Detroit used to symbolize the prowess of American manufacturing. Foreign delegates would drive or fly to Detroit to see this iconic city. San Francisco Bay area (Silicon Valley) was once called the Detroit of the west, and at that time, it meant admiration. The city has a tumultuous racial history. It’s the only city in the US to be taken over by the Federal army thrice to control riots. Before my visit, I had read the book “Detroit: An American Autopsy“, it’s a bit long but gives a thorough understanding of this once iconic city.
The city neighborhood looks in the state of somewhat despair, even though the suburbs like Dearborn, where Henry Ford was born, are in much better shape. The motor city is spread out, so don’t leave the airport without renting a car. Another thing that stands out is the sheer number of Arabs and the Arabic language as the second or the third language on the signboards.
I started my trip with a visit to Grande Ballroom, as of Oct 2016, contrary to what Atlas Obscura says there is no way to enter inside.
From there, I continued to Motown museum Hitsville, during the era of racial segregation, this museum used to provide an upward mobility opportunity to black artists. The tour is impressive, show up early in the morning or buy the ticket in advance. Without a prior reservation, I barely made it in.
From there, I headed to the Detroit museum. That’s where I learned that the original name was “Ville De Troie” during the French occupation, and Britishers transformed it to Detroit. In retrospect, going to the Detroit museum was a bad idea. The museum is excellent, but some other museums like the Ford museum are far better. I headed to Camp Martius Park afterward. That in itself isn’t great, but I planned to do a Walking tour, which provided the missing narrative around the downtown buildings. And one does get access to some private buildings as a part of the tour. And while you are in this area, do check out the Giant Boxing arm of Joe Louis, it is controversial some think it symbolizes black violence.
I headed to Greektown for dinner, which had the nightlife was atypical of an American city. I decided to take an early sleep for the next day instead.
I started the day with The Heidelberg Project, which is an artistic work from scrap. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are staying nearby and even in that case, don’t spend more than 15 mins here.
I headed to Michigan Central Station next, which again is a no-entry zone, and I couldn’t figure out any way to get in. Even then, it is still worth a visit, except, since this is located on the outskirts, I would recommend going to the Ford Piquette Plant first.
I next headed to the Ford Piquette Plant, which was the highlight of the trip. It was Ford’s first plant and has now been converted into a museum. The legendary Model T was first produced here. I would highly recommend doing a guided tour here.
I spent about three hours here and headed immediately to the Ford Museum in Dearborn. That museum is much bigger and provides a general history of the automobile industry along with its impact on American culture in the form of drive-ins and motels. It also talks about the fall of large American cars to consumer preference for smaller and efficient Japanese ones. It has factory tours on weekdays.
I finished the trip with a Broadway show at the Detroit Opera house.