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25 Things You Should Know About Detroit

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You know about the cars—and that Eminem grew up on Eight Mile. But there’s plenty more to learn about Michigan’s most populous city.

1. It’s dubbed the Motor City for a reason. Detroit was home to the first mile of concrete highway, the first four-way three-color traffic light, and the world’s first urban freeway.

2. It’s also the site of the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, the first traffic tunnel between two nations. Hi, Canada!

3. To get to the D, some Canadians drive north. It’s the only major city in America north of Canada. Crazy, eh?

4. They can also use the Ambassador Bridge, which links Windsor and Detroit. It’s the busiest single border crossing in North America.

 


5
. Detroiters like their spirits. During Prohibition it’s estimated some 75 percent of illegal liquor supplied to the U.S. was smuggled through the city’s waterways.

6. Detroit, a.k.a. the Paris of the Midwest, also boasts the nation’s oldest soda: Vernor’s ginger ale.

7. Legend has it that the refreshment was created by accident. Detroit pharmacist James Vernor crafted a new drink, and then was called to serve in the Civil War in 1862. He stored the beverage in an oak cask—when he came back he learned the keg had transformed it.

8. Mixing the popular sip with vanilla ice cream makes a Boston Cooler—a drink named for a Boulevard in Detroit, not the Massachusetts city. 

9. Detroit’s 987-acre Belle Isle Park—which has a golf course, museum, basketball courts, and baseball fields—is the largest island park in the United States.

 

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10
. The 313 is a bit salty—1,200 feet underneath Detroit there are 1,400 acres of salt mines. Operated by the Detroit Salt Company, the mine contains more than 100 miles of road.

11. The city also ranks first in the nation in potato chip consumption per capita.

12. In 1959 Berry Gordy Jr. developed a little outfit called Motown Records in the city. Are you a fan of Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross or Stevie Wonder? You’re welcome.

13. A few other musicians call the Detroit area home. See: Madonna, Aretha Franklin, Kid Rock, Aaliyah, The White Stripes and, yes, Eminem.

 

Aretha Franklin, 1968 // Getty

14. The city has also been cited as the birthplace of techno music.

15. And its theater district is the second largest in the country—bested only by New York City.

16. Detroit’s J.W. Westcott is America’s only floating zip code. The boat, docked on the Detroit River, delivers mail to other vessels in the area.

17. The D is also home to WWJ (formerly 8MK), thought to be the first radio station to broadcast regular news reports. It went on air in 1920.

18. In 1899 Sebastian S. Kresge opened a five-and-ten-cent store on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue. He later went on to open a small shop he dubbed K Mart.

19. The 72-floor Marriott at the Renaissance Center in Detroit is the tallest hotel in North America. When it opened in 1977, it was the tallest in the world.

 

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20. But it may never house fans of the Olympics. The city has made seven unsuccessful bids for the summer games —the most by any city in the world never to host the event.

21. Sorry, Journey fans, there is no such thing as South Detroit. When Steve Perry was penning “Don’t Stop Believin’” he just thought it sounded good.

22. You can bowl Detroiters over. The city has the most registered bowlers anywhere in the United States.

23. Really, they’re just big on fun and games. Home to the Tigers, Pistons, Red Wings and Lions, Detroit was also the site of the country’s first national billiards championship in 1859.

 

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24. It was once home to the world’s largest stove. But the 15-ton oak stove replica was destroyed in a 2011 fire.

25. The official motto of Detroit: Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus, which is Latin for “We hope for better things; it shall rise from the ashes.”

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History
The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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This Just In
What Do You Get the Person Who Has Everything? Perhaps a German Village for Less Than $150,000
TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images

Looking for a gift for the world traveler who has everything? If cost isn't an issue and they're longing for a quiet country home, Fortune reports that an entire village in East Germany is up for sale. The tiny hamlet of Alwine, in Germany's Brandenburg region, is going up for auction on Saturday, December 9. Opening bids begin at $147,230.

Alwine has around one dozen buildings and 20 full-time residents, most of them elderly. It was once owned by a neighboring coal plant, which shut down in 1991, soon after East Germany reunited with West Germany. Many residents left after that. Between 1990 and 2015, the regional population fell by 15 percent, according to The Local.


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In 2000, a private investor purchased the decaying hamlet for just one Deutsche Mark (the currency used before the euro). But its decline continued, and now it's up for grabs once more—this time around, for a much-higher price.

Andreas Claus, the mayor of the district surrounding Alwine, wasn't informed of the village's sale until he heard about it in the news, according to The Local. While no local residents plan to purchase their hometown, Claus says he's open to fostering dialogue with the buyer, with hopes of eventually revitalizing the local community.

[h/t Fortune]

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