Detroit's Tri-County metropolitan area has a population of over 4 million people, and while most people picture abandoned and blighted buildings when they hear "Detroit", the reality is that much of the metropolitan area is very well-off. Detroit's often over-looked suburbs account for over 3 million of the 4 million people in Metro Detroit. While, like most American cities, there is a lot of auto-centric sprawl, there are also dozens of small urban nodes throughout the Metro area. Some of the more famous nodes are cities like Birmingham, Royal Oak, Dearborn, etc. Plymouth and Northville, while not as well-known as the others, do offer a great urban experience.
Plymouth and Northville are both located near the banks of the Rouge River on the far western extremes of Detroit's urban expanse, about 22 miles from Downtown Detroit. The village centers are located about 4 miles from each other.
Plymouth can trace its roots back to the mid-1820's when the first settlers began to arrive in the area. Plymouth Township was one of the original townships created in 1827 in Wayne County. For the first seven years, Plymouth TWP consisted of two 36 sq. mi. civil townships, but in 1834 the southern township, which would become Canton TWP, was separated.
Plymouth and Northville are unique in that they were one of the few cases where two relatively sizable villages were created within the same standard township. Plymouth was located near the southern end, while Northville was located at the northern end. Disputes between the two villages grew to the point that in 1898 residents in the northern half of the township decided to split from the southern half. This is, I believe, the only case where a standard 36 sq. mi. township in Michigan was split into two equally sized 18 sq. mi. townships.
Today the city of Plymouth has a population of 9,000 in a little over 2 sq. mi. The surrounding Plymouth TWP has nearly 30,000 people in the remaining 16 sq. mi. Northville (which eventually annexed a chunk of land in Oakland County) has about 6,500 people in about 2 sq. mi. The surrounding Northville TWP has a population closer to 25,000 in the remaining 16 sq. mi. The two village centers have really taken off in the last 10 years or so, thanks to the large influx of wealthy residents that have moved into the surrounding townships.
Plymouth's village center is centered on a small triangle shaped park called "Kellogg Park". It is a great urban oasis with large grassy areas, massive shade trees, as well as a great fountain. The park is surrounded by a relatively large collection of small boutique stores. Here are a few pictures:
Looking towards the fountain in the heart of Kellogg Park. Unfortunately the fountain wasn't running earlier today.
A beautiful historic mansion overlooking the park:
This building isn't much more than five years old. It is home to among other things a Starbucks and a Panera Bread.
On the opposite side of the park, a newer building that mimicks the previous building is under construction. I'm not sure I like what they're doing with the ground floor...
Another view from within the park:
From the opposite direction:
Most of the downtown businesses are to the west of the park:
I was surprised by the large amount of people who were out and about. I took these pictures in the early afternoon (around 2:00 PM).
I'm not sure whose was the "original", but both Plymouth and Northville have a clocktower near the main intersection.
Plymouth has quite a few restaurants with patio seating.
The Post Office was hopping today!
The last time I did a photo tour of Plymouth (a few years ago) this building was under construction. It turned out really nice.
The old Penn Theatre is getting a new marquee:
What it used to look like (from about 5 years ago):
It's rare to see the "old fashioned" drug stores anymore:
There's some really great detail in the corner building:
Just north of the village center is a "new urbanist" residential project. While most of the buildings are of the traditional "townhouse" variety, I was really impressed by this new construction.
Some of the more traditional designs:
This is a nice infill project a few blocks further south:
I'll post the Northville pictures later. Hopefully these will suffice for now.