Friday, November 7, 2008

Old School Friday: Antoine Cadillac

I will be starting a new Friday theme: "Old-School Fridays". Every week in this slot, I will profile Detroiters who have made a difference in and for Detroit throughout history.


A good start would be with the founder of Detroit, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. Cadillac was a career military man, serving first in France and then in "New France" near present-day Maine. He was moved to Michilimackinac, near Montreal Canada, working to make that area a commercial center. Attempting to set up several regional fortresses to defend against the British takeover of the area, Cadillac finally received approval from the King of France and the Governor-General of Canada to establish a fort along the lower straits. Le Detroit (meaning "the straits") was chosen because of the fertile land, more hospitable climate (compared to upper Canada), and river location. Cadillac and his party landed on July 23, 1701, and set up the foundation for Detroit on July 24, 1701. This date is considered the founding date for the City of Detroit. The official name of the fort and settlement named by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac is Fort Pontchatrain du Detroit.


Because the City of Detroit was been under the flags of three nations, France, England, and the United States, many people mistakenly believe "de-troit" is French for "of three". "Le detroit" actually means "of the straits"; signifying the many waterways of Detroit. The influence of France is still apparent in Detroit with the names of many streets, especially downtown and on the eastside. Only *real* Detroiters can correctly pronounce street names such as Cadieux, Gratiot, Livernois, and Rivard!

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