Note: This is Part I of a two-part post on Redford’s Annexation.
Like many of this blog’s readers, I grew up in the Charter Township of Redford, which long before I was born was three times the size it is today. As a kid, I heard people refer to “Old Redford”. My dad went to Redford High School, which was actually in Detroit. My grandparents still lived in the old Redford part of Detroit when I was younger. The Redford Theater was in Detroit. I had a vague idea that that part of Detroit used to be part of Redford, but didn’t know more than that. I wondered why? How? When?
For those not familiar, as it stands today, Redford is on the northwest edge of Detroit. Its borders run from 8 Mile in the north to Joy Road in the South, and from Inkster in the West, to….well the eastern border is a little jagged (see map above). It has a total of 11.2 square miles, with the area of Beech Daly and Five Mile considered “downtown” Redford.
As Detroit’s population grew, naturally, its borders had to expand – not unusual for a new city. Development began in the 1800s. However, the city’s expansion really picked up steam shortly after the turn of the century as the auto industry took off and the population boomed. Detroit went from fewer than 300,000 people in 1900 to 1.6 million by 1930. The city center became crowded and many citizens desired to get away and live out in the country. The demand for real estate increased and developers such as BE Taylor became influential in the annexation process.
Annexation was not unusual in large cities as they developed, but Detroit’s approach was particularly aggressive. As illustrated at Detroitography, between 1915 and 1926, Detroit’s land area tripled. Detroit mayor John W. Smith’s administration added half the growth, including the addition of land from Redford.
A large portion of Redford was still undeveloped farmland in the 1920s. Even areas that had seen some development still lacked proper sewer systems and other amenities of modern life. According to Fred DesAutels, Redford Township historian, “Detroit promised almost everything to get Redford to annex; paved streets, sewers, inside toilets….”
In 1923, Detroit made its first attempt to annex part of Redford and Greenfield. Though Redford residents voted in favor of annexation, Greenfield did not. Without Greenfield, the area of Redford to be annexed did not border Detroit so the plan failed.
However, as annexations took place all around Detroit’s borders, residents frequently discussed the possibility of Redford’s annexation. News reports from the time overwhelmingly expressed positive attitudes on the subject and frequently come across as though it were a done deal from the early stages. Many residents expressed their opinions on town matters at Exchange Club luncheons. One speaker, L. N. Tupper, made suggestions for improving the area before annexation. According to the Redford Record, in April, 1924:
He said that nearly everyone in the township is favorable to the annexation proposition but that Redford should provide its needed improvements before being annexed as the village would not receive many improvements at the hands of the city of Detroit during the years immediately following annexation if the experience of other annexed territory is any criterion. Redford has no parks; it may have a narrow Grand River avenue; it has no plans for enlarged sewage and drainage districts; and other improvements may arise at any time.
Redford residents began making formal plans for annexation in December, 1924. On December 18, the Brightmoor Journal reported:
The general plan was to propose that the territory in this township as far west as Five Points, and lying within walking distance of Grand River Avenue be annexed to Detroit. There were so many boundaries suggested that it was found necessary to appoint a committee to determine the limits of the district to be effected. Comprising this committee are George Burt, president of the Village of Redford, James Cooley, supervisor of Redford Township, Edwin Dawson, representing the Redford Union Schools, Frank Day Smith, Rosedale Park, Mr. Winters of the BE Taylor organization, Mr. Knight of Clemens, Knight, Menard and Mr. Hesse of Walter C. Piper Co, who was chairman of Wednesday’s meeting.
Around the same time, citizens of Rosedale Park met to discuss issues they had with the Village of Redford over maintenance and public improvements. In its January 29 issue, the Redford Record reported Rosedale Park residents, in an informal vote at a community meeting, largely favored annexation to Detroit over incorporating into their own village.
This post was written by Stefanie Caloia, a member of the Redford Township Historical Commission from 2014 to 2019.