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Detroit Michigan: Grand River Avenue Street Scene

Today’s circa 1965 feature image shot from above the intersection of Grand River Avenue in Detroit, Michigan with another thoroughfare contains relatively heavy traffic. The Avenue heads in a northwesterly direction from the center of downtown Detroit, and travels for seventy-five miles ending in the City of Williamston, Michigan.

Some of the newest automobiles in the scene appear to be 1965 models and include a Ford Fairlane, a Cadillac, possibly the Mustang, and a Buick Special; heading away from the camera towards the City is a 1965 Chevrolet. Share with us what you find of interest or can add to this article via contributor Benjamin Ames.

20 responses to “Detroit Michigan: Grand River Avenue Street Scene

    • cant help but share a memory of my dads 63 rambler, when i was 16 i hotwired it and drove from santa ana to santiago cyn rd, Cooks Corner, picked up a bunch of hitchhiking hippies gave them a ride, and then got home before my parents caught me,, except my dad ran out of gas the next day, gas gauge didnt work, i screwed up his mileage, 🙂

  1. What jumps out at me is the smoke and haze in the background. Maybe someone can post a photo of the same intersection today. I’ll bet there’s a world of difference. We don’t often realize the amount of progress that has been made in the last 50 (let alone 100) years.


    • I’m pretty sure that the only emission control device on any of these cars is a pcv valve. Exhaust hadn’t been addressed yet. A lot of hard work and regulation turned things around. I’m not sure we can do that any more.

      • Yeah Bob, California led the way in emissions controls and it was only in 1965 that they mandated exhaust emissions regs for all 1966 models sold in the state, followed by nationwide regulations for 1968 models, much to Detroit’s disdain. But the major improvements came in the mid-70’s with newer catalyst controls. Growing up in LA and running cross country races in the smog of the mid-60’s, the increased air quality was a welcome sight (LOL).

  2. I believe the cross street in the foreground is W Warren Avenue. Google Earth shows the church on the left of the photograph has survived although the towers appear to have been shortened. The photographer probably shot the photo from the railroad bridge to the northwest of the intersection.

  3. Front and center is a 1961 Chrysler Imperial with the unique free standing headlamps. Expensive and rare even when new, almost never seen today.

  4. It seems funny, but I remember the mid 60’s as being car-centric.
    Now, looking at that picture they all just seem so mundane, especially the Cadillac and Imperial

  5. The cross street is W Warren Ave. Sadly, what was once a thriving business district is now an empty wasteland, like much of Detroit has become. Only a few buildings remain from that photo, on the corner far left, the church (which has lost the tops of its towers), and the Arthur’s Furniture building at 4731.

  6. Clearly, car pooling hadn’t caught on yet, and hasn’t to this day. The VW and the Mercedes (on the left of the VW) seem to be the only foreign cars, but they still outnumber the Rambler.

  7. Detroit’s major surface arteries are laid out like spokes in a wheel (half wheel, actually, since the other “half” would wind up in Canada) and Grand River Ave (along with Woodward, Michigan and Gratiot, Avenues) was one of the spokes. I used to commute into and out of Detroit via Michigan Ave., and the “thru traffic only” sign reminds me of how they used to use the center left turn lane as a thru lane during rush hours. The flip side of that sign reads the same except that the hours would have been for the afternoon rush period. Don’t know if other cities used the same approach to handling rush hour traffic loads.

  8. Parked at the curb on the right, a `58 Imperial sedan, minus the ‘toilet seat’.
    As gritty as this street scene appears (2 years before the riots) I can only imagine what it looks like today. I’d be willing to bet not nearly as much traffic ventures into this area now.

  9. Two Imperials, the 1961 in the foreground and a 1957-’58 parked at the right were less commonly seen due to the relatively low annual production. The smog hanging over the cities is something we’ve largely forgotten now.

  10. Indeed the ’67 riots, though not centered in this immediate area, impacted it to some extent. A friend of our family had a dry cleaning business on Grand River near this area and it was torched.
    Then came the Jeffires Freeway (I-96) in the ’70s, which took most of the commuter traffic off of Grand River. So a lot of the businesses that survived or rebuilt were closed.
    Then came the recession of the early ’80s… That was twice as bad, really bad, for Detroit as for the rest of the country. I remember, as I was laid off from Ford in 1980 and lived near downtown, barely scraping by. A major energy crisis, emission regulations, and foreign competition were the perfect storm that nearly sank Detroit.
    Then 2008 happened, and you’ve all seen the images of Detroit in the ensuing years.
    But guess what… It actually is changing now. I’ll probably never stop being a skeptic about Detroit, but having driven through this area quite a bit lately, I will say it is changing… not too dramatically yet, but the areas just east and south of there are REALLY being transformed…
    One other thing… While automotive emissions are no doubt a big part of that haze you see, you have to remember that at this time the Detroit industrial economy was full speed ahead, and this area is usually pretty much directly downwind from the Ford Rouge complex (to include the power plant, steel mill and foundry), Great Lakes Steel, Wyandotte Chemical (now BASF)… and a whole lot of other mostly unregulated industry at that time.

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