating infrastructure contribute to potential leaks that can strain the water system and cause increased water bills for residents.

Map: Detroit Tentative Regional Plan for Motorways 1941

Do you take the McGraw-Harper expressway? Perhaps the Grand River or Woodward expressway?

This map is the cover image of a short report that appears to be written for the public. The case is made that expressway development is critical in the goal of slum clearance. From the report:

“It is to be noted that in the highly developed urban areas, the motorways are routed in locations of lowest land values. These are sections in which are found sub-standard housing conditions and evidences of deterioration. This policy effects right-of-way economies and is an essential step in slum clearance.”

Map: Triple burden households in Detroit: poverty, housing, and plumbing issues

University of Michigan researchers found 10% of the city’s population is “triple burdened.” The triple burden means residents live in census tracts with higher than average rates of poverty, housing cost burden, and incomplete plumbing.

In some Detroit neighborhoods, up to 10% of homes lack complete access to water, meaning they lack either hot and cold running water, a bathtub or shower, or a sink with a faucet.

The authors propose three strategies to address water concerns in Detroit:

  • Expand funding for residential plumbing repairs. As the federal government considers additional drinking water investments, resources should be available for repairs as well as direct bill assistance.
  • Use city water data to identify target investments, reach customers with the greatest need and reduce barriers to access.
  • Strengthen coordination between city departments. Greater coordination between the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Detroit Health Department, Detroit Housing and Revitalization Department and the city’s Office of Sustainability could help to identify synergistic and innovative strategies to prevent future systems from disrepair.

Map: Detroit’s Black Bottom and Expressway Development

CityLab had an excellent feature on “Where Highways Tore Through Black Communities.” Detroit was highlighted in the article, but no in-depth discussion. The current plans to make I-375 a surface street have brought renewed calls to bring back some of the historically significant urban fabric that used to exist.

Map: Proposed Cultural Center Plan in Detroit 1948

The City’s “Cultural Center” has been in concept phase since at least 1948, potentially even before the City had a City Plan Commission.

This map comes from the seventh report in the 1948 master planning series. At the time many of our current institutions were still under construction. WSU was building Science Hall, State Hall, and the Engineering Building. The Detroit Historical Society museum and International Institute weren’t yet built.

Number 20 on the map is the DIA referred to as the “Art Institute.” The planned expansion of the DIA included a boulevard and skyway bridges across John R. to a second building on what is now the CCS Main Campus, where a large Planetarium was proposed.

Map: Distribution of HOLC Mortgages in Detroit 1940

Redlining isn’t what we think it is. There are a lot of popular myths and assumptions about what the HOLC “redlining” maps mean for various cities and especially Detroit. Actual “redlining” maps don’t exist – they’ve either been lost or destroyed by the FHA or financial institutions.

Detroit, out of all large cities, had the highest number of HOLC mortgages given to Black homeowners with 880 mortgages (Michney & Ladale, 2019). The 1939 “redlining” map for Detroit is a security risk map created by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) after they had already given out mortgages in the city. It’s important to note that on that map not all red areas correspond with areas with Black population, but all areas with Black population are colored red.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was the entity that followed after the shutdown of HOLC and they created new maps. All the FHA maps and records were lost or destroyed during the Nixon administration. Financial institutions possibly created their own maps as well as utilized FHA guidance that explicitly discriminated based on the race of homeowners.

The map above from Todd Michney and Dale Winling distributes all HOLC mortgages by Census Tract and shows the percentage of homes owned by non-white homeowners. It is still very apparent both where Black residents were able to buy homes as well as the low number of overall loans to Black homeowners.

Map: Detroit Infant Mortality 1946

This map was included in the report “Areas of Social Need in Detroit and Neighboring Communities” and published by the Research Department of the Council of Social Agencies of Metropolitan Detroit. The Research Department generated nine different indexes of social need with “infant deaths” being its own category. The report notes that although infant mortality is not as bad as the past, it was still a significant health problem.

Stilgenbauer Air Age Map Centered on Detroit

I came across this 1945 map in the Detroit Free Press archives and it caught my attention as both a map of the “Air Age” where airplanes would become the dominate vehicle for moving cargo around the world along with the focus of Detroit in the center.

The map encourages readers not to “brush it off as just another map.” The map is presented as an alternative to the Mercator projection which was designed as an easy map for shipping across oceans. The Air Cargo Research center was led by Spencer Larsen at Wayne State University. Floyd A. Stilgenbauer was the cartographer of this map and was based on his research on a polar lobate globoid projection system. Stilgenbauer’s name still adorns the Wayne State University GIS and Cartographer Laboratory.

Map: Coworking through Coronavirus 2021

Detroit has a history of upstart coworking spaces before any corporate chains like WeWork arrived. That trend has continued even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Curbed has noted that commercial real estate appears to be investing heavily in a future coworking boom. Maybe they are right as traditional office spaces close, move to full-time remote, or adopt a coworking attitude all together (although many workplaces are not even considering continuing remote work or are planning for a mandated 3 days in the office).

There are 25 coworking spaces open in Detroit, including 5 new spaces since our last update in 2019. I’ve been tracking the coworking boom since 2014 when Detroit had 22 sites offering coworking. Downtown and Techtown remain the hot areas with a third WeWork location open on Cass Ave. Costs increased in 2017, stabilized in 2019, and for 2021 seem to be hanging on for the future boom.

Map: Detroit United Railway Electric System 1920

The purple on this map is really unique. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a historic map that used purple as it’s primary print color.

There is almost too much history in this map to note, but important to note is the location of Union Depot near the western Downtown riverfront. My interest in health system history makes me notice all the hospital as markers of place along with cemeteries.

HT to Paul Jones III, I found this map in the Rumsey Historical Map Collection

Map: Most Common Dog Names in Detroit

The myth of wild packs of dogs in Detroit seems to come up again and again, but is hardly true (there are definitely stray dogs that are not safe).

Many Detroiters have dogs as pets and thanks to our friends at Canine to Five we explored the most common dog names by ZIP code in the city. If you meet a dog that you don’t know try saying, “Hi Bella” or Bear or Coco or Max.

Map: Detroit Census Areas 1970

The Census Areas of the 1970s show “Area K” that is mentioned often by urban planners and newspapers as “the heart of the slums.” It was the area of Black Bottom and Paradise Valley, of targeted slum clearance and predominantly Black Americans restricted from living in other areas of the city. The area has held the “K” letter since at least 1955 if not earlier.

Map: Detroit COVID-19 Cases versus Vaccination Rates 2021

COVID-19 has laid bare all of the systemic health inequities across the country, but also very specifically in Detroit.

Local public health systems including governmental health departments and health care providers are key to building public trust on an every day basis. In places where the local public health system has broken down, it is no surprise to see low levels of trust and low rates of vaccine uptake.

Detroit is likely an extreme example where the city’s largest health system almost shuttered its doors in the early 2000s before getting a monetary grant from the State government. Detroit has operated its own city health department on par with a county government since the 1970s, but decided to push provision of health services to an unproven non-profit in 2012 after a series of federal investigations that began in 2010.

The current health department was only just relaunched in 2015 and at best could be described as a “startup.” Detroit’s other hurdle is that roughly 70% of the population lives in a medically underserved area and almost 20% haven’t seen a doctor in over a year (MiBRFSS 2017-2019). COVID-19 vaccination rates remain low in Detroit at around 30%, however mass vaccination sites, mobile health vans, and tent style health clinics are not an ideal entry point to build trust in a local public health system that hasn’t been there for residents in over a decade. The issue in Detroit is not vaccine hesitancy, but the absence of a local public health system that will serve people well on a regular basis. 

Map: Drawing Detroit with M. Saffell Gardner

This hand drawn map by M. Saffell Gardner is a part of a series of hand drawn maps in a Volume 2 of Detroit Research Journal. The map is part of the “Drawing Detroit” series which aims to collect personal and hand drawn maps of Detroit.

Check out the different hand drawn and hand maps that we’ve collected over the years.

Map: Coffee Shops and COVID-19 in 2021

Detroit has 82 coffee shops. Since 2019, 16 new shops opened and 13 closed. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 11 coffee shops temporarily closed and 8 have reopened, at least for takeout.

Since 2015 Detroit has had a net gain of 28 coffee shops. A number of new community coffee shops launched during the pandemic including Black Coffee in the Northend, Milwaukee Caffe in Milwaukee Junction, The Congregation, Gathering Co., Public Square in Grandmont-Rosedale, Morningside Cafe in Morningside, Yellow Light in Jefferson Chalmers, and Cafe Alto in the former New Order Coffee spot in Midtown.

New Order Coffee (in former Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe space) abandoned the city to focus on their Royal Oak location and tears were shed when Avalon Biscuit Bar closed permanently (at the former Cafe con Leche spot).

After Coffee and (____) closed in Jefferson-Chalmers it seemed that beyond West Village, the Eastside would be uncaffeinated. Now in 2021, there are so many new options including a border line Starbucks. The Eastside and the “Heart of Detroit” and Northend seem to be the current hot zones for coffee. Downtown and Midtown are already so dense with coffee that perhaps development is making its way northward. Is New Center getting leap frogged? Coffee has had a hard time sticking with Cafe con Leche closing before the Avalon Biscuit Bar at the same spot.

Map: Tree Equity in Detroit

Detroit needs a lot more trees. It’s no mystery that Detroit has been hit by deindustrialization and population loss on top of Dutch Elm disease leaving many trees either dead, dying, or left uncared for along city streets. I’ve previously looked at tree canopy disparities and posted about the dangers of heat islands and the absence of green space in a city.

Recent City of Detroit efforts to increase street trees are doing a little, but replanting an urban forest is no small feat. The economic, climate, and public health benefits would be immense if Detroit can add more trees in neighborhoods that need them.

Map: Digitized Indigenous Trails in Detroit 1931

In honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, I wanted to share this map that I’ve been thinking about for some time. These trails were digitized and georeferenced from the 1931 Archaeological Atlas of Michigan.

Detroit’s street design with its hub-and-spoke pattern Downtown are often attributed to Western men with grand idea after Detroit’s “Great Fire of 1805.” The story goes that they imagined Detroit in the image of Paris or Washington D.C. – but in reality Detroit’s unique radial streets come from the pathways created by indigenous peoples living on this land before any Frenchman arrived.

Map: Drawing Detroit with Alex B. Hill

I made this hand drawn map as part of the “Drawing Detroit” series which aims to collect personal and hand drawn maps of Detroit. This map was published in Volume 2 of Detroit Research Journal.

In 2015, I was thinking introspectively about the spaces that I inhabited in Detroit especially as it related to race. As a young, white man I had lived in a handful of “islands of privilege” in the city – and this map was my exploration of those islands and their disconnect to the larger city.

Check out the different hand drawn and hand maps that we’ve collected over the years.