Southwest Detroit Was Originally Springwells Township (With Lots Of Maps)

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Where is Springwells Township Michigan

Southwest Detroit and Springwells are suddenly in the forefront of conversation again, thanks to this Metro Times article diving into the work that a group called Urban Neighborhood Initiatives (UNI) and some others are doing in a part of Southwest Detroit. We at Daily Detroit found it interesting that the neighborhood name was something “most of its own residents have never heard of.”

Part of pride in a neighborhood is to know its history. We haven’t shared until now because it’s not been very relevant, but now, let’s get nerdy for the purposes of information and discussion.

There is a lot of historical background for the idea of calling this area “Springwells Village.” In fact, there’s a legitimate argument to be made that Southwest Detroit is the much newer name or “brand.”

The Treaty of Springwells (or Spring Wells), so named because it was signed at a place recognized as Springwells (roughly the current Fort Wayne site which is rather nearby) was signed in 1815.

Treaty of Springwells excerpt

Springwells Township was created by an act of Territorial Governor Lewis Cass in 1818, and the boundaries were solidified in 1827. Here’s an old Wayne County map from an 1873 atlas. We circled Springwells.

Where is Springwells Township Michigan

There were various annexations that took chunks off over the years, and below is a map of Springwells from 1883 we found on the UNI site.

springwells-township-source-uni

But that doesn’t help you much without context.

Below is the old Springwells Township over a current map of the Detroit area. Note that on the east it borders for a good distance on Livernois. It’s roughly placed in the right spot using landmarks and some border roads that still exist as as our guide as well as Zug Island.

That said, there was no GPS in 1883 and stuff has inevitably have moved or changed, so there are some minor variances. The old Township is a good portion of modern day Southwest Detroit.

Old Springwells Township in relation to the city of Detroit

The area also used to be a real “Village of Springwells,” incorporated with the State of Michigan in 1919, and that became the “City of Springwells” in 1924 before being annexed (after a short name change to “Fordson”) by Detroit and Dearborn in 1928.

After that, there are also many casual references to calling the area the “Springwells Neighborhood” and “Vernor-Springwells” as well as “West Vernor-Springwells” after annexation.

Part of it is that when it comes to the focus of the Metro Times article we’re not even talking about the entirety of Southwest Detroit, or the entirety of the old Springwells Township. In red is the actual area, in relation to the city and the old township, that UNI is working in and talking about as “Springwells Village.” You will see it is significantly smaller.

MOdern Springwells UNI zone

If anything, historically, it’s Southwest Detroit that is the newer name. For a long time, this area wasn’t even in Detroit. It’s up to the organizations and the people who live there, but history and facts should have something to do with this conversation.

The Recovery Of The Entire City Of Detroit Is Going To Be A Long Process

blended-detroit-manhattan-boston-sanfrancisco-map

It’s not lost, either, that there are other, complex issues at play. For instance, many are upset some areas are getting attention while others are not. But it’s for a very practical reason.

The City of Detroit is big (the size of San Francisco, Boston and Manhattan combined – map source, by Mapping Solutions) and mostly poor, which doesn’t help matters. Resident median household income ($26,325) is very low compared to the rest of the United States ($53,046). There’s no way every inch is going to be turned around at the same time. Detroit wasn’t decimated all at once and it’s ridiculous to think it will be rebuilt all at once, and there will have to be areas that will end up going first.

Recovery has to start somewhere and it will build from those centers to eventually reach the entire city, with hopefully the entire city’s prosperity (which could and should mean different things in different areas) being the end goal.

2 comments
  • Great article about Springwells. My family farmed in this area in the mid-1800’s and several streets are named for them. Martin Avenue, Larkins Street and Lonyo Avenue.

  • No one (in the article or otherwise) challenges the relevance of the word Springwells… It is our exit on the freeway and we drive on Springwells (the street) every day. The contention is about calling the area Springwells Village (which is not familiar to the residents). Same as referring to Huntington Woods as Huntington Village wouldn’t resonate with them. That doesn’t negate the value of Huntington’s historical relevance but would be unfamiliar.

    History can be selective and this isn’t something that resonates with many current residents.

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