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Hamtramck ( ham-TRAM-ik) is a city in Wayne County of the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 22,423. Hamtramck is surrounded by the city of Detroit except for a small portion of the western border that touches the similarly surrounded city of Highland Park.
Known in the 20th century as a vibrant center of Polish American life and culture, Hamtramck has continued to attract immigrants, especially Bangladeshis. In 2015 its city council became the first majority Muslim city council in the U.S.
Hamtramck is named for the French-Canadian soldier Jean François Hamtramck who was the first American commander of Fort Shelby, the fortification at Detroit. It was originally known as Hamtramck Township.
Hamtramck was originally settled by German farmers, but Polish immigrants flooded into the area when the Dodge Brothers plant opened in 1914. Poles used to make up a large proportion of the population. It is sometimes confused with Poletown, a traditional Polish neighborhood, which used to lie mostly in the city of Detroit and includes a small part of Hamtramck. As of the 2010 American Community Survey, 14.5% of Hamtramck's population is of Polish origin; in 1970, it was 90% Polish.
Over the past thirty years, a large number of immigrants from the Middle East (especially Yemen), South Asia (especially Bangladesh), and Southeastern Europe (especially Bosnia and Herzegovina) have moved to the city. As of the 2010 American Community Survey, the city's foreign born population stood at 41.1%, making it Michigan's most internationally diverse city (see more at Demographics below). The population was 43,355 in the 1950 Census, and 18,372 in 1990.
Hamtramck was primarily farmland, although the Detroit Stove Works employed 1,300 workers to manufacture stoves. In 1901, part of the township incorporated as a village to gain more control over the settlement's affairs, and by 1922 the village reincorporated as a city to fend off annexation attempts by the neighboring city of Detroit. By the mid-1920s, 78% of the residents of Hamtramck owned their own houses or were buying their houses. Around that time, the factory workers made up 85% of Hamtramck's heads of households. Of those factory workers, half were not skilled. In 1910, the newly founded Dodge Main assembly plant created jobs for thousands of workers and led to additional millions of dollars in the city. Dodge Main quickly expanded and became important to Hamtramck. Before the construction of Dodge Main, Hamtramck was a largely rural town. With the Dodge Main assembly plant also came a large Polish population. The influx of Polish immigrants pushed the incumbent German politicians. It was at this point that Hamtramck was considered a Polish-American town. Elections in November 2015 made the city the first to elect a Muslim-majority council in the country.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.09 square miles (5.41 km2), all land.
Hamtramck is mostly surrounded by Detroit except a small common border with the city of Highland Park, which is in turn surrounded by Detroit. Hamtramck lies about 5 miles (8.0 km) from the center of Detroit. The I-75 freeway roughly runs along this city's western border and I-94 runs near its southern border.
Hamtramck flourished from 1910 to 1920 as thousands of European immigrants, particularly Poles, were attracted by the growing automobile industry. The city has grown increasingly ethnically diverse but still bears many reminders of its Polish ancestry in family names, street names and businesses. A recent survey found 26 native languages spoken by Hamtramck schoolchildren. The city's motto was "A League of Nations". Neal Rubin of The Detroit News wrote in 2010 that despite the demographic changes, "In a lot of ways, Hamtramck still feels like a Polish enclave."
In 1987 Detroit television station WDIV ran one episode of a local sit-com called "Hamtramck" which featured former Detroit Tigers pitcher Dave Rozema and a cameo by manager Sparky Anderson. It was met by poor reviews and protests by many Polish-Americans and was canceled before airing a second episode.
At the time of the 2000 census, Hamtramck was again experiencing considerable growth, with over 8,000 households and a population of almost 23,000.
The 8,000-square-foot (740 m2) Hamtramck Historical Museum and the Polish Art Center are next door to one another.
In 1997, the Utne Reader named Hamtramck one of "the 15 hippest neighborhoods in the U.S. and Canada" in part for its punk and alternative music scene, its Buddhist temple, its cultural diversity, and its laid back blue-collar neighborhoods. And in May 2003, Maxim Blender selected Hamtramck as the second "Most Rock N' Roll City" in the U.S., behind Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York City. Hamtramck is home of several of Michigan's most distinguished music venues.
In January 2004, members of the Al-Islah Islamic Center requested permission to use loudspeakers for the purpose of broadcasting the Islamic call to prayer. This request set off a contentious debate in the city, about the noise that would be caused by the call to prayer, eventually garnering national attention. Ultimately, Hamtramck amended its noise ordinance in July 2004 regulating all religious sounds.
Hamtramck Disneyland, an art installation, is in the city.
Polish immigrants and residents of Hamtramck and southeastern Michigan celebrate Tłusty Czwartek (Fat Tuesday), known locally as Pączki Day] by lining up at the city's numerous Polish bakeries to purchase pączki. On Pączki Day, several local bars host parties with live entertainment and free pączki.
The "Hamtramck Music Festival" is an annual Independent music festival held in March in Hamtramck. It is currently sponsored by Bens Encore and the local Artist Community. In 2011, almost 200 bands played the Blowout at 14 venues over four days.
Held annually in the first weekend in May at grounds at St. Florian Church.
Held Labor Day weekend, ending with the Polish Day Parade on Labor Day. Live music on two stages, carnival area, beer, and food tents line a half-mile (1 km) stretch of Joseph Campau Street, from Caniff to Carpenter.
Held at the Planet Ant Theater, the festival celebrates independent movies and the people who make them, featuring comedies, dramas, documentaries, animation and music videos.
General Motors' Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly plant, one of the automaker's premiere facilities, produces the Chevrolet Volt, the Cadillac DTS, and the Buick Lucerne.
Detroit Axle maintains a plant there. However, in April, 2009, American Axle & Manufacturing announced that it planned to close its plant at the Hamtramck/Detroit border and move production to Mexico, thus eliminating several hundred jobs.
The Polish Art Center, at 9539 Joseph Campau Street, is a local institution in Hamtramck. There, one can find many Polish art objects, books, foods, and art from other areas of Europe. The center's selection of Communist-era Polish theatrical and operatic posters is unusual.
The Ukrainian American Archives & Museum of Detroit is located at 11756 Charest Street. The Museum's purpose is “to educate and inform the general public about the culture, art, and history of Ukrainians, their immigration to the United States and the contributions of Americans of Ukrainian descent to America; to engage in research in these areas; to maintain archives for the deposit of documents and other records relating to these topics; to acquire, preserve, exhibit artifacts of artistic, historical, and scientific value relating to these subjects; to sponsor public programs in order to study and preserve the heritage of Ukrainian Americans.”
For more than 85 years, Kowalski Sausage Co. has manufactured meat products at 2270 Holbrook Street, which are distributed in the metropolitan Detroit area.
Notwithstanding the statement in the credits that it was filmed "in Detroit, Michigan", the 1998 Indie film Polish Wedding was filmed mainly in Hamtramck, and particularly at a house on Wyandotte Street. Theresa Connelly, who wrote and directed the film, had spent her childhood in Hamtramck.
In December 2010, citing general budget woes and the city of Detroit withholding a portion of shared revenue for the Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly plant straddling the border of both cities, Hamtramck requested of the State of Michigan to be allowed to declare bankruptcy which was denied. Receivership was avoided when a deal was struck between the city and Detroit which required Detroit to pay $3.2 million in collected taxes to Hamtramck in exchange for Hamtramck paying Detroit nearly the same amount for a water and sewage bill that was in arrears.
The United States Postal Service operates the Hamtramck Post Office at 2933 Caniff Street. The post office annex is located at 14600 Dequindre Street in the City of Detroit.
As of the census of 2010, there were 22,423 people, 7,063 households, and 4,615 families residing in the city. The population density was 10,728.7 inhabitants per square mile (4,142.4/km2). There were 8,693 housing units at an average density of 4,159.3 per square mile (1,605.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 53.6% White, 19.3% African American, 0.3% Native American, 21.5% Asian, 0.6% from other races, and 4.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.5% of the population.
There were 7,063 households of which 43.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.3% were married couples living together, 18.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 7.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 34.7% were non-families. 28.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.09 and the average family size was 3.98.
The median age in the city was 28.8 years. 31.7% of residents were under the age of 18; 12.2% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.9% were from 25 to 44; 20.7% were from 45 to 64; and 7.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 51.6% male and 48.4% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 22,976 people, 8,033 households, and 4,851 families residing in the city. The population density was 10,900.5 per square mile (4,208.7/km2), making it the most densely populated city in Michigan. There were 8,894 housing units at an average density of 4,219.6 per square mile (1,629.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 60.96% white (which includes people of Middle Eastern ancestry), 15.12% African American, 0.43% Native American, 10.37% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 1.14% from other races, and 11.89% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.31% of the population.
In the 2000 census, major ancestry groups reported by Hamtramck residents were as follows:
3.1% of Hamtramck's population reported Albanian ancestry. This made it the second most Albanian place in the United States by percentage of the population, second only to Fairview, North Carolina.
There were 8,033 households out of which 33.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.3% were married couples living together, 16.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.6% were non-families. 32.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.74 and the average family size was 3.59.
In the city, the population was spread out with 27.8% under the age of 18, 10.8% 18 through 24, 31.9% 25 through 44, 17.7% 45 through 64, and 11.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 110.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 109.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $26,616, and the median income for a family was $30,496. Males had a median income of $29,368 versus $22,346 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,691. About 24.1% of families and 27.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 36.9% of those under age 18 and 18.1% of those age 65 or over.
From the 1990 Census to the 2000 Census the city's population increased by 25%. Sally Howell, author of "Competing for Muslims: New Strategies for Urban Renewal in Detroit", wrote that this was "overwhelmingly" due to immigration from majority Muslim countries.
From 1990 to 2000, of all of the municipalities in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties, Hamtramck had the highest percentage growth in the Asian population. It had 222 Asians according to the 1990 U.S. Census and 2,382 according to the 2000 U.S. Census, an increase by 973%.
Historically Hamtramck received a lot of immigration from Eastern Europe. In the 20th century Hamtramck was mostly Polish. George Tysh of the Metro Times stated that "In the early days of the auto industry, Hamtramck’s population swelled with Poles, so much so that you were more likely to hear Polish spoken on Joseph Campau than any other tongue." Later waves of immigration brought Albanians, Bosnians, Macedonians, Ukrainians, and Yemenis. By 2001 many Bangladeshis, Bosnians, and Iraqi Chaldeans were moving to Hamtramck. As of 2011 almost one in five Hamtramck residents was Asian. As of 2003, over 30 languages are spoken in Hamtramck and more than four religions are present. The four principal religions are, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism.
In June, 2013, the city's Human Relations Commission facilitated the raising of flags of 18 countries from which Hamtramck residents emigrated. They are displayed on Joseph Campau Street, with an American flag flying at either end.
In the 1930s, the first group of Bengalis came to Detroit and Hamtramck. The first significant population of Bengalis began arriving in the late 1980s and the Bengalis became a large part of the city's population in the 1990s. The largest growth occurred in the 1990s and 2000s. By 2001 many Bangladeshi Americans had moved from New York City, particularly Astoria, Queens, to Hamtramck and the east side of Detroit. Many moved because of lower costs of living, larger amounts of space, work available in small factories, and the large Muslim community in Metro Detroit. Many Bangladeshi Americans who moved into Queens, and then onwards to Metro Detroit had origins in Sylhet.
In 2002, over 80% of the Bangladeshi population within Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties lived in Hamtramck and some surrounding neighborhoods in Detroit. That area overall had almost 1,500 ethnic Bangladeshis, almost 75% of Bangladeshis in the entire State of Michigan.
By 2002, a Bengali business district formed along Conant Avenue and some residents called it "Little Bengal". The district, along Caniff and Conant streets, included markets, stores, mosques, and bakeries owned by Bangladeshis, Indians, and Pakistanis. By 2008 the Bengali business district, between Davison and Harold Street, and partially within the city limits of Detroit, received the honorary title "Bangladesh Avenue" and was to be dedicated as such on November 8, 2008. Akikul H. Shamin, the president of the Bangladesh Association of Michigan, estimated that Bangladeshi people operate 80% of the buildings and businesses in the portion of Conant Avenue. As of February 2008 the city planned to erect signage reading "Bangladesh Town" in the business district.
In 2002, the estimate of Hamtramck inhabitants of origins from the South Asia was from 7,000 to 10,000. As of 2001, 900 registered students who spoke Bengali and Urdu attended Hamtramck Public Schools.
As of 2014, there are over 13 Bengali clothing shops in the city.
As of 2006, most of the Middle Eastern population in Hamtramck is Yemeni. Hakim Almasmari wrote in 2006 that "Several streets seem to be populated exclusively by Yemeni Americans, and Yemeni culture pervades the city’s social, business, and political life." Many Yemeni restaurants are in Hamtramck, and the Yemeni community operates the Mu'ath bin Jabal Mosque (Arabic: مسجد معاذ بن جبل), which was established in 1976. In 2005 the mosque, located just outside the south eastern border of Hamtramck, was the largest mosque out of the ten within a three-mile radius. Sally Howell, author of "Competing for Muslims: New Strategies for Urban Renewal in Detroit", wrote that the mosque "has been credited" by public officials and area Muslims "with having turned around one of Detroit's roughest neighborhoods at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, making its streets safe, revitalizing a dormant housing market, attracting new business to the area, and laying the foundation for an ethnically mixed, highly visible Muslim population in Detroit and Hamtramck."
According to Almasmari, some of the first Yemenis to have arrived in Hamtramck said that Yemeni people first arrived in Hamtramck in the 1960s. The "Building Islam in Detroit: Foundations/Forms/Futures" project of the University of Michigan stated that Yemenis began arriving in the 1970s.
In 2013 Dasic Fernandez, a Chilean artist, created a 90-foot (27 m) by 30-foot (9.1 m) mural on the Sheeba restaurant celebrating the Yemeni population. The mural depicts a girl in a veil decorated with the blue sky, a farmer wearing a turban, and a woman in a hijab. The Arab American and Chaldean Council and the coalition OneHamtramck commissioned the mural.
In the 2000s a Bengali mosque named the Al-Islah Jamee Masjid wanted permission to broadcast the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer, from loudspeakers outside of the mosque and requested this permission from the city government. It was one of the newer mosques in Hamtramck. Sally Howell, author of "Competing for Muslims: New Strategies for Urban Renewal in Detroit", wrote that the request "brought to a head simmering Islamophobic sentiments" in Hamtramck. Muslims and interfaith activists supported the mosque. Some anti-Muslim activists, including some from other states including Kentucky and Ohio, participated in the controversy. Howell added that the controversy, through an "international media storm", gave "a cathartic test of the "freedoms" we were said to be "fighting for" in Afghanistan and Iraq" to the remainder of the United States. In 2004 the city council voted unanimously to allow mosques to broadcast the adhan on public streets, making it one of the few U.S. cities to allow this to occur. Some individuals had strongly objected to the allowing of the adhan, some continue to object. In 2015, some residents complained that they could hear the electronically amplified call to prayer inside their homes five times a day, with one of those daily times being at 6 A.M.
Hamtramck is governed under a council-manager form of government in which the elected mayor of the city is the chief executive officer. The city council consists of six seats. Though part of the council, the mayor is elected separately, and votes only in the case of a tie and on ordinances and contracts. The city council hires a city manager, who becomes the city's chief administrative officer. The city manager has the vested powers and responsibility to appoint and remove all city employees and department heads, prepare the city's budget, and other city functions.
The current Hamtramck city hall is a former hospital building. In 1927 the Hamtramck Municipal Hospital, housed in Georgian Revival building, opened. Mayor of Hamtramck asked the Sisters of Saint Francis to operate the hospital. In 1931 the religious order began leasing the hospital from the city government for $1 per year. The hospital was renamed the Saint Francis Hospital. During its lifetime it offered services to Polish-speakers. In 1969 the hospital closed and the building became the city's city hall.
In November, 2015, Hamtramck became the first American city to elect a Muslim-majority city council. The Wayne County Jail Division operates The William Dickerson Detention Facility in Hamtramck. The city levies a city income tax of 1 percent on residents and 0.5 percent on nonresidents.
Hamtramck is served by Hamtramck Public Schools. Hamtramck High School is the public high school of Hamtramck. In addition Hanley International Academy, Frontier International Academy, Hamtramck Academy, Bridge Academy (of the Global Educational Excellence (GEE) company), Caniff Liberty Academy and Oakland International Academy are all charter schools, in Hamtramck. Frontier International Academy, a charter school operated by GEE, is in nearby Detroit.
Hamtramck was historically a Polish Catholic community, so it housed Catholic schools by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit. One of the buildings once used by Hanley charter school was previously St. Florian Elementary School. The other Catholic primary schools included Our Lady Queen of Apostles and St. Ladislaus Elementary School. The city also housed St. Florian High School, a Catholic high school which opened in 1940 and was located in another wing of the same building as St. Florian.
The parishes that established St. Florian, Our Lady Queen of Apostles, and St. Ladislaus had been built after 1909. In 1925 2,217 students attended St. Florian, making it the largest Catholic elementary school in the city. That year, St. Ladislaus had 1,540 students, and Our Lady Queen of Apostles had 1,316 students. JoEllen McNergney Vinyard, author of For Faith and Fortune: The Education of Catholic Immigrants in Detroit, 1805-1925, wrote that the classrooms were "more crowded than most any Polish parish school in Detroit." There were often 70 students per classroom compared to 45 students per classroom in Hamtramck public schools. In the 1920s Hamtramck had no Catholic high school and the majority of parents sent their children to public high school. Felician Academy and the St. Josephat's Polish Catholic High School, two schools in Detroit, were located several blocks away from the Hamtramck border. Some parents sent their children to those schools.
In 1992 Dickinson West Elementary School opened in the former St. Ladislaus building. In the fall of 2002, St. Florian High and Bishop Gallagher High School in Harper Woods merged to form Trinity Catholic High School in Harper Woods. At that point St. Florian Elementary remained open. In 2005 the archdiocese announced that St. Florian Elementary would close. After St. Florian Elementary's closing, no Catholic schools are located within the city limits of Hamtramck. During the same year, the archdiocese announced that Trinity High School would close.
In the 1920s Hamtramck families often sent their children to public school for Kindergarten due to convenience, then moved their children to parochial schools during the periods with the most important religious instruction. Therefore, the age group 7 to 12 had the largest Catholic school enrollment. After the critical period ended, many students returned to public school. In 1925 the public schools had 1,467 students of ages 14–15 while the non-public schools had 217 students aged 14 and 15. In the early 1920s the annual growth rate of Hamtramck Public Schools buildings was 27% while non-public schools had an annual growth rate of 6% in that period.
In the 1920s there was a high level of school dropout in Hamtramck. During the decade Hamtramck had three 12th grade students per 100 5th grade students while the City of Detroit had 21 12th grade students per 100 5th grade students. In the 1920s 58% of 16-year-olds and 85% of 17-year-olds in Hamtramck were no longer attending high school. One public school survey stated that in 1924-1925 65% of male school dropouts began working in factories.
Hamtramck Public Library Albert J. Zak Memorial is located at 2360 Caniff. The Tau Beta Association founded the library in November 1918. The library opened at its second location, the second floor of a professional building, on November 14, 1938. In 1951 the City Hall branch opened in the first floor of the municipal building; it was dedicated on January 22, 1952. The current library received its groundbreaking ceremony on July 5, 1955. It was completed on May 31, 1956, and dedicated on July 1, 1956.
The first formal law enforcement agency was established in the Village of Hamtramck on October 10, 1901. Later that same year, a police headquarters was erected at Denton and McDougall on the city’s south side. In June 1924, a manual of rules and regulations was written by then Director of Public Safety, L. A. Koscinski. This “Blue Book” was used until it was revised in 1990.
An underground police –fire signal system was installed in 1935 with “call boxes” placed at various locations throughout the city. This was the only field communication foot or bike officers had with the Police Station. On January 13, 1937, the Hamtramck Police Department installed a Western Electric One Way Radio System. In the first year, arrests jumped 17% from 2,167 to 2,538. In a 2-year period, crime dropped 20% from 875 to 697. In 1942, the officers of the Hamtramck Police Department unionized and were admitted to the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police. Hamtramck was assigned the designation Lodge #109. In 1946, the City was decreed the "Safest City in America" by AAA. In 1988, the 911 Emergency System became a reality in the Hamtramck police station as three 911 lines were activated.
Currently, the Hamtramck Police Department is divided into the Uniform Division and the Detective Bureau, with the chief overseeing both divisions. The Uniform Division includes one lieutenant, three 8-hour shifts of patrol officers, and a sergeant on each shift. The Detective Bureau headed by a lieutenant and sergeant with detectives and special assignment officers. Patrolmen on the three shifts handle all calls and make reports of incidents, which are followed up by the detectives or special units, who handle the various cases, up to and including prosecution in the courts. In 2014 the State Emergency Manager again significantly cut manpower from the Hamtramck Police Department. This extreme manpower cut has been blamed for the recent uptick in criminal activity and lack of police presence around town.
In 1910 Hamtramck, then a village, had 3,559 residents. Between 1910 and 1920 Hamtramck's population grew by 1,266 percent. The growth of Hamtramck and neighboring Highland Park broke records for increases of population; both municipalities withstood annexation efforts from Detroit.
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