Thanks to Eminem, the world knows about Eight Mile Road. But mile roads were part of our lore and legend long before the 2002 movie. Anyone of a certain age recalls the late Mayor Coleman A. Young’s “hit Eight Mile Road!” warning to the “pushers, to all rip-off artists, to all muggers.”
But are mile roads more than unimaginatively named, arbitrary borders? Or like rings on the trunk of a tree, can they reveal our history?
We set out to find out, dividing up Five Mile to Hall roads, hoping to view each stretch through fresh eyes. Across 610 miles of collective wanderings, we observed population expansion north and west, then north and west some more.
We saw once populous neighborhoods turning into fields … and former fields becoming new subdivisions. We spotted farmland next to fresh crops of McMansions and bucolic golf courses coexisting with strip malls and suburban sprawl.
See what else we found. Some will be familiar; others might surprise. We probably missed a few of your favorite finds. Let us know what you think.
Hour Detroit’s editorial staff split up the City Guide tasks, each tackling four different mile road stretches. Here’s who was driving which proverbial tour bus.
By Steve Wilke
The senior staffer (in age and tenure) took first pick of the roads. After living in Fraser, Dearborn, and Hamtramck, he switched loyalties from East Sider (Moross/Chalmers) to West (McNichols/Southfield). Although some explorations were in his backyard, he found new eateries — and a few oddities.
By Dorothy Hernandez
If she had to pick a road, the Chicago native’s choice would be Nine Mile because she lived in Eastpointe when she first came to metro Detroit (she also discovered the beautiful Linh Son Tu Buddhist Temple). She lives in Grosse Pointe Park, near Three Mile Drive, which has nothing to do with the mile road system.
By Jeff Waraniak
Although this West Bloomfield native now lives near Belle Isle, the area where 16 Mile is called Walnut Lake Road was a drive down memory lane. But, Waraniak says, no matter how well you think you know a mile road, there’s something along its flanks that you’ve never noticed before.
By Leyland DeVito
Since he’s our newest staff member, DeVito got the last pick of the mile roads. His journey took him through the sprawl of strip malls, the industrial might of Rochester Hills, the serenity of the Cranbrook Educational Community, and eastern Macomb County’s nether reaches.