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It might surprise you that the 2.1 square miles of Hamtramck make it the densest city, as far as residents per square mile, of any in the state.

With roots to before 1800, the city has seen a succession of immigrants. Founded by French Canadian Commander Jean Francois Hamtramck, the township was settled by people from what we know today as the province of Quebec in Canada.

Since then, it’s become a village of German farmers. And then, with Polish immigrants as the automobile industry rose in the first quarter of the twentieth century.

By 1922, Hamtramck had turned itself into a city to stop it from being annexed by the city of Detroit.

Today, it has a very diverse population, including those Germans and Poles… African American… and immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Yemen, and many more.

It’s also very walkable, unlike most of metro Detroit.

There are corner bars and grocery stores. Churches and mosques. Hardware stores. Community festivals.

Walking the streets of Hamtramck, I see the physical cityscape of Detroit that my grandparents grew up in. One that I’ve only known through photo albums.

Blocks and blocks of duplexes and single-family homes, humming with activity. The delicious smells of a restaurant wafting through the air.

To keep that energy alive, the enclave, surrounded by Detroit and Highland Park, has found strength in diversity.

Their motto has been, literally, “a League of Nations.”

And the city is growing, where most of Metro Detroit is either staying the same or shrinking.

So what’s behind all of this?

After all, in Hamtramck, they don’t have a demolition program like in Detroit. Because they don’t need one. Their buildings are in demand. They’re adding schools instead of closing them. How often on this show are we talking about closures? Even in the most affluent of districts? 

Joining me for a very interesting conversation is City Clerk August Gitschlag and City Councilman Ian Perrotta. A tie between the two? August tends bar at Whiskey in the Jar on Friday nights, and Ian owns Trixie’s Bar. 

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