DETROIT U the Place isnAEt Quite What It Used to Be

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 13, 2009 | Go to article overview
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DETROIT U the Place isnAEt Quite What It Used to Be

Byline: Jason Stein Wheelbase Communications

DETROIT u The place isnAEt quite what it used to be.

In some stretches, itAEs littered with abandoned buildings, busted windows and businesses that gave up the fight. Here, the wind gently rocks stoplights that flash amber signals 24 hours a day with few cars in sight.

In other stretches it is the place to be; the neon lights of neighboring Royal Oak or Ferndale drawing couples deep into the night.

Take a trip down Woodward Avenue here in Detroit and you are bound to see a little of everything. Poverty. Prosperity.

But, mostly, mile after mile of automotive history.

Once a sign of turn-of-the-century urban progress, AmericaAEs historic boulevard typifies todayAEs urban sprawl: a 27-mile spine of road that connects decaying sections of the Motor City to the ever-expanding northern suburbs of Wayne and upscale Oakland County.

Woodward is not quite what it used to be, but each year on one August weekend it is what it was meant to be.

On Aug. 15, for the 15th consecutive year, the car buffs and car crazies lined the boulevard by the millions to watch the classics cruise the avenue.

From Detroit through Highland Park, Pleasant Ridge, Huntington Woods and all the way to Pontiac, the "Woodward Dream Cruise" ( is one of the worldAEs largest festivals of car culture featuring hot rods, antique and collectible vehicles.

They all come to say thanks and admire the people who love the machines.

After all, this is still Woodward Avenue.

So much went on here. So much still goes on here.

It is 300 years of automotive history in one strip. It is the worldAEs first mile of concrete road, paved between Six and Seven Mile Roads in 1909, followed by the first painted centerline and then the worldAEs first electronic traffic light at Woodward and Michigan in 1920.

It is the birthplace of street tests, where automobile engineers drove new models and cruised in the 1950s and 1960s.

The first urban highway in the United States, the Davison Limited Expressway, was built in 1941 and intersects Woodward Avenue. Some say German engineers used the Davison as inspiration for the world famous Autobahn.

And on July 24, 1701, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, along with his 9-year-old son, his brother, 100 soldiers, two priests and 100 American Indians, landed at the foot of Woodward to establish a French settlement.

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