Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How Detroit’s famous Eight Mile Road came to be

Jaybird asked me one time, “Hey Dad, why do they call it Eight Mile?” I don’t remember what I told him, but I guarantee it wasn’t helpful.

The other day, I stumbled across the answer.

Walking through Campus Martius Park to check out the skating rink and Christmas tree, I noticed some nice brickwork on the ground right in front of Au Bon Pain. A large medallion in a circle of concrete is set in the middle of what looks like compass points made of red brick. Words are engraved that explain the whole story.

“After the fire of 1805, Judge Augustus B. Woodward was appointed to lay out a new plan for the streets, squares and lots of Detroit. It is from here, at Judge Woodward’s survey point in the center of Campus Martius, that the City of Detroit’s street system originated. This spot is Detroit’s point of origin.”

And as a result, five miles north of Campus Martius they built a road and cleverly called it Five Mile Road. No word on why the "mile road" references don’t go below five, but those streets were included in the layout. “Four Mile” is Schoolcraft Road, “Three Mile” is Plymouth Road, “Two Mile” is Joy Road, and “One Mile” is Warren Avenue. Michigan Avenue, turning into Ford Road in Dearborn, is “Zero Mile”. By my estimation, West Road would be “Negative 14 Mile Road”.