Birmingham, Michigan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Birmingham, Michigan
City of Birmingham
Maple Road and Old Woodward Avenue
Maple Road and Old Woodward Avenue
"A Walkable Community"[1]
Location within Oakland County
Location within Oakland County
Birmingham is located in Michigan
Location within the state of Michigan
Birmingham is located in the United States
Location within the United States
Coordinates: 42°32′48″N 83°12′41″W / 42.54667°N 83.21139°W / 42.54667; -83.21139Coordinates: 42°32′48″N 83°12′41″W / 42.54667°N 83.21139°W / 42.54667; -83.21139
CountryUnited States
Incorporated1864 (village)
1932 (city)
 • TypeCouncil–manager
 • MayorTherese Longe
 • ManagerThomas M. Markus
 • City4.80 sq mi (12.45 km2)
 • Land4.79 sq mi (12.42 km2)
 • Water0.01 sq mi (0.03 km2)
778 ft (237 m)
 • City21,813
 • Density4,551.01/sq mi (1,756.98/km2)
 • Metro
4,296,250 (Metro Detroit)
Time zoneUTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code(s)
48009, 48012
Area code(s)248
FIPS code26-08640[4]
GNIS feature ID0621444[5]
WebsiteOfficial website

Birmingham is a city in Oakland County in the U.S. state of Michigan. It is a northern suburb of Detroit located along the Woodward Corridor (M-1). As of the 2010 census, the population was 20,103.[6]


The area comprising what is now the city of Birmingham was part of land ceded by Native American tribes to the United States government by the 1807 Treaty of Detroit.[7] However, settlement was delayed, first by the War of 1812. Afterward the Surveyor-General of the United States, Edward Tiffin, made an unfavorable report regarding the placement of Military Bounty Lands for veterans of the War of 1812.[8][9] Tiffin's report claimed that, because of marsh, in this area "There would not be an acre out of a hundred, if there would be one out of a thousand that would, in any case, admit cultivation." In 1818, Territorial Governor Lewis Cass led a group of men along the Indian Trail. The governor's party discovered that the swamp was not as extensive as Tiffin had supposed. Not long after Cass issued a more encouraging report about the land, interest quickened as to its suitability for settlement.

The earliest land entry was made on January 28, 1819, by Colonel Benjamin Kendrick Pierce (brother of future U.S. President Franklin Pierce) for the northwest quarter of section 36. Colonel Pierce visited his land several times, but never settled on it.[10] In March 1818, John W. Hunter and his brother Daniel left Auburn, New York, by sleigh and traveled to Michigan by way of Upper Canada. They waited in Detroit for their father and other family members, who arrived by schooner via Lake Erie in July. The family remained in Detroit until spring 1819, when Hunter made an entry for the northeast quarter of section 36, now in the southeast section of current-day Birmingham. Lacking a proper land survey, Hunter mistakenly built his log house on a tract later purchased by Elijah Willits. That house was later occupied by William Hall, a son-in-law of Elisha Hunter, while John W. Hunter built another log house a short distance to the southeast. On September 25, 1821, Elijah Willits made a land entry for the southwest quarter of section 25. Two days later, Major John Hamilton made an entry for the southeast quarter of section 25. Each of these initial land entries met at what is now the intersection of Maple Road and Pierce Street.

For a time, all three men, John W. Hunter, Hamilton, and Willits, operated hotels and taverns from their houses within a short distance from each other. While Hunter did not continue for very long, Hamilton and Willits continued a rivalry for many years, competing with each other for business from travelers on Woodward Avenue[11] between Detroit and Pontiac. The growing settlement was known variously as "Hamilton's", "Hunter's", or "Willits'"; it was later known as "Piety Hill".

The settlement's original plat was surveyed and recorded on August 25, 1836, in the northwest quarter of section 36, then owned by Rosewell T. Merrill, who also ran the town foundry and the thrashing machine factory. Merrill named his plat "Birmingham" after Birmingham, England; he envisioned that it would also become a great industrial center.[12] Elijah Willits recorded a plat on his property on December 20, 1837. John W. Hunter followed suit with two plats on his property on January 31, 1840, and June 21, 1842, while Major Hamilton laid out a plat on October 7, 1846. Several other properties were subsequently platted as additions. The plats made in 1836 and 1837 were in anticipation of completion of the Detroit and Pontiac Railroad.

Now known as 'Birmingham', the village first received mail through the "Bloomfield" post office. Birmingham established its own post office on April 5, 1838. The settlement incorporated as a village in 1864, comprising the northern half of section 36 and the southern half of section 25, with a total land area of one square mile. The first village elections were held March 1, 1864. It was soon governed by a seven-man board of trustees, who appointed a marshal and a treasurer. Birmingham re-incorporated as a city in 1933. Prior to this, the area just north of 14 Mile along Woodward was known as "Eco City".[13]

The names of the city's founders appear throughout Birmingham in civic institutions and commercial businesses: Pierce Elementary School, Hunter House Hamburgers (which was located on the road formerly known as Hunter Boulevard, which bypassed downtown to the east and was renamed Woodward, with the original Woodward Avenue section renamed Old Woodward), Hamilton Hotel, Willits Building, and Merrill Street. Hall & Hunter Realtors adopted their name in honor of the builder and occupier of Birmingham's first home.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.80 square miles (12.43 km2), of which 4.79 square miles (12.41 km2) is land and 0.01 square miles (0.03 km2) is water.[14]

Birmingham is bordered by Bloomfield Hills on the northwest, Royal Oak on the southeast, Bloomfield Charter Township on the west and north, Southfield Township on the south, and Troy on the northeast.


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[15]

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[16] of 2010, there were 20,103 people, 9,039 households, and 5,307 families living in the city. The population density was 4,196.9 inhabitants per square mile (1,620.4/km2). There were 9,979 housing units at an average density of 2,083.3 per square mile (804.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 92.3% White, 3.0% African American, 0.1% Native American, 2.5% Asian, 0.4% from other races, and 1.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.1% of the population.

There were 9,039 households, of which 29.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.4% were married couples living together, 7.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 2.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 41.3% were non-families. 36.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.96.

The median age in the city was 41.1 years. 24.6% of residents were under the age of 18; 3.9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.7% were from 25 to 44; 30.1% were from 45 to 64; and 13.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.1% male and 51.9% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 19,291 people, 9,131 households, and 5,076 families living in the city. The population density was 4,038.4 inhabitants per square mile (1,559.2/km2). There were 9,700 housing units at an average density of 2,030.6 per square mile (784.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 96.13% White, 0.91% African American, 0.15% Native American, 1.50% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.19% from other races, and 1.09% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.19% of the population.

There were 9,131 households, out of which 24.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.6% were married couples living together, 6.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.4% were non-families. 38.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.11 and the average family size was 2.85.

In the city the population was spread out, with 21.2% under the age of 18, 3.9% from 18 to 24, 34.9% from 25 to 44, 26.0% from 45 to 64, and 14.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $80,861, and the median income for a family was $110,627. Males had a median income of $78,865 versus $51,834 for females. The per capita income for the city was $59,314. About 1.6% of families and 2.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.5% of those under age 18 and 3.3% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture[edit]

Settlers founded the First United Methodist Church in 1821 and conducted services in Elijah Willets' tavern. Its current structure was built in 1839; it is now the oldest church building in the city.[17][18] Other houses of worship represent many religions.

George H. Mitchell and Almeron Whitehead were two of a small group of bachelors who had formed a club called The Eccentrics; they published a newspaper of the same name, issuing the first edition on May 2, 1878. At a price of 2 cents, The Eccentric provided a "live home paper, replete with all the news of the day", with considerable emphasis on the "local items of importance occurring in Birmingham and immediate vicinity". By the turn of the 20th century, The Eccentric ran advertisements for Detroit stores and theaters, as well as offers of property and houses suitable for the "commuter". In the 1920s, the slogan of The Eccentric was "For a Bigger and Better Birmingham". Today, the Birmingham Eccentric newspaper continues its role as reporter of the community's local news.[19]

In 1923, a group of friends formed The Village Players of Birmingham, a private theatre club. Originally, performances were given in the community house. In 1928 the group commissioned their own theater just outside the downtown area. Today this all-volunteer group is open to everyone and puts on five shows each year.

Birmingham's Community House, opened in 1923, is located in downtown Birmingham. It is a non-sectarian, non-partisan venue used for meetings, banquets, weddings and other celebrations.[20][21]

In 2008, the Birmingham Little League won the nine- to ten-year-old Little League state championship. The team beat Western Little League 12–5 to earn the title.[22]

Parks and recreation[edit]

Freedom of the Human Spirit by Marshall Fredericks, in Shain Park

The city has more than twenty parks, with many amenities, including tennis and pickleball courts, baseball diamonds, playgrounds, golf courses, sledding hills, nature trails, picnic areas, and deep woods. Shain Park, the city's main commons, is the site of the Village Fair, art shows, summer music concerts and numerous community events. At the center stands Freedom of the Human Spirit sculpted by Marshall Fredericks.


The Birmingham City School District administers several nationally accredited schools, including Seaholm High School and Groves High School. Roeper School has a campus on Adams Road.

The Holy Name School is a co-educational parochial school founded by the Roman Catholic Holy Name Church. It educates children grades pre-K to 8. The private school was established in 1928, along with a convent for IHM nuns. (That has since closed.) The church and school continue to operate in conjunction today.

Pierce Elementary School in Birmingham provides classes for elementary school students of the French School of Detroit.[23]

The Japanese School of Detroit (JSD), a supplementary school for Japanese citizens, first began holding classes in Birmingham in 1987, when its operation at Seaholm High started. It began holding classes at Covington School in 1989,[24] and it also had classes at West Maple Elementary.[25] At one point its school offices were in Birmingham.[26] In 2010 the school announced it was moving its operations to Novi.[27]

Public library[edit]

Baldwin Birmingham Public Library

The Baldwin Public Library serves the city of Birmingham and nearby communities of Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms, and Bloomfield Hills. The original building first opened to the public on December 19, 1927. In October 1959, an extension for the Youth Department was added to the east side of the building. In 1983, another addition opened, changing the entrance to Merrill Street. There are over 120,000 books in the library, along with CDs, DVDs, periodicals, educational toys, databases and free Wi-Fi.

The library is named after Martha Baldwin, a civic leader and lifelong resident of Birmingham who was instrumental in establishing the first library. She also helped get improvements such as sidewalks laid for the business section, street lights, seats placed at interurban transit stops, flowers and trees planted, and trash baskets placed at the street corners.


Merrill Street, with Merrillwood Apartments on left


Birmingham was a stagecoach stop in the 19th century between Detroit and Pontiac. In 1839, the railroad tracks were extended to Birmingham with two steam trains a day running to Detroit.

On June 18, 1896, the Oakland Railway, the electric interurban, was constructed to Birmingham; it provided service to Detroit in 40 minutes. This service ended in 1931 as many passengers switched to the commuter rail and automobiles.

Amtrak provides long-distance passenger rail service on the PontiacDetroitChicago Wolverine. It stops in Birmingham three times per day in each direction at the Birmingham, Michigan Amtrak station. Class one freight rail service is provided by Canadian National Railway (CN).

By 1931, the Grand Trunk Western Railroad (GTW) moved the railroad tracks to their present location. It provided commuter rail service from Pontiac to downtown Detroit with a stop in Birmingham. The Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority (SEMTA) took control of this service in 1974 but it was ended on October 17, 1983, after subsidies were discontinued. Efforts continue to this day to restore such service.

In the 21st century, the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) and the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) operate local and regional bus transit.[28]

Notable people[edit]

Hamilton Street and Old Woodward Avenue, with Palladium Building on left
Birmingham Theatre on South Old Woodward Avenue
Willits Street, with The Willits on left

Further reading[edit]

  • Avery, Lillian Drake (2005) [1925?]. "Birmingham". An Account of Oakland County. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Library. pp. 33–35. Retrieved 2007-10-21.
  • Durant, Samuel W. (2005) [1877]. "Bloomfield Township". History of Oakland County, Michigan. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Library. pp. 318–328. Retrieved 2007-10-21.
  • Seeley, Thaddeus De Witt (2005) [1912]. History of Oakland County Michigan a narrative account of its historic progress, its people, its principal interests. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Library. Retrieved 2007-10-21.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "City of Birmingham, Michigan". City of Birmingham, Michigan. Archived from the original on August 16, 2012. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  2. ^ "Welcome to Birmingham, MI". Archived from the original on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 2013-09-17.
  3. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  4. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  5. ^ "Birmingham". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior.
  6. ^ "Race, Hispanic or Latino, Age, and Housing Occupancy: 2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File (QT-PL), Birmingham city, Michigan". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  7. ^ Seeley pp. 188-189
  8. ^ Seeley,pp. 27-28
  9. ^ Description of the military land in Michigan, report by surveyor-general Edward Tiffin, November 30, 1815, in Michigan As a Province, Territory and State, the Twenty-Sixth Member of the Federal Union Vol. 2, by Henry M. Utley and Clarence M. Cutcheon. pg. 254-255.
  10. ^ Seeley p.372
  11. ^ Woodward Ave. History Archived July 14, 2012, at
  12. ^ Romig, Walter (1986) [1973]. Michigan Place Names. Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-1838-X.
  13. ^ Walter Romig, Michigan Place Names, p. 175
  14. ^ "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2011-02-20. Retrieved 2012-11-25.
  15. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  16. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-25.
  17. ^ First United Methodist Church History Archived October 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Tutag, Nola Huse, and Lucy Hamilton. Discovering Stained Glass in Detroit [1]
  19. ^ City of Birmingham, MI: The Birmingham EccentricArchived October 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ hostmaster (2016-12-29). "The Community House". Michigan. Retrieved 2020-12-19.
  21. ^ "The Community House". The Community House. Retrieved 2020-12-19.
  22. ^ Budner, Marty. "Birmingham Little League teams win 3 district titles". Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  23. ^ "Elementary." French School of Detroit. Retrieved on June 20, 2015.
  24. ^ "JSD History" (). Japanese School of Detroit. May 2, 2001. Retrieved on April 16, 2015. "昭和48年  6月  デトロイト日本語補習授業校開設、私立クランブルック・ブルックサイド校借用。 (1973)" and "(1981)  10月  児童・生徒増のため、私立ケンジントン・アカデミー校に移転。" and "(1987)   4月  児童・生徒増のため、ケンジントン校に加え、公立シーホーム校との2校体制に拡大。" and "4月  児童生徒増のため、ケンジントン校・シーホーム校に加え、公立コビントン校との 3校体制に拡大。 " and "(1999)  事務局移転(インターナショナル・アカデミー校→旧オークランド・シュタイナー校) "
  25. ^ "HANDBOOK For Teachers of Japanese Students." () Japanese School of Detroit. p. 4 (4/12). Retrieved on June 19, 2013. "4. Now, about 1,000 students are studying at two different school buildings. a. West Maple Elementary School Kindergarten ~ 3rd grades b. Seaholm High School 4th ~ 12th grades"
  26. ^ "りんごネットへようこそ!" (). Japanese School of Detroit. October 4, 2002. Retrieved on April 7, 2015. "連絡先 Japanese School of Detroit 2436 W.Lincoln, Suite E101 Birmingham, MI 48009, U.S.A."
  27. ^ "Japanese School of Detroit to relocate to Novi." (Archive, PDF version, Archive) Novi Community School District. December 16, 2010. Retrieved on April 17, 2011.
  28. ^ "RTA RefleX Regional Service". RTA Michigan. Regional Transit Authority of Southeastern Michigan. Archived from the original on 5 September 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  29. ^ "Anita Lo." "Most Powerful Women in New York 2007." Crain's New York. Retrieved on September 6, 2014. "Born in Birmingham, Mich., to Chinese immigrant parents,[...]"
  30. ^ "Alexandra Silber". Downtown Newsmagazine. Archived from the original on 2016-01-02. Retrieved 2015-10-20.

External links[edit]