The Detroit Historical Museum located just off Woodward Avenue brings the entire history of the city under one roof. Even though Detroit is just over 300 years old, the museum boasts nearly 80,000 cubic feet of exhibit space to tell the city’s story, and it uses every inch of that museum to do so.
The Frontiers to Factories Exhibit is one of the largest exhibits in the museum. The exhibit explains that prior to French explorers, Native Americans already established trade routes and commerce around the Great Lakes region. Once the French came in 1701 technology and commerce grew. Detroit became a pivotal city in the Great Lakes Region because of its location. Often fought over many times between the French and British until the Revolutionary War, Detroit went back and forth between the colonial super powers. Within 150 years, Detroit was one of the leading cities in the US during the Industrial Revolution—leading in production of railroad cars then automobiles just after the turn of the century.
The Motor City Exhibit contains a large section with a mock assembly like and tons of information about the local auto industry and the impact it has worldwide. From the hundreds of automobile companies at the turn of the 20th Century, only a few emerged and lasted until present day. From the technological advancements that impacted other industries to how the workers stood together to change the national standards for the blue-collar employees, Detroit’s auto industry changed the face of United States commerce and workforce, as well built up the city.
The Streets of Detroit located in the basement of the museum is a favorite of many museumgoers. When visitors first enter the exhibit area, they enter an area with shops and cobblestone streets that mimic what Detroit would have looked like around the turn of the 20th Century. From there they go back in time to the late 19th Century when street lights were oil lamps and the streets were made of cut pieces of logs. Finally, visitors end up around the 1840s when the streets turn back to cobblestone. Visitors can walk into a general store from the 1840s or the Detroit Free Press Office or peer into the window of an old music shop or fire station.
Among the large exhibits, smaller spaces share less popularly known Detroit history. By the museum store, there is a 1914 Anderson Detroit Electric car, which could travel nearly 80 miles per charge at 20 miles per hour! Also by the Streets of Detroit, a small room contains hundreds of feet of toy train tracks winding through several villages. The Doorway to Freedom exhibit explores Detroit’s role in the Underground Railroad. With several other exhibits to explore, there is surely something for everyone to enjoy.
The Detroit Historical Museum is open Wednesday-Sunday weekly, and admission is $4-$6 depending on age, and if you sign up for the Detroit Historical Society email newsletter they often publish free admission days. The next free admission week is February 20-26. Additionally, the newsletter provides information on upcoming exhibits and events hosted by the Historical Society. ~Krissy Schwab, Feature Writer