Part 3 of Discovering Detroit. The Comeback City
Believe it or not, Detroit’s streets are laid out in the same way as Paris, after all, it was the original French founders who gave it it’s name. Détroit in French translates to strait as in the strait from Lake Eyrie aka the Detroit River. The city used Paris as the model for its development; just take a walk down Washington Boulevard and see if you can imagine the Champs-Élysées.
A city tour will reveal many more French street names such as Gratiot and Charlevoix. But it’s not just about the French in Detroit. The city’s neighbourhoods reflect their immigrant roots; Greektown, Poltown, Corktown were the labour feed that was so vital for this industrial city. Those cultures still exist today. Just take a walk around Greektown and you’ll hear the sound of bouzouki’s playing traditional Greek tunes and the smells of Greek cuisine.
A city tour will include a visit to some mouth-wateringly beautiful buildings from Detroit’s heyday. Just take a look at the jaw dropping Guardian building, a former bank filled with Tiffany glass, or the stunning art deco Whitney Building, now the A Loft luxury hotel and the 1924 art deco Fox Theatre, the former 5,000 seat movie palace in the middle of Detroit’s theatre district.
The largest open air wholesale/retail food market in the United States dates back to the late 1800s. While weekdays are mainly for wholesalers, it is Saturday where you’ll see thousands of Detroiters out to buy fresh produce from hundreds of vendors. On Sundays from June to end of September, the market showcases local artists, musicians, jewellers and artisan cooks. Whichever day you choose, the surrounding restaurants are hip and lively and full of character.
The Heidelberg Project
While downtown is well into its regeneration, there are many pockets of Detroit which still bear the scars of its bankruptcy. There are abandoned homes, but many cannot be demolished yet because of the dangers of toxins within the structures. That said, the Heidelberg Project is a highly thought provoking display of personal outdoor art in the city’s poor lower east side. It was created in 1986 all along Heidelberg Street by local artist Tyree Guyton who wanted to change his inner city neighbourhood into a place of safety.
His “time to change” displays of time and clocks are really quite beautiful Despite government demolition in the 90s and numerous arson attacks, his project is still growing strong and celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2011.
Detroit Institute of Arts
The jewel in the crown of Detroit has to be DIA. With over 100 galleries, it has one of the largest and most significant art collections in the USA from ancient Egyptian and European art to many contemporary pieces and is considered to be among the top five museums in America.
Pride of place must go to Mexican artist Diego Rivera’s celebrated giant frescoes Detroit Industry. Showcasing life and times at the Ford Motor Company. The 27 murals were painted in 1932 and cover the entire Rivera Court area.
Nip Across to Canada
Ontario is so close it takes less than 5 minutes through the tunnel to Windsor. You can drive through the tunnel, get your passport stamped, have a coffee in Canada and come back over the Ambassador Bridge. This old bridge might look more than a little rusty but the view is spectacular.
So have I convinced you to visit Detroit?
Detroit is a total surprise for me. This city has survived two major financial crises and has somehow found the strength and drive to begin again. And there is some serious investment too, like the Brush Park redevelopment, clearing away acres of condemned buildings to create new housing. Just walking down Woodward Avenue feels fancy. Trendy restaurants like Wright & Co hidden away on the first floor of a Queen Anne style brownstone, or hip cafe Avalon with their mashed avocado on toast and organic coffee.
Detroiters pitch in too. The Clean Downtown project offers workers with no CV a uniform, a hot meal and a minimum wage to keep trash off the streets. Downtown is safe to walk around at night.
This has all happened in just three years. Imagine what the next three years will bring.
As they say here.”Nothing Stops Detroit.”
All images except featured image, River Walk and Q Line (c) Andy Mossack
Tell me more about Discovering Detroit. The Comeback City.
You can find out about all the latest developments in Detroit from Visit Detroit.
Virgin Atlantic and Delta fly non-stop to Detroit from London Heathrow.
City tours available from Destination Detroit Tours
The museum is open 10am to 6pm Tuesday to Saturday. During the summer from June there are Sunday openings. One hour tours cost $15 per adult and $10 per child. Pre booking is essential as tours often sell out.
Where to stay
I Love meet and greet provides valet parking at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted airports. Prices for one week’s parking at Heathrow from £98.98. visit: