Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Eight Mile Road

Currently serving as Detroit’s northern border, Eight Mile Road was originally a dirt thoroughfare, established in 1815 as Baseline Road during a survey of the Northwest Territory. Beginning in 1928, parts of it were designated as M-102. Gradually, the road was paved, widened and extended. Spanning more than 20 miles across metropolitan Detroit it currently exists in most areas as an eight-lane, boulevarded highway. 

Its more popular name is derived from the Detroit area’s mile road system which identifies streets running east-west throughout the region. The downtown Detroit intersection of Woodward and Michigan avenues at Campus Martius, designated as the city center from which Detroit’s spoke-like streets radiate, is “mile zero” for the purpose of numbering the mile roads. Hence Eight Mile Road is eight miles from that center.

On a map, Eight Mile separates Wayne and Washtenaw counties from Macomb, Oakland, and Livingston counties. Running from Grosse Pointe Woods in the east, to just west of Pontiac Trail, it is also known as Baseline Road west of Haggerty Road. Only a portion of Eight Mile is highway M-102, from M5 and Grand River Avenue on the west to I-94 in Harper Woods to the east, where it continues eastward as Vernier Road.

Eight Mile exists as a physical dividing line, as well as a de-facto psychological and cultural boundary for the region. As the northern border to the City of Detroit, Eight Mile separates the city’s predominately African American urban core from the more white suburbs to the north. Although African-Americans live in communities north of Eight Mile, the sense of separation between the two areas still remains.

The notion of Eight Mile as Detroit’s dividing line was catapulted into the national spotlight through local rapper Eminem’s hit film 8 Mile. Drawing from his own trailer park childhood near Eight Mile Road, Eminem tells the tale of a white kid’s efforts to break into a rap career.

Eight Mile Road also played a role in one of the most notable controversies of famed Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young’s administration during the 1970s and 1980s. When Mayor Young exhorted, “I issue a warning to all those pushers, to all rip-off artists, to all muggers: It’s time to leave Detroit; hit Eight Mile Road,” many accused the mayor of trying to send Detroit’s criminals into its suburbs and used the mayor’s statement as a reason to turn their backs on the city.

Along its most impoverished sections, Eight Mile Road has, for several decades, been a destitute, dangerous strip of suffering businesses and broken windows. It’s still a main artery for commuters and area residents –around 1,700 businesses call Eight Mile home. In 1993 the Eight Mile Boulevard Association, a non-profit organization, was formed to revitalize and promote Eight Mile Road as a transportation, business and residential corridor. It continues its efforts to improve and unify the businesses along this important corridor. 



Moving the World's Largest Stove on Eight Mile Road, 1973

Signed script for the movie 8 Mile, 2001 – 2006.005.004

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