Detroit's Golden Age In Photos: Before The Dramatic Decline Of One Of America's Greatest Cities


Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in history this week before a Michigan judge declared it unconstitutional.

The city has long been in decline and rapidly losing population, but it hasn’t always been that way.

The automobile industry had its home base in Detroit and the population spiked from just overĀ 285,000 in 1900 to over 1.5 million by 1930. Downtown was bustling with large industrial buildings, hotels, trolleys and street cars. There were also numerous parks, theatres and opera houses for recreation.

These photos from the Library of Congress and Wikimedia Commons show what Detroit looked like in its prime.

Shlomo Sprung contributed to this story.

In its heyday, Detroit was a bustling city. The population spiked from just over 285,000 in 1900 to over 1.5 million by 1930.

The legendary Hotel Pontchartrain had a reputation for luxury. It hosted several presidents, and auto industry executives were known to conduct business in the hotel bar.

Belle Isle Park was another well-known spot in the city. Wealthy residents enjoyed the botanical gardens at the city landmark.

The park's scenic canal offered romantic boat rides, and bands played on the bridge.

In the early 1900s, Detroit became the automotive capital of the world. Henry Ford founded Ford Motor Company in 1903, and the Dodge brothers and Chrysler also did business in Detroit.

New residents flooded the city as demand for labour rose. And unions hugely improved working conditions for these workers, giving them 8-hour workdays and a minimum wage.

With the population boom came a thriving arts and culture scene. One of the top destinations in old time Detroit was the Detroit Opera House.

Another major attraction was the Museum of Art, which opened in 1888.

Water Works Park was another popular spot.

Detroit wasn't all about the auto industry. The Detroit River was a major hub for cargo shipping and passenger transport throughout the Great Lakes region.

Post offices are being shut down now, but in the early 1900s, they were the bustling hearts of many towns.

Other big industries included stoves, ships, cigars, pharmaceuticals, beer, and rail cars.

Prohibition in the 1920s also brought business to Detroit. The infamous Purple Gang brought in spirits illegally from nearby Canada.

Even if Detroit's winters were harsh, the scenery was beautiful.

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