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Royal Oak is a city in Oakland County of the U.S. state of Michigan. It is a suburb of Detroit. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 57,236. It is the 8th-largest municipality in Oakland County and the 27th-largest municipality in Michigan by population.
Early Europeans in this area were French Canadians; some traded with the Sauk and other Native Americans in the area. After defeating France in the Seven Years' War, Great Britain took control of their territory east of the Mississippi River, including Fort Detroit and environs. It promoted development of western Ontario, across the Detroit and St. Clair rivers, after the Revolutionary War.
Royal Oak was not incorporated as a village until 1891, and as a city in 1921. The name was applied in 1819, during one of Territorial Governor Lewis Cass' surveying expeditions. A large oak tree located near the present-day intersection of Crooks, Rochester, and Main reminded Cass of the Royal Oak which King Charles II of England hid in to escape capture by the Roundheads after the Battle of Worcester. He named the settlement after that, several years after the United States had fought Great Britain across the northern border in the War of 1812.
Royal Oak developed as a suburb of Detroit in the early 20th century, as Detroit grew rapidly as a result of industrialization and its booming auto industry.
The Royal Oak Farmers Market opened as a truck market, at the corner of 4th and Troy streets, on October 14, 1925 as a cooperative venture between the then-new City of Royal Oak and Oakland County, Michigan. There were still numerous farmers in the county. The present structure, at the corner of 11 Mile Road and Troy Street, is adjacent to the 44th District Court. It was erected in the spring of 1927 and dedicated July 1 of that year.
In the 1920s, Father Charles Coughlin, a Canadian Catholic priest who relocated to Detroit, became the founding pastor of the Shrine of the Little Flower, now a prominent landmark in the city. Through his ministry, he raised funds to build the present limestone church complex and tower. Initially he broadcast religious speeches from this site. During the 1930s, his broadcasts became more political. He initially supported Franklin D. Roosevelt, then opposed him and became more allied with fascist leaders of Germany and Italy. The Roosevelt administration closed down his radio operation after the outbreak of World War II, with support from the Catholic hierarchy. Coughlin had developed national political influence and had an increasingly anti-semitic message.
Originally the downtown had a typical mixture of small-scale retail and trade to serve the city of Royal Oak. It lost business to suburban malls in the postwar period. Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, Royal Oak's downtown has developed as an entertainment and nightlife destination. A number of large condominiums and lofts have been built in the area, increasing the density of the downtown population.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.79 square miles (30.54 km2), all land.
Royal Oak developed around a river, the Red Run. Vinsetta Boulevard was built skirting a source branch of the Red Run for its median. In the 1930s, Vinsetta's entire median, along with the river and all but the tops of the bridges for the crossing streets were filled in as part of a WPA project during the Great Depression. During 1967–8, the rest of the river in Oakland County was buried within a six-foot drain pipe.
As of the census of 2010, there were 57,236 people, 28,063 households, and 13,394 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,854.6 inhabitants per square mile (1,874.4/km2). There were 30,207 housing units at an average density of 2,562.1 per square mile (989.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 90.7% White, 4.3% African American, 0.3% Native American, 2.4% Asian, 0.4% from other races, and 1.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.3% of the population.
There were 28,063 households of which 20.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.7% were married couples living together, 8.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 52.3% were non-families. 41.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.03 and the average family size was 2.82.
The median age in the city was 37.8 years. 16.7% of residents were under the age of 18; 7.6% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 35.9% were from 25 to 44; 26.8% were from 45 to 64; and 13.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.0% male and 51.0% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 60,062 people, 28,880 households, and 14,440 families residing in the city. The population density was 5,083.0 people per square mile (1,961.9/km²). There were 29,942 housing units at an average density of 2,534.0 per square mile (978.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 94.80% White, 1.54% African American, 0.26% Native American, 1.56% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.38% from other races, and 1.40% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.30% of the population.
There were 28,880 households out of which 20.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.9% were married couples living together, 7.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.0% were non-families. 40.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.6% 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 2.86.
In the city, the population was spread out with 17.8% under the age of 18, 7.5% from 18 to 24, 38.8% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 14.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $52,252, and the median income for a family was $68,109. Males had a median income of $50,562 versus $36,392 for females. The per capita income for the city was $30,990. About 2.0% of families and 4.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.4% of those under age 18 and 5.5% of those age 65 or over.
Royal Oak has a Council-Manager form of government. It is governed by a city commission consisting of a mayor and six commission members. The city commission appoints a city manager, who manages the day-to-day operations of the city.
Royal Oak has a below-average crime rate, similar to that of nearby upper middle-class communities, such as Berkley and Madison Heights. Larceny-Theft was the most common crime, making up 66.7% of all crimes in the city. Five known murders have been committed since 2000, one in 2004, one in 2005, one in 2010, and two in 2011.
In 1991, Thomas McIlvane, a postal worker, killed five people in Royal Oak's post office, after being fired from the Postal Service for "insubordination." This incident helped to popularize the term "Going Postal."
Royal Oak's police department has 79 sworn officers and 25 civilian personnel. The department employs community policing techniques.
Royal Oak has a full-time fire department that operates three stations strategically located around the city to minimize response time to incidents. The ROFD staffs three engines and two ALS ambulances daily and is a member of the OAKWAY mutual aid consortium.
Royal Oak developed initially as a suburb after Detroit boomed as a major industrial city. People began to move to the suburbs for newer housing, especially after World War II. It had a compact, traditional street-side shopping district, which runs along Main Street and Washington Avenue downtown. During the 2000s, this area was redeveloped with numerous new businesses, and is now considered a trendy, upscale, urban-chic district, featuring restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. A number of mixed-use high-rise developments have been constructed — mostly condo "lofts" with retail and office space on the lower levels.
Points of interest include the Detroit Zoo, a major regional tourist attraction, the William Beaumont Hospital, the Royal Oak Music Theatre, the Main Art Theatre, the Baldwin Theatre, Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle, Emagine Theater, and shops, cafes, and restaurants. The main offices of Hour Detroit media, which publishes Metro Detroit's lifestyle magazine, are located in the city.
The National Arbor Day Foundation has awarded Royal Oak the distinction of "Tree City USA" every year since 1976 as a result of the city's commitment to tree planting and preservation.
The Gilda Radner Hereditary Cancer Program is a foundation set up by Detroit-area native Gilda Radner, who is known for her work as a comedian of Saturday Night Live. In 1998 the Program created a free cancer support community for people with cancer, their families, and friends. Gilda's Club Metro Detroit operates a three-story non-residential house in Royal Oak. It has served more than 3,000 members for social and emotional support through a variety of activities.
Major employers in Royal Oak include William Beaumont Hospital with 7,147 employees, The City of Royal Oak with 465 employees, Royal Oak Public Schools with 482 employees, Oakland Community College with 448 employees, Consumers Energy with 351 employees, Flex-N-Gate with 350 employees, the Detroit Zoo with 301 employees, Holiday Market with 300 employees, and HHI- Form Tech with 290 employees.
The city is served by Royal Oak Neighborhood Schools. There is also a private high school, Shrine Catholic. A branch of Oakland Community College is located in the city.
A portion of land in the city is zoned to Berkley Public Schools.
In recent years Royal Oak has begun to consolidate its public schools in response to a decline in enrollment levels compared to the baby boom era. In 2006, the city's two public high schools, George A. Dondero High School and Clarence M. Kimball High School, were combined into a new Royal Oak High School. Beginning in 2007, the city's two middle schools were combined into one school, Royal Oak Middle School. The number of elementary schools was reduced to six. Some parents protested the planned closure and demolition of Longfellow and Whittier elementary schools. They were seeking to have them considered for historic district recognition by way of signed petition. Despite their efforts, both schools and a number of other former elementary schools were demolished in the fall of 2007.
The Royal Oak school system gained brief notoriety for an incident following the Trump election. Some middle schoolers chanted "build that wall". A student video of the incident was widely shared on Facebook, attracting more than 4 million views within 24 hours. A week later a noose was found in the 8th grade boys bathroom at the middle school.
Downtown Royal Oak features a wide assortment of nightlife venues, including the Royal Oak Music Theatre and the Landmark Main Art Theatre. Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle, a comedy club, was an early venue for performers such as Tim Allen and Dave Coulier.
The many restaurants range in fare from take-out sandwiches to high-end establishments specializing in cuisines like Italian, Belgian, Nepali, and others. Pubs include biker bars, dance clubs, upscale breweries, sports bars, and rooftop bars. During the summer, downtown Royal Oak becomes host to hordes of motorcycle enthusiasts from around Metro Detroit. On Wednesday nights Main Street is often lined with Harley-Davidsons, whereas on Thursday night the streets fill up with sport bikes.
Royal Oak encompasses a major span of the Woodward Dream Cruise. The city sponsors ancillary events around the Cruise. It is the site of the Detroit Zoo, one of the region's leading tourist attractions.
In December 2009 it was announced that the Arts, Beats and Eats festival would be moved from Pontiac to Royal Oak.
In addition to The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, regional newspapers serving all of southeast Michigan, the city is served by the Daily Tribune, The Oakland Press, the Royal Oak Review, and The Mirror.
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