Map: Detroit Olympic Committee Bid 1964

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By Gavin Strassel, UAW Archivist

With the Pyeongchang Olympics upon us, this map revisits one of Detroit’s great
“what-if” moments, the nearly successful bid to host the 1968 summer games. This
map comes from a booklet titled XVIII Olympiad 1964 in the Jerome Cavanagh
Papers at the Reuther Library. Originally drafted in 1959, it was reused by the Detroit Olympic Committee in 1963 for their proposal to host the 1968 games.

A wide variety of institutions offered the use of their facilities. City parks, notably Belle Isle and Rouge Park, would host aquatic events like swimming and rowing. Local universities played a vital role, with University of Detroit-Mercy’s facilities hosting basketball and Wayne State’s campus housing the athlete’s Olympic Village. Not surprisingly, professional sports venues like the Olympia and Tiger Stadium
(not pictured) also were in the proposal. The event was a true public-private
partnership, with unified buy-in from many of Detroit’s largest institutions.

The other item of note is the stadium located on the fairgrounds in northern Detroit. A 100,000-seat behemoth, this stadium was the largest single expense in the
proposal and would have served as the centerpiece to the games. In an era when
Olympic host cities rely on expensive new athletic faculties, the small amount of new construction demonstrates the fiscal viability of the Detroit proposal.

Within the archival collection of former Mayor Cavanagh, it is easy to see why
Detroit nearly swayed the International Olympic Committee. They present a
modern, culturally minded city on the rise, with the perfect geography to host all the aquatic and terrestrial games within a 15-mile radius. Despite this, Mexico City became the first Latin American city to land the event. Detroit made bids in the following years, but none came as close. One cannot help but wonder how hosting such a large-scale and illustrious event would have shaped the following turbulent decades in the Motor City.

Would the games have been the financial catalyst local leaders promoted it as? Or, would the massive investment have made the city’s social and financial issues even more entrenched, creating an even worse bottoming-out?

Map: Chateaufort Place Cooperatives and Urban Renewal 1962

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by: Kristen Chinery, Reference Archivist

Envisioned and designed to build a “new type of inner city habitation,” Mayor Jerome P. Cavanagh released the final report for the Gratiot Redevelopment Project in 1964. Detroit was the first city in the United States to implement residential redevelopment under the Federal Housing Act of 1949. The legislation, part of Harry S. Truman’s domestic program known as the Fair Deal, greatly expanded the federal government’s role in public housing. It created specific plans for slum clearance and began a series of projects that would drastically change the lives of Detroit’s Black residents.

The Gratiot Redevelopment Project cleared 129 acres, most notably, the Black Bottom and Paradise Valley areas, which displaced Black families and businesses. The demolition of entire neighborhoods to make way for an interconnected freeway system, a cornerstone of the city’s urban renewal program, perpetuated decades of racially motivated housing policies that led to an even greater confinement of Black Detroiters to certain areas of the city. Systemic discrimination at every level created a disadvantaged class of Detroit residents who were at risk during, and rarely benefited from, these urban renewal initiatives.

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Brochure caption: Chateaufort Place Cooperatives, a group of 60 attached dwellings in 16 single-level buildings, was originally to be named Orleans Townhouses Cooperatives. The townhouses offered “the pleasures of a private home with the conveniences and financial advantages of cooperative living.” The majority of residents displaced by Chateaufort’s construction could not afford to move into the cooperative. Situated near the Mies van der Rohe-designed Lafayette Park, as indicated on the brochure’s map, Chateaufort Place was built in 1963 and still houses Detroit residents today. c. 1962. Courtesy of Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

Map: Racial Composition of Neighborhoods Adjacent to Sojourner Truth Housing Project

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by: Kristen Chinery, Reference Archivist

In 1941 the federal government and the Detroit Housing Commission approved construction of the 200-unit Sojourner Truth Housing Project to house Black defense workers during World War II. After white residents living near the project’s location at Nevada and Fenelon Streets protested in order to change the occupancy to white only, federal authorities capitulated and planned to build housing for Black workers elsewhere. Failure to secure an alternative site prompted these Black workers to fight for the right to move into Sojourner Truth, but not without incident. Continued demonstrations, violent clashes, and hundreds of arrests prompted Mayor Edward Jeffries to mobilize the Michigan National Guard to move the first Black families into the Sojourner Truth Housing Project.

Map caption: A map shows the racial makeup of neighborhoods adjacent to the Sojourner Truth Housing Project. No date. Courtesy of Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

Map: Detroit 12th Street Area Redevelopment Concept 1967

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by: Meaghan Courtney, Outreach Archivist

This map represents one proposal for redevelopment of Detroit’s 12th Street Area immediately after the summer of 1967. The suggested land use attempted to address some inequities that led to the Uprising, such as inadequate housing, recreation, education, and health care facilities.

This plan was never enacted, though some new housing was constructed on selected sites in the 1980s and 1990s.

This map comes from the Detroit Commission on Community Relations Records/Human Rights Department Records at the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University.

The Reuther Library has also created a web exhibit with related archival materials.