A 1965 promotional film for Detroit reminds us how far the city fell behind

Read a certain set of news stories about the current state of metropolitan Detroit, and it's a lot of doom and gloom. The population of the city itself has declined to its lowest point in 100 years, according to early 2010 Census estimates (that figure, 713,777, remains under dispute while Mayor Dave Bing seeks a recount. You'll notice that our Detroit page currently lists the much higher, and in all likelihood wildly inaccurate, 2009 estimate while we wait for 2010 numbers to be finalized).

Read another set of stories, and the picture becomes much brighter. Young creative types are steadily moving into the downtown area, and hip local businesses are opening up to cater to them. Residents from all walks of life are coming together to remake vacant lots into bountiful community gardens.

In the spirit of this Detroit-related dichotomy, we offer up the above excerpt of 1965's Detroit: City on the Move, courtesy the Prelinger Archives. Then-mayor Jerry Cavanagh serves as narrator to this archival film, which was produced as part of Detroit's (unsuccessful) bid to host the 1972 Summer Olympics. Planning nerds will appreciate several shots of earnest city employees gathered around what appears to be a zoning map, while Cavanagh intones that they are "Detroiters who welcome and respond to challenges."

And below, a quick snapshot of the changing population in both the City of Detroit and the larger metro area since 1920. Note that we've gone ahead and included the early 2010 estimate in this graph, so we can get a picture of the worst-case scenario.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A Soviet map of London, labeled in Russian.
    Maps

    The Soviet Military Secretly Mapped the Entire World

    These intricate, curious maps were supposed to be destroyed. The ones that remain reveal a fascinating portrait of how the U.S.S.R. monitored the world.

  2. Life

    Is Minimalism for Black People?

    Black communities have long practiced core tenets of the lifestyle—yet are not well-represented amongst its most recognizable influencers.

  3. An illustration of a front porch.
    Life

    America Rediscovers Its Love of the Front Porch

    In the 20th century, porches couldn’t compete with TV and air conditioning. Now this classic feature of American homes is staging a comeback as something more stylish and image-conscious than ever before.

  4. Equity

    More Evidence That the Olympics Won't Fix Your City

    London really tried to use the 2012 Games to improve people’s lives. A new report shows the skeptics were right all along.

  5. Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina
    Photos

    A Highway to Progress, Foiled By Old Values

    A Carolinian drives along a familiar road to make sense of what exists in between the South’s most regressive and progressive narratives.