Detroit is a vibrant, spirited city with a fascinating history. Its ancestry is rich in people and places, trends and events, world-changing inventions and groundbreaking music.
Whether you’re a newcomer or long-time resident, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the rich history and culture of Detroit with your family. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
The Detroit Historical Museum
The Detroit Historical Museum, located at 5401 Woodward Avenue, celebrates the rich history of southeastern Michigan. Visitors can explore cobblestone streets, 19th century stores, an auto assembly line, toy trains and a fur trading post from the 1700s.
The 78,000-square-foot facility has a variety of exhibits. Permanent displays include Streets of Old Detroit, Allesee Gallery of Culture, Motor City Music and Doorway to Freedom: Detroit and the Underground Railroad.
There’s also a gallery that shows the innovative people who came to Detroit and helped make it what it is today. Paint-by-number was invented here, lane striping was developed and an outboard motor was created.
There are also special exhibits, including one about the 1967 riots. It’s grim but illuminating and a necessary look at a crucial chapter in Detroit’s history.
The Detroit Institute of Arts
The Detroit Institute of Arts is a world-renowned museum with a collection that spans the centuries. With works by African, Asian, American, Dutch, Italian Renaissance and modern artists it is a treasure trove for anyone interested in art.
The DIA is located in the city’s Cultural Center Historic District. The DIA is the sixth largest art museum in the United States, with more than 65,000 pieces in their collection.
Its collections are renowned for its European paintings, ranging from the Renaissance to the Baroque periods. The DIA also has an extensive collection of European sculpture.
The DIA was founded in 1885 by a group of leading Detroit citizens, including James E. Scripps, his brother George H. Scripps, Dexter M. Ferry, Christian H. Buhl, Gen. Russell A. Alger, Moses W. Field, James McMillan and Hugh McMillan, George H. Hammond, Francis Palms, Christopher R. Mabley, Simon J. Murphy and John S. Newberry.
The Detroit Public Library
The Detroit Public Library is a vital resource for residents and visitors of all ages. It provides access to books, movies, magazines and cultural experiences for all.
Founded in 1865, the library began with a 5,000-book collection in one room of the old Capitol High School on Griswold Street. It was governed by a committee of the Detroit Board of Education until 1881 when the six-member Detroit Library Commission took over.
After a massive growth spurt, the library opened more branches around town in 1900. Some of the first ones were inside Central High School (now Old Main at Wayne State University), Harris School and Western High School.
The Main Library was designed by Cass Gilbert of New York, who also helped design St. Louis’s Library and many other landmark buildings. It’s a beautiful structure with its styling influenced by the early Italian Renaissance.
The Coffee Scene
The Coffee Scene has a rich history and culture that includes an emphasis on quality and a community spirit. It’s a place where people of all ages can find a cup of coffee and a sense of community in a city that is so large.
The term “third wave” has been thrown around, but it is a movement that emphasizes the relationships between farmers and coffee roasters. The focus on beans sourced directly from farms, rather than the larger, national chains, has been gaining momentum since the ’90s.
A lot of these specialty shops serve as hubs for creatives, whether it’s folk musicians in the ’60s or writers today. The coffee shops became community hubs, a place where people could come together for an event or simply to meet up with friends and share ideas.
The city has a vibrant immigrant small business community, and its coffee culture is a window into that world. It is a place where Latin culture is woven into the fabric of the city and where new leaders are rising to take the next steps in making that happen.