Detroit's significance to the history of the automobile is inarguable, and that makes it the only metropolis in America that we care to note when another candle is added to its cake. Today, the town that's known as both the Motor City and Motown celebrates its 311th birthday. It was founded on July 24, 1701 by French explorer Antoine de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, whose name was later immortalized as General Motors' luxury car brand.

What began as a French fort and fur-trading settlement grew to become this country's hub of manufacturing in the 20th century, but now Detroit finds itself in a process of recalibration. The globalization of the auto industry has deflated the city's population to its lowest level in 100 years – some 713,777 inhabitants – down from a high of 1.85 million in 1950.

Where it goes from here is up for debate, but we don't expect its identity as America's, if not the world's, Motor City to be threatened any time soon.

Happy Birthday, Detroit.

Share This Photo X