Detroit is best known for cars and Motown, but that’s not all the city’s given the world. Detroit’s past is peppered with plenty of firsts and great innovations, proving there is more to the city than meets the eye. Take a look at these Detroit facts, and you’ll see Detroit in an entirely new light.
Can I have your number?
You can thank Detroit for your private phone number. Though the ability to have a private number existed in the late 1800s, they weren’t as popular as party lines. Detroit helped change that. In 1879, it became the first city to assign individual phone numbers, making the party line outdated.
Want to look South to Canada instead of North? You’re out of luck unless you’re in Detroit. It’s the only city in the U.S. where you can look South at Canada. Pretty cool, eh?
Detroit is home to Vernors Ginger Ale, America’s oldest ginger ale brand. It was created by James Vernor, a Detroit pharmacist, in the late 1870s. Legend has it that Vernor crafted a new drink just before the Civil War, but he never got to sell it. He was called to serve in the war in 1862, and he stored his drink in an oak cask. When he came back after the war ended, he found that the keg had transformed his drink. The result was Vernors Ginger Ale.
Pass the Chips
One lesser known title Detroit holds is the Potato Chip Capital. On average, Detroiters consume 7 pounds of chips a year. The rest of the country eats about 4 pounds annually.
And While You’re at It, Pass the Salt
New York City’s spiel about alligators in the sewers has nothing on Detroit. Located 1,200 feet under the streets of Motor City is an enormous salt mine. Operated by the Detroit Salt Company, the mine sprawls across 1,500 acres and contains more than 100 miles of road. How do you get to the mine? The entrance can be found at 12841 Sanders Street.
Can Your Post Office Float?
If you live in Detroit, the answer is yes. The city is home to the only floating post office in the United States, the J.W. Westcott II. It started as a simple maritime reporting agency on the Detroit River that informed cargo vessels of the conditions in port, but in 1948, the J.W. Westcott eventually grew to become a full fledged post office. Eventually, it earned the world’s first floating ZIP code – 48222. You can watch it at work here.
Detroit is well known for its long list of accomplishments in transportation innovation. One of the lesser known dates on that list is 1909, the year the Wayne County Road Commission built America’s first mile of concrete highway. The stretch of road was built at Woodward Avenue between 6 and 7 Mile roads in Detroit.
Give My Regards to Detroit
Who needs to go to New York City to see spectacular live performances? The answer: not Detroiters. Detroit’s theater district is the second largest in the country, second only to New York City. Boasting an impressive 13,000 seats within a two-block radius, the theater district in Detroit is a cultural feat.
Taming the Wilderness
Founded on July 24, 1701, Detroit is the oldest city west of the original thirteen colonies on this side of the Mississippi. Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac named the city Detroit, which means “the strait” in French, referring to the Detroit River, which really is a strait between the US and Canada. Over the years, Detroit would exert its influence over the Midwest, shaping the future of the region. Want a bonus Detroit fact? The old fort was at the corner of where Fort and Shelby streets are today, just behind the Penobscot Building and in front of the Federal Courthouse and the new home of the Detroit Free Press and News.
Where’s Detroit’s point of origin?
Every city has a point of origin … the place all distance measurements begin. Ever wonder how Seven Mile Road or Eight Mile Road got their names? They’re seven and eight miles, respectively, from Campus Martius Park. If you’re interested in seeing the city’s point of origin, head over to the junction of Woodward and Monroe, outside of Fountain Bistro. You’ll find a plaque set into the ground near the fountain naming the place Detroit’s point of origin.
Detroit is an amazing city with a storied past and a bright future. Why not get out and see what makes the city so unbelievably incredible? Visit the theater district, the J. W. Westcott II, and the city’s point of origin. When you’re done, you can sip a Vernors and look south to Canada on the beautiful Detroit Riverfront.