Editor’s Letter: Hour Detroiters 2024 and Historic Michigan Moments

For the January 2024 issue, Hour Detroit’s editor-in-chief discusses this year’s Detroiters list and some memorable moments in our state’s history.

New Year’s Eve is traditionally the time to usher out the old and welcome the new. But here at Hour Detroit, January is when we celebrate the past, present, and future. Our annual Detroiters list features individuals who have made a significant impact on our region during the last year. Some made contributions specific to 2023, but most have been doing it for years and we are confident will continue to do so in the years to come.

These honorees represent several sectors that make up the fabric of our city and metro Detroit, including the automotive industry, music, art, theater, sports, religion, law, education, and conservation. They are making our city a better place by beautifying our historic buildings and riverfront parks; by dedicating time to educating our youth and building bridges among diverse communities; and with their words on the page and their wins on the football field.

Kate Walsh // Photograph by Brad Ziegler
Kate Walsh // Photograph by Brad Ziegler

In this issue, we also look back at our favorite new shops of 2023, plus some musical legends we lost. Our forward-thinking stories include downtown developments that are opening in 2024 and arts and culture events to look forward to. And, as has been the tradition for the past several years, we ask local experts to answer our burning questions for the year and see how they fared in 2023.

A newer January tradition of mine is to begin the year by noting events in Detroit history that are having anniversaries. Here’s what we have to celebrate and/or learn from:

  • 255 years ago: A British lieutenant named George McDougall purchased Wahnabezee (Swan Island), now known as Belle Isle, from Ojibwa and Ottawa leaders for eight barrels of rum, three rolls of tobacco, and six pounds of vermilion paint and a wampum (1769).
  • 175 years ago: Detroit held the first annual Michigan State Fair (1849).
  • 125 years ago: Ransom E. Olds opened Detroit’s first automobile manufacturing plant on West Jefferson Avenue near Belle Isle (1899).
  • 110 years ago: Ford Motor Co. announced it would begin paying employees $5 per day, which equals about $150 in today’s wages (1914).
  • 100 years ago: The 33-story Book-Cadillac Hotel opened its doors (1924).
  • 65 years ago: Motown Records — initially named Tamla Records — was founded by Berry Gordy Jr. (1959). 60 years ago: Ford debuted its first Mustang (1964).
  • 50 years ago: Gerald Ford (who was raised in Grand Rapids and was voted MVP for the 1934 University of Michigan football team) was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States; he was the first and is still the only president from Michigan (1974).
  • 40 years ago: The Detroit Tigers won the World Series in five games, defeating the San Diego Padres. Bless you boys (1984).
  • 25 years ago: The New Year’s Monster Snowstorm swept through the Midwest, bringing up to about 17 inches of snow in metro Detroit and below-zero temperatures. This was the storm that shut down parts of the city for nearly two weeks (due to streets not being plowed) and caused over 7,000 Northwest Airlines passengers to be stranded at DTW, some for up to 11 hours (1999).
  • 20 years ago: The Detroit Pistons defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA championship (2004).
  • 15 years ago: Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a bill banning smoking in all workplaces, including restaurants and bars (2009).
  • 10 years ago: Detroit exited bankruptcy (2014).
  • 5 years ago: Dispensaries began selling recreational marijuana for the first time in Michigan (2019).

They say that history repeats itself. I’m praying that’s the case as far as having a sports champion in Detroit and that it’s not the case for a Monster Snowstorm.

Wishing you and yours a healthy and happy new year. Go Lions!

This story is from the January 2024 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.