Detroit is one of the most dangerous cities in the country. Still, it captured our imaginations, and we wanted to see it too. We didn't have much time anyway because it's an hour and a half from Lansing. We still had about 1.5 hours before we had to go to the airport.
We discussed that we would definitely drive to the 8-mile road because it's famous, and we would see the bridge leading to Canada.
The last location was still half an hour from the 8-mile road.
Antoine Laumet de La Mothe Cadillac was commander of Mackinac Islandin 1701. In practice, the founding of what was then Detroit can be linked to his name.
He received permission from the French government to build a fort on the river bank. He wanted to keep the waterway away from the British for commercial reasons. (Trade with the Indians was very profitable!) The French word détroit means strait.
Today he would have trouble recognizing the city. And he would also be surprised that his name is known. In 1902, Henry Leland founded the Cadillac car brand, which made General Motors the most famous luxury car in America. It is still one of the most recognizable car brands in the world.
Detroit became a vital center. It competed with San Francisco, New York, and Chicago! In the 1920s, however, it had something that other states didn't have.
In 1919 the government banned the consumption and distribution of spirits!
A few years later, this law was still in effect. Detroit is very close to Canada, and alcohol consumption was legal across the river, which logically led to the emergence of the mafia and alcohol smugglers.
Back then, only the McArthur Bridge existed, which sits on the Detroit River near the Detroit-Belle Isle border. At that time, there was no bridge to Canada.
Belle Isle Park, or Bell Isle for short, was a popular meeting place for locals, so it was also a perfect place to buy and sell alcohol.
In the late 19th century, the city commissioned Frederick Law Olmsted, the Central Park dreamer, to design a public park for Bell Isle. Architect Albert Kahn was asked to build an ornate greenhouse inspired by Thomas Jefferson's Virginia home, Monticello.
In the 1950s, a collection of 600 orchids was added, which still adorns the garden today.
So during Prohibition, it was the perfect spot for rum smugglers to meet Detroit shoppers!
But alcohol wasn't necessarily only transported on the McArthur Bridge. Much rum, vodka, and whiskey crossed the river by boat or cable. When the river froze, the smugglers returned on foot, hiding the drink in their boots.
So much alcohol came in that it became Detroit's second-largest industry after automobile manufacturing. During Prohibition, 75% of the alcohol smuggled into the country came across the Detroit River.
In 1929 the Ambassador Bridge was opened. From then on, it was possible to cross the border by car, which made smuggling much easier.
Secretaries carried the goods in bags, while others had the goods in secret little compartments. For example, one man caught blew out a load of eggs and filled them with vodka and whiskey. The liquor smuggling techniques of the 1920s are similar to drug smuggling techniques.
And the proximity to the border made illegal imports even easier.
The Ambassador Bridge is North America's busiest international border crossing in terms of trade volume. It is also interesting that it is one of the few privately owned bridges. It is (was) held by a multi-millionaire truck magnate who died in 2020.
This is the other place we visited in Detroit. We drove to Riverside Park, but we couldn't access it due to road construction (at least from the directions where we came from).
But there was a parking lot, we parked there then went for a walk. Many people were in the park, picnicking, partying, and enjoying the excellent weather.
The atmosphere was perfect; there was a playground, street workout, barbecue area, swing, and a very nice little park. Canada can already be seen on the other side of the bridge. A vast Canadian flag is unfurled in the park across the street. The view of downtown Detroit is also splendid; you can clearly see the skyscrapers. We took some photos and then we had to leave. From there we went to the airport, we only had to fill up the car!
From there, we reached the airport in half an hour. We handed in the car, everything was fine, and then we took the shuttle bus to the airport.