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View Full Version : Detroit Historic Wards (Map)
Dec 29, 2006, 9:22 AM
Doing some general surfing of the City of Detroit's website, I was able to find the historic wards map of Detroit:
According to Citizens Research Council of Michigan report on Detroit's historic city charter revision (1918) the city had a total of 21 wards* each electing 2 members to the 42-seat Common Council, from 1917 to the passing of the charter revision the next year in 1918 (the city had had wards since 1857, and wards were added as the city grew in land and population). The two council persons from each ward were elected on a partisan basis. This was changed to 9 council persons elected at large. You can see how much the historic ribbon farms influenced the layout of the wards.
*I'm not sure what's up with Ward 22, as I think that piece of land was annexed after sometime in the mid-20's, so it technically wouldn't have been a ward.
Looking at recent attempts at dividing the city back up into wards, I've found that it hasn't been lack of interest that has killed the drive, but in 2002 the ballot initiative was blocked by the Michigan Supreme Court due to a technicality in the wording of the initiative.
Here's the wording:
Here's why it was rejected (I'm still not sure I understand, why):
Dec 29, 2006, 2:58 PM
You can see how much the historic ribbon farms influenced the layout of the wards.
the extremely long skinny nature of the wards is a bit odd, to say the least.
although i suppose some of chicago's racially gerrymandered wards really don't make any more sense in terms of reasonable geographic boundaries either. check out the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 27th, and 30th wards on the map below to see what i'm talking about.
Dec 29, 2006, 4:56 PM
Wow!! So long and skinny. I don't get it....
I would have guessed wards would be more square blocks of neighborhoods or areas that have a similar bond.
Dec 29, 2006, 4:58 PM
my unprofessional guess:
The nature of the older longer wards going towards the river has to do with detroit's significant history with ribbon farms. (i hope we can remember this from 7th grade social studies class)
Dec 30, 2006, 1:08 AM
Yep, already said that. :) It's the old French ribbon farms. In fact, many of the streets in the old city correspond to the historic boundaries of the ribbon farms. The Cass Corridor actually lies in the "Cass Farms" district.
Dec 30, 2006, 1:45 AM
sorry, missed that sentence (i have a very short attention span for reading posts) (and apparently so does the mayor of chicago)
Dec 30, 2006, 5:37 AM
It's clear that if Detroit were to revert back to the previous ward system, votes in the "skinny" wards would be worth 100x more than those in wards 21 or 22 (the most populous wards today).
Dec 30, 2006, 6:42 AM
Yeah, this map would have to be drastically changed, today, as wards in cities must have approximately the same number of residents. A new ward system would look pretty strange with the redistribution of population. We'd see much larger wards in the old city, and smaller ones in the northeast, northwest, and southwest sides.
Dec 31, 2006, 4:51 AM
I bet the wards where influenced by street patterns, which was probably a grid beyond the original "Woodward Plan". It was just easier to run the boundarys deep, along streets, but a few blocks wide fronting the river.
Louisville had a very similar 19th century ward pattern. Just a few blocks wide, but many blocks deep...a sequence of strips along the river.
Of course, the Detroit street pattern was influenced by the French ribbon farms. I think old land grants from the pre-US era influenced the street pattern of St Louis, too.
Dec 31, 2006, 5:14 AM
with all the talk of "ribbon farms" in this thread, could someone in the know explain what they are, how they came to be, and why the old ward system of detroit was affected by them.
Dec 31, 2006, 5:44 AM
"The French rectilinear grid was built off of their "ribbon farms" which was their method of dividing property near Detroit. These farms, usually ranging between 200 to 400 feet wide, stretched linearly inland for approximately three miles, thus the name. By today?s standards, this does not seem like a logical division of land. However, it was one of the most efficient methods of dividing up the property considering the mode of transportation and their limited number of settlers. In Detroit?s early history, the river was the prime mode of transportation. Road travel was too seasonal due to mud, swamps or snow and ice. By organizing the long narrow parcels, large numbers of people could then be adjacent to the river transportation system. This settlement pattern stretches along the entire length of the Detroit River into Lake St. Clair and included land along the Rouge River. Due to the northeast to southwest flow of the Detroit River, the ribbon farm property lines went from the southeast toward the northwest. Once the French farms began to be subdivided for development purposes, the streets were platted following their general NW/SE direction. After the fire of 1805, the new Woodward grid was laid on top of the French property grid in only the central portion of downtown. The remaining French NW/SE grid remained."
Dec 31, 2006, 6:23 AM
^ thanks for the info.
Jan 3, 2007, 3:45 AM
Didn't ribbon farms also influence the various grid orientations in St. Louis and New Orleans? :shrug:
Jan 3, 2007, 4:31 AM
As both were founded as French trading post, originally, I'd guess so. In fact, wasn't NO founded by Detroit's founder?
Jan 3, 2007, 5:12 PM
New Orleans was founded in 1718 by the French Mississippi Company aka Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. Detroit? Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac.
Jan 3, 2007, 6:51 PM
The wards of St. Louis, it is not uncommon for a neighborhood to fall within two or more wards.
Jan 5, 2007, 2:16 AM
Detroit predates New Orleans?
Those ribbon farms are across the river in Canada, too, I think, as it looks like Windsor streets follow a similar pattern.
Probably both sides of the river formed one "community" as there was no border at the river until later.
Was Detroit governed from Quebec or Montreal during the British period too?
Jan 5, 2007, 2:44 AM
Detroit (1701 Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit ) predates a lot of cities, though, we all know it remained a small outpost for much of its early history. And, yes, Windsor is layed out in a similar fashion on a smaller scale. It was first settled 47 years later, and the settlement of Sandwich, which was to become Windsor, started in 1794. Though I know Blitz may correct me, Windsor was settled to utilize the other side of the river to capitalize off the rise of Detroit's industries.
Yes, Detroit was governed from Canada until it was turned over to the Americans in 1796, though it was captured back by the British during the War of 1812, but won back by the Americans a year later. Between changing hands and battles with Native Americans, Detroit's had a turbulent history from the start.
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