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Vibrant Midtown Detroit

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

While many areas of Detroit, Michigan are vacant and overgrown with weeds, the Midtown area is thriving and vibrant with over two million visitors a year walking through its streets. Began as a farming area in the 1800s to today's business, healthcare and cultural center, Midtown is a vibrant community. See why Midtown is the place to be in Detroit.

Quick History

After the disastrous Detroit fire of 1805, land was platted to form another village, as well platted north of the city in what is now known as Midtown. Within a few square miles, Midtown is situated between Chrysler Freeway (I-75) on the east, Lodge Freeway (M-10) on the west, Edsel Ford Freeway (I-94) on the north and Fisher Freeway (I-75) to the south. Woodward Avenue runs through the area's center. Large farms were parceled out for residences in the mid to late 1800s with the period from 1880 to 1895 known for the building of upscale mansions and duplexes.

Small apartment buildings were constructed at the start of the 20th Century and mansions were used for commercial ventures. The area saw foreclosures and vacancies during the Great Depression and the city's automobile workers were unemployed. Until World War II, many large mansions filled a low-cost housing need and were turned into apartments. Many older buildings were demolished from the 1950s into the 1980s, but the still-existing historic buildings are today being restored. African Americans and other residents were displaced to housing projects in the eastern section of Midtown as Chrysler grew into a freeway.


Midtown has several historic districts with structures dating to the early 1800s. Notable buildings are the mansion of Colonel Frank J. Hecker built circa 1888 using French Chateauesque style and the Majestic Theatre built in 1915 as the largest live performance theater in the U.S and now a music venue. Also, notable are the many historic buildings of Wayne State University and numerous places of worship.


There are several museums in Midtown, which is a sizable number for a small area. Two noted museums are the century-old Detroit Institute of Arts known for its Diego Rivera murals and Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History housing the world's most extensive exhibit of African-American culture. Other museum include: Michigan Science Center, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit Historical Museum noted for its streets of Old Detroit exhibit and Motown Historical Museum singing the praises of "hit street USA".


One of only three research institutes in Michigan, Wayne State University has been a big part of Midtown for over 100 years. During its growth, the university even remodeled some of the older area buildings instead of tearing them down and rebuilding. The College for Creative Studies teaches advertising design and copywriting, product design, illustration, photography, fine arts and interior design among other majors. Numerous music and other schools are also located in Midtown.


The largest concentration of medical institutions in southeast Michigan is found in Midtown. Detroit Medical Center, Karmanos Cancer Institute, John D. Dingell Veteran's Administration Hospital Center and Henry Ford Health System are just some of the medical facilities located here.

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