Field of Mars. What does that make you think? Probably the planet out in space, or the saying, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” You probably don’t think of Detroit. Well, that’s what Campus Martius means in Latin.
Campus Martius is a municipal park in the middle of Downtown Detroit. It is located directly on Woodward Avenue at the intersection of Michigan Avenue. It was designed as a military ground (another nickname for Campus Martius) in 1788. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed most of the city in 1805, including Campus Martius.
Detroit was rebuilt according to Judge Augustus Woodward’s baroque street-style plan with Campus Martius was to be the center of the new plan. Woodward, in which Woodward Avenue is named after, was the main architect of the plan, along with many surveyors from Canada. They laid the street plans out by placing their instruments on a giant rock in the middle of the park, which is known as the “Point of Origin.” That point is now marked, and is the center of the city. This is where the mile roads originate from. 8 Mile, 9 Mile, 10 Mile all the way to 26 Mile Road.
From that point on, it was a gathering place for all Detroiters. After 1900, when Detroit was just starting to come alive, the city began to retool the park. It was less a park, with a few monuments around Old City Hall, the first Opera House, and the city’s first Skyscraper. Hart Plaza was created in its place, and didn’t get the reviews many had hoped. It turned out to be more concrete, and less of a park.
When the city began hearing about a lack of a public space, other than Hart Plaza in Downtown Detroit, the city got to work. The Kwame Kilpatrick administration decided to use the former Campus Martius park space. The only thing that was left of the former public gathering space was the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
The administration approved the construction and it soon began in May of 2003 with completion on November 19, 2004. The park includes two stages, sculptures, public spaces, and an ice rink in the winter. It is smaller than the original park at 1.2 acres, but the city also created Cadillac Square Park directly east of Campus Martius, toward the Greektown Historic District.
The ice rink is meant to resemble the rink at the Rockefeller Center in New York City, and in fact is larger than that. Cadillac Square Park opened in 2007, with the Bagley Fountain relocated to attract more people to that side of the park.
Since its opening in 2004, Campus Martius has become more and more popular with Detroiters. It is home to the Motown Winter Blast, a Christmas tree and Menorah lighting ceremony, and has brought over 450,000 people each year since its opening. Campus Martius has been named one of the Top 10 Great Public Spaces for 2010 and the Top U.S. Urban Park by Urban Land Institute.
It is open every day and there is even a small restaurant there to warm up for what is left of winter, eat, drink and have a good time. Fountain Bistro is open Monday-Thursday from 11:00am-11:00pm and 11:00am-12:00am on Friday and Saturday. They serve alcohol, sandwiches, soups, entrees and hors d’oeuvres.
Campus Martius was Detroit’s gathering place at one point during its life. It then died out because of the use of automobiles, larger buildings, and more people living in the city. It was revived because of the people of Detroit, and it now stands to be at the center of one of the greatest revivals we might ever see. So get down to Campus Martius, enjoy the outdoor space, embrace the feeling of being in a big city, and love the connections of a small city. Campus Martius: A historic piece of Detroit in the 21st Century.
This is installment number 20 in the “A City on the Rise” series on Detroit. If you aren’t convinced yet that Detroit is on its way back, just look at the media, because they seem to be very convinced.
Yes, you have your occasional story on bad news in Detroit, the typical crime, the Jane Bashara murder case, car accidents, etc. That happens in almost every city, although Detroit does seem to have more crime than the average city. Regardless, the media, local and national, have taken notice that Detroit has something.
The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News have taken more of an interest in their own city as well. It’s not that they haven’t before, but because there is so much going on in the city that is becoming news once again.
For example, when it was announced this past weekend by both the News and Free Press that the former Packard Motor Car Plant was planning to be torn down, they took it steps further than just the story. Some did follow ups with how the owner plans on paying for the demolition, history of the plant, and pictures, of the plant then and now.
But the News and the Free Press aren’t just the only ones taking notice. The Huffington Post opened its Detroit bureau this past November in the Corktown neighborhood. They are located at 2051 Rosa Parks Blvd. It is a part of the HuffPost Local division, which includes New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Washington DC, and Miami.
They may be a liberal website/news source, but they seem to have views from all sides, with local news, national news, and opinions/blogs about Detroit.
Another source of news that has decided to set up shop in Detroit is the Curbed website. You have probably never heard of it, but it focuses on real estate, development, neighborhoods, and sales and rental prices. They have also set up shop in Corktown, in the same building that the HuffPost Detroit is set up in.
They are also in the same category with other cities having their own website. Aside from the Curbed National page, there is also a Curbed Boston, New York, Hamptons, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. Those are all big cities and you can freelance for Curbed Detroit and blog for the HuffPost Detroit.
There is another media outlet that has been taking notice in a different way. ESPN has launched an ESPN Detroit radio station on the AM Dial. You can listen to them on 1090 AM with national programming like Mike & Mike in the Morning and the Doug Gottlieb Show. They plan on having local programming on by the end of the spring/early summer. To have another sports radio station in the city competing with 97.1 The Ticket FM shows that the city of Detroit wants and needs another sports talk station.
You can contact Curbed Detroit at Detroit@curbed.com, HuffPost Detroit at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact ESPN 1090 Detroit at email@example.com.