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Surrounded by Detroit and named for Colonel John Francis Hamtramck, a German French Canadian who was the first American military commander of Detroit, Hamtramck is a Polish enclave of workingmen's dwellings. As waves of immigrants from eastern Europe flooded the United States, many Poles came to Detroit, where the Packard, Ford, and Dodge automotive companies were building plants in and near Hamtramck. After the Dodge brothers began manufacturing automobiles in 1914, Poles moved here from the Chene Street area to work. Stores and offices along Joseph Campeau Avenue that runs the length of the city produced one of the highest volumes of trade in the metropolitan area. By 1920 Hamtramck's population had reached 45,000.

The Michigan Supreme Court Poletown decision in 1981 in the name of jobs and taxes allowed the City of Detroit to force out 3,438 residents and demolish 1,300 homes to make room for General Motors' Poletown plant, adjacent to Hamtramck on the south. In August 2004 the State Supreme Court rewrote rules of government condemnation powers that had been applied too broadly since the same court's 1981 Poletown decision. In the meantime the threat of condemnation and eminent domain precipitated the relocation of some Polish American people to Oakland County. Muslims from Yemen and Bangladesh, attracted by food stores and a Muslim sect of Albanians here in the 1980s, began moving in and recycling existing buildings.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert

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