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Originally a trading post established in 1809 by a French-Canadian fur trader from Montreal, a permanent settlement was established on the east side of the Huron River in 1823 by Major Thomas Woodruff. It was incorporated into the Territory of Michigan as the village Woodruff's Grove. A separate community a short distance away on the west side of the river was established in 1825 under the name "Ypsilanti", after Demetrios Ypsilantis, a hero in the Greek War of Independence. Woodruff's Grove changed its name to Ypsilanti in 1829, the year its namesake effectively won the war for Greek Independence at the Battle of Petra, with the two communities eventually merging. A bust of Demetrios Ypsilantis by Greek sculptor Christopher Nastos stands between a Greek and a US flag at the base of the landmark Ypsilanti Water Tower.
Ypsilanti has played an important role in the automobile industry. From 1920 to 1922, Apex Motors produced the "ACE" car. It was in Ypsilanti that Preston Tucker (whose family owned the Ypsilanti Machine Tool Company) designed and built the prototypes for his Tucker '48. Tucker's story was related in the film Tucker: The Man and His Dream, directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
In the early 1970s, along with neighboring city Ann Arbor, the citizens reduced the penalty for the use and sale of marijuana to $5 (the Ypsilanti Marijuana Initiative; see also the Human Rights Party). When Ypsilanti prosecuted a man possessing 100 pounds (45 kg) of cannabis under state law, the defense argued he should have been charged under Ypsilanti's ordinance. The trial judge declared the ordinance's requirement that Ypsilanti prosecute only under city law unenforceable. An appeal court upheld the trial judge's ruling. Later, Ypsilanti City Council, using its power of codification, deleted the ordinance.
In 1979, Faz Husain was elected to the Ypsilanti city council, the first Muslim and the first native of India to win elected office in Michigan.
In the 1990s Ypsilanti became the first city in Michigan to pass a living wage ordinance.
On July 23, 2007, Governor Jennifer Granholm announced that Ypsilanti, along with the cities of Caro and Clio, was chosen by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) to take part in the Blueprints for Michigan's Downtowns program. The award provides for an economic development consultant to assist Ypsilanti in developing a growth and job creation strategy for the downtown area.
On June 23, 2020, Mayor Beth Bashert resigned after controversial comments she made about race during a Zoom meeting.
1809 - Trading post established by French-Canadian Gabriel Godfroy from Montreal
1990 - Eastern Michigan University achieves its highest student enrollment of 26,000
1998 - The Michigan Firehouse Museum is established preserving a firehouse built in 1898.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.52 square miles (11.71 km2), of which 4.33 square miles (11.21 km2) is land and 0.19 square miles (0.49 km2) is water. The Huron River flows through Ypsilanti with Ford Lake on the southern edge of the city.
Ypsilanti is located at 42°14?N83°37?W / 42.24°N 83.62°W / 42.24; -83.62, in the eastern reaches of the Greater Ann Arbor area. Suburban development between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, via Washtenaw Avenue and Packard Road, has been unbroken since the late 1960s. Downtown Ypsilanti and the surrounding neighborhoods are the site of many historical homes, including kit homes by companies like Aladdin and Sears.
As of the census of 2010, there were 19,435 people, 8,026 households, and 2,880 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,488.5 inhabitants per square mile (1,733.0/km2). There were 9,271 housing units at an average density of 2,141.1 per square mile (826.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 61.5% White, 29.2% African American, 0.6% Native American, 3.4% Asian, 1.1% from other races, and 4.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.9% of the population.
There were 8,026 households, of which 18.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 19.7% were married couples living together, 12.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 64.1% were non-families. 42.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.06 and the average family size was 2.92.
The median age in the city was 25 years. 14.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 35.8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.3% were from 25 to 44; 16.6% were from 45 to 64; and 8.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.7% male and 50.3% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 22,362 people, 8,551 households, and 3,377 families residing in the city. The population density was 5,081.5 per square mile (1,962.3/km2). There were 9,215 housing units at an average density of 2,094.0 per square mile (808.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 61.40% White, 30.58% African American, 0.44% Native American, 3.18% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 1.32% from other races, and 3.01% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.47% of the population. 13.6% were of German, 6.8% Irish, 6.4% English and 5.5% Polish ancestry according to Census 2000.
There were 8,551 households, out of which 19.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 23.0% were married couples living together, 13.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 60.5% were non-families. 40.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.15 and the average family size was 2.96.
In the city the population was spread out, with 15.9% under the age of 18, 38.2% from 18 to 24, 26.4% from 25 to 44, 12.4% from 45 to 64, and 7.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 24 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $28,610, and the median income for a family was $40,793. Males had a median income of $30,328 versus $26,745 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,692. About 16.9% of families and 25.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.1% of those under age 18 and 15.3% of those age 65 or over.
Domino's Pizza was founded in Ypsilanti in 1960 near the campus of Eastern Michigan University.
By 1963, Clara Owens established the Ypsilanti Greek Theater in Ypsilanti, Michigan for the performance of Greek theater productions.
In 1966 the Ypsilanti Greek Theater opened at the EMU Baseball field. Bert Lahr and Dame Judith Anderson starred in two productions, The Oresteia, a trilogy of Greek tragedies written by Aeschylus and The Birds by playwright Aristophanes.
Since 1979, the city has become known for summer festivals in the part of the city called "Depot Town", which is adjacent to both Riverside and Frog Island Parks along the banks of the Huron River. Festivals include the annual Ypsilanti Heritage Festival, Michigan ElvisFest, the Orphan Car Festival, the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival, the former Frog Island Festival, and a Latino festival.
Overlooking Riverside Park is the non-profit Riverside Arts Center. Established in 1994 through the efforts of the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority and several public spirited citizens, the Riverside boasts a 115-seat black box theater, a sizable art gallery and some meeting rooms and offices. In 2006 the adjacent DTE building was renovated with "Cool Cities Initiative" money and is in the process of being incorporated into the center's activities.
Since 2013, Ypsilanti has participated in First Fridays, an arts and culture-based monthly event that features a self-guided tour of participating businesses highlighting local artists, and often free samples of food and drink. The same organization that coordinates the Ypsilanti First Friday event series coordinates Ypsi Pride, established in 2017, and the Festival of the Honey Bee. Ypsi Pride takes place on the first Friday in June and seeks to celebrate LGBTQ+ culture across the community by hosting a variety of family friendly programming, entertainment, and educational content.
Sites of interest
The new addition to the historic building which houses the Michigan Firehouse Museum was completed in the summer of 2002.
Ypsilanti has the second largest contiguous historic district in the state of Michigan, behind only the much larger city of Grand Rapids. The Ypsilanti Historic District includes both downtown Ypsilanti, along Michigan Avenue, and the Depot Town area adjacent to Frog Island Park and Riverside Park, which features many specialty shops, bars and grills, and a farmers' market.
It also was the setting of a well known and long running High/Scope Perry Preschool Study regarding the effects of early childhood education in children. The study researched the effects of preschool on the later lives of low income children from the area.
A college town, Ypsilanti is home to Eastern Michigan University, founded in 1849 as Michigan State Normal School. Today, Eastern Michigan University has 17,500+ undergraduate and more than 4,800 graduate students. As well, Ypsilanti is home to Washtenaw Community College (WCC) sponsored off-site extension center.
University Park on EMU campus
Ypsilanti is served by daily newspapers from Detroit. Ypsilanti once had its own daily newspaper, the Ypsilanti Press, but that paper closed June 28, 1994, after 90 years in business. Upon closing, the Press sold its masthead, archives and subscriber list to The Ann Arbor News, which then began publishing an Ypsilanti edition. The Ann Arbor News ceased publication on July 23, 2009; it was replaced by a new Internet-based news operation, AnnArbor.com, which also produces print editions on Thursdays and Sundays. A weekly newspaper, the Ypsilanti Courier, is published every Thursday by Heritage Media from their Saline, MI offices. The only newspaper currently operating in Ypsilanti is Eastern Michigan University's independent newspaper The Eastern Echo.
Local radio stations include:
WEMU FM (89.1 FM), a public radio station, which broadcasts jazz and blues music and NPR news from Eastern Michigan University
WQBR (610 AM carrier-current and University Cable Channel 10), EMU's student-run radio station
WDEO (990 AM), a Catholic religious radio station targeting the Detroit area
WSDS (1480 AM), licensed to nearby Salem and a former longtime country-music station, now broadcasts Spanish-language popular music as "La Explosiva" and has studios in Ypsilanti.
WAAM (1600 AM), a conservative Talk and News station serving Washtenaw County. Broadcasting local talk, sports and music shows. Owned by First Broadcasting.
Street map of Ypsilanti
bypasses the city to the south.
travels east to Detroit and west toward Chicago; it runs concurrently with I-94 from exit 181 to the west of the city to exit 185 to the east of the city.
passes just west of the city.
is a loop route through downtown Ypsilanti.
connects Ypsilanti with nearby Ann Arbor.
Willow Run Airport, located near Ypsilanti, serves a variety of freight and general aviation air traffic. Major international freight carriers Kalitta Air and National Airlines are based there, however there are no scheduled commercial flights. Willow Run was once one of the Detroit area's major commercial airports, hosting international flights to Europe, but all commercial traffic had switched to nearby Detroit Metro Airport by 1967.
Amtrak's thrice-dailyWolverine service from Chicago to Pontiac passes through Ypsilanti, but does not stop. Amtrak's last passenger train stopped in Ypsilanti in 1984.
Lowell Perry - NFL football player, first African American hired to be assistant coach in the NFL
Iggy Pop - rock star, "Godfather of Punk" - grew up in the Coachville trailer park, lot 963423, on Carpenter Road in Pittsfield Township (near Ypsilanti) during his teenage years at the start of his music career.
It has been said that Ypsilanti is the Brooklyn to Ann Arbor's Manhattan. Comparable to the gentrification causing many artists, poets, musicians, and hipsters to flee the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City to areas like Bushwick, Brooklyn, nearby Ann Arbor has experienced massive increases in land value and taxes over the last several decades. Despite Ann Arbor's reputation in the region as a bohemian cultural center, many creative people have been driven out of the city to Ypsilanti due to these changes. A vibrant, underground arts scene has begun to emerge as a result. This community gathered semiannually at the juried Shadow Art Fair held at the Arbor Brewing Company Microbrewery, which has now evolved into DIYpsi.
Milton Rokeach's 1964 psychiatric case study, The Three Christs of Ypsilanti, inspired a stage play and two operas. Poet W. H. Auden described it as "a very funny book ... about a hospital in which there are three gents, all of whom believe themselves to be the Lord. Which is common enough, except in the case of one--who had actually found a disciple!"
The 2017 feature film Three Christs, directed by Jon Avnet, and starring Richard Gere and Peter Dinklage, is based on Milton Rokeach's book and set in Ypsilanti. Though the film was primarily shot in New York, several scenes were shot in downtown Ypsilanti.
The Ypsilanti City Council declared Lee Osler's "Back To Ypsilanti" the city's official song in 1983.
Ypsilanti is the subject of Sufjan Stevens' song, "For The Widows in Paradise, For The Fatherless in Ypsilanti", on his 2003 album Michigan.
A portrait of jazz guitarist Randy Napoleon, painted by his grandmother, Fay Kleinman, is part of the permanent art collection of the Ypsilanti District Library. Napoleon performed his first public gig as leader at the age of twelve under a tent at the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival, an event sponsored by WEMU radio.
The Emmanuel Lutheran Church of Ypsilanti hosted filming for two days of the Movie Stone, starring Robert De Niro. The funeral service and a few outside scenes were filmed at the Church, with locals posing as extras.
In the 2004 cartoon Superior Defender Gundam Force, in the intro for the eighth episode "A Princess, A Cake, and A Winged Knight" a character named Shute goes on to describe his hometown and claims it to be Ypsilanti, Michigan, shortly after he says he was "just kidding" and introduces the city as Neotopia.
The 2009 film Whip It, directed by Drew Barrymore, was partly filmed in Ypsilanti.
Ypsilanti is often shortened to "Ypsi," particularly in spoken conversation and local/regional usage.
Because a large number of residents or their ancestors migrated from Appalachia, certain neighborhoods (particularly on the far east side of the city and into Ypsilanti Township) are sometimes called "Ypsitucky." Harriette Arnow's book The Dollmaker, which was made into a film starring Jane Fonda, focused on the lives of these "Ypsituckians."
Recently, the use of the term "Ypsitucky" has come under increased scrutiny due to its historically derogatory connotation. In 2008, the issue was raised after a dinner being held in Ann Arbor to honor Harriette Arnow was described as an "Ypsitucky Supper" in some of the event organizer's media releases. In 2009, planning began for the "Ypsitucky Jamboree," a new music festival celebrating bluegrass music to be held in Ypsilanti in September 2009; this resulted in objections from some area residents and some members of the City Council, leading to renaming the event as simply "The Jamboree."
^"How Did Michigan Cities Get Their Names? Part 7". State of Michigan. March 9, 2012. Retrieved 2013. Like Pigeon, Ypsilanti wasn't always known by the name it has today. The city was originally a trading post set up in 1823 and called Woodruff's Grove after Major Thomas Woodruff. The name was later changed to Ypsilanti in 1829 in honor of Demetrius Ypsilanti. Ypsilanti was a hero in the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire.
^Kvaran, Einar Einarsson, An Annotated Inventory of Outdoor Sculpture in Washtenaw County, Independent Study/Masters Thesis, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI, 1989
^"Ann Arbor Votes $5 Fine For the Use of Marijuana," New York Times: April 3, 1974