These Pictures Of Vintage Detroit Will Surprise You

Published March 12, 2015
Updated December 13, 2022

In spite of its infrastructure and landmarks, a city is not immortal. These vintage Detroit photos serve as a reminder of that.

Welcome to Detroit

In spite of its infrastructure, landmarks, and cultural significance, the city is not immortal. Detroit is no exception. While rebounding in some areas, for the most part, 21st-century Detroit remains a mere shadow of its former self.

Once known for powering most of the country, Detroit lost its steam and 70% of its population in the last 60 years and had to declare bankruptcy in 2013 to stay afloat.

Belle Isle 1905
Detroit’s Belle Isle back in 1905. Source: Coleman Family

Vintage Detroit Michigan Central Station
When Detroit’s Michigan Central Station was built in 1913, it was one of the largest rail stations in the country. Source: Wikipedia

Downtown Detroit in 1915
Detroit circa 1915. Source: The Woodward Spine

Highland Park in Detroit
Ford’s Highland Park plant back in 1914. Source: Hemmings Daily

Detroit in 1917
Detroit in 1917. Source: Coleman Family

Liberty Bond Rally
A Liberty Bond rally in Detroit that took place around 1918. Source: Bentley

Beautiful Organ in Detroit 1918
A glimpse of the interior of Detroit’s First Congregational Church in 1918. Source: Organ Society

Detroit Streets in 1920
Detroit’s bustling city streets back in 1920. Source: Source: Wikipedia

Polish-American Grocery Store
A quaint Polish-American grocery store in 1922. Source: Wikipedia

Vintage River Rouge Plant
The Ford River Rouge Complex. Source: Tropics of Meta

Olympia Stadium in Detroit
Olympia Stadium (eventually known as the home of the Detroit Red Wings) was built in 1927. Source: Wikipedia

Steamboats in Detroit
Boats float along the water outside of Detroit in 1930. Source: Coleman Family

Automotive Assembly Line in Detroit
After World War I, Detroit was home to some of the most innovative and cutting-edge industries. Source: Permanent Crisis

Vintage Detroit in 1936
Circa 1936. Source: NY Daily News

Labor Day Parade Vintage Detroit
Men walk in a Labor Day parade in 1938. Source: Rivet Head

Snow in Detroit 1930s
Deep snow makes driving in Detroit impossible. Source: Metro Times

Detroit in the 1940s
An aerial view of Detroit in the 1940s. Source: The Detroit News Archivist

Pingree Park
Children run through Pingree Park. Hazen S. Pingree was a local politician who expanded public welfare programs and created many new parks and schools. Source: Detroit Metro Times

Vintage Detroit During WWII
During World War II, many wartime factories were located in Detroit. Source: Slate

General Grants during War
28-ton tanks called “General Grants” were mass produced by the Chrysler Corporation’s tank arsenal in 1942. Source: Vintage Everyday

1945 in Detroit
In 1945, gasoline in Detroit cost just 17 cents per gallon. Source: Vintage Everyday

Vintage Detroit Motor Cars
Employees work on cars at Detroit’s Packard Motor Car Company. Source: PennLive

Vintage Detroit Auto Show 1960
A peek at the 1960 National Auto Show held at Cobo Hall. Source: Huffington Post

Welcome to Detroit
Source: Governing

A testament to globalization's impacts, it's hard to imagine that this overwhelming mass of abandoned buildings and empty streets was once considered the Silicon Valley of America.

But for now, forget about the slums, high crime rates and urban graveyards and think back to the days when Detroit symbolized the indomitable power of American industry and labor.

Kiri Picone
Kiri Picone holds a B.A. in English and creative writing from Pepperdine University and has been writing for various digital publishers for more than 10 years.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
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Cite This Article
Picone, Kiri. "These Pictures Of Vintage Detroit Will Surprise You.", March 12, 2015, Accessed May 28, 2024.