Highland Park, formerly called Whitewood, straddles Woodward Avenue about ten miles northwest of downtown Detroit. It is part of the ten thousand acres northwest of Detroit that were opened after the fire of 1805. Highland Park remained rural until about 1904, when the first waves of outward migration from industrializing Detroit reached its southern boundaries. In 1908, Henry Ford selected Highland Park as the site for an automotive plant that became the largest in the world at the time. Within twenty years, tremendous growth obliterated all traces of previous rural settlement.
The small city is about three square miles in size. It follows the spine of Woodward Avenue, along which are located its large religious, commercial, and institutional buildings. The Chrysler and Ford plants occupied the central section of the city and divide it into a north and south side. Once one of Detroit's finest suburbs, the city's economic misfortune has led to poverty. Most of Highland Park's structures, including several notable period revival apartment buildings, were built between 1900 and 1930. The Beaux-Arts classical McGregor Library (1926, Tilton and Githens, Burrowes and Eurich; 12244 Woodward Avenue), closed in 2002, was a high point of the city's architecture. Cities of Promise and Clean Energy Coalition grants in 2010 may help restore the library.
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