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Detroit Historical Museum

The Detroit Historical Museum is located at 5401 Woodward Avenue in the city’s Cultural Center Historic District in Midtown Detroit, Michigan. It chronicles the history of the Detroit area, from cobblestone streets, 19th-century stores, the auto assembly line, toy trains, fur trading from the 18th century, and much more.


Attorney and historian Clarence M. Burton donated his collections to the Detroit Public Library in 1914, leading to the development of the Detroit Historical Museum. In December 1921, Burton brought together 19 prominent local historians to found the Detroit Historical Society, an organization dedicated to preserving the city’s history. In 1927, membership offices were leased, and Society treasurer J. Bell Moran was appointed to set up a museum. A curator was hired and on November 19, 1928, the “highest museum in the world” opened in a one-room suite on the 23rd floor of the Barlum Tower, now the Cadillac Tower.

On July 24, 1951, the 250th anniversary of Detroit’s founding by Antoine Laumet de la Mothe Cadillac, the new museum was dedicated in an elaborate ceremony. In attendance were such dignitaries as Governor G. Mennen Williams, Mayor Albert E. Cobo, U.S. Senator Homer S. Ferguson, the French and British ambassadors, and Detroit native and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Ralph Bunche of the United Nations.

Detroit Historical Society

The Detroit Historical Society (DHS) was founded in December 1921 with prominent Detroit historian Clarence M. Burton, its first president. Initially, a literary society bent on studying and discussing Detroit’s history, its direction changed in 1927 when under the leadership of one of the DHS directors, J. Bell Moran, the Society, founded the Detroit Historical Museum (DHM).  Since the first museum opened in the Barlum Tower as “Detroit’s best-kept secret,” prominent Detroiters as trustees of the Society and the public have added to the collection. As of today, it has over 200,000 items. M&H Pest Control Detroit

However, by the late 1930s, the Society had become more of a social club than a Historical Society. In 1941, the Society recruited The Detroit News columnist George Stark into membership. It was later said the DHS was seeking mention in Stark’s daily column, but “what they got was George instead.” With J. Bell Moran was called into government service due to the war, and George Stark took over the leadership of the DHS and instituted a building campaign in 1942.

By this time, the Museum was in the former Homer Wiliams home on Merrick Street, across from what is now the Cass Avenue entrance to the Detroit Public Library. The Williams home, where future Michigan Governor G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams grew up, has been replaced by part of the Wayne State University Campus.

Address: 5401 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI

Check out other attractions like Detroit International Riverfront