Encyclopedia Of Detroit


Hamtramck is a city in Wayne County that is surrounded almost entirely by the city of Detroit, with the exception of a small portion of the city that touches the similarly surrounded city of Highland Park. The city covers approximately two square miles of land and it lies approximately five miles from the center of Detroit, with I-75 running along the city’s western border and I-94 running near its southern border.

 Hamtramck was named after Jean François Hamtramck, a French-Canadian soldier who was commander of Fort Shelby in Detroit. In 1796, the city was settled by Colonel Hamtramck after he took possession of Detroit when British troops evacuated. In 1798, the Township of Hamtramck was established and it was settled by French people who came from Quebec. In 1901, the city was established as a village that consisted predominantly of German farmers. In 1914, when the Dodge Brothers opened up an automobile manufacturing plant, the city saw an influx of Polish immigrants and it began to flourish. The plant is now General Motor’s Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly Plant, which produces the Chevrolet Volt, the Cadillac DTS, and the Buick Lucerne. In 1910, Hamtramck had a population of 3,559 residents and between 1910 and 1920, mostly due to the Dodge Brothers ‘plant, the city’s population grew by a staggering 1266 percent. In 1922, Hamtramck incorporated itself as a city in order to protect itself from annexation by the surrounding city of Detroit.

During the past 30 years, the city has also become home to immigrants from the Middle East, particularly from Yemen, as well as immigrants from South Asia, predominantly from Bangladesh. While Hamtramck, whose city motto is “A league of nations,” is now very ethnically diverse, the city’s Polish history is still reflected by the names of the streets and businesses. A total of twenty-six languages are spoken by the school children in Hamtramck.

Hamtramck has many festivals that attract residents of nearby cities. Pączki Day, also known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, is a day where local Polish immigrants and local residents celebrate by eating pączki, deep fried pieces of dough filled with fruit jelly, custard, or cream. Many of the local bakeries open early and have lines running down the block. Some local bars have also begun to host parties starting as early as 7 AM. Other festivals include, the Hamtramck Blowout, which is an annual independent music festival, the St. Florian Strawberry Festival, the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival, and the Planet Ant Film and Video Festival in Hamtramck.

When there isn’t a festival to visit, visitors can go to the Polish Art Center, which highlights Polish art objects, books, foods, and art from other areas of Europe and the Ukrainian American Archives and Museum of Detroit, which showcases the culture, art, and history of Ukrainians.

The city itself is governed under a council-manager form of government. The elected mayor is the chief executive officer. The current mayor of Hamtramck is Karen Majewski, who is Hamtramck’s first female mayor.



Joseph Campau Street in Hamtramck, 1950s

Destruction of the Dodge Main Plant in Hamtramck, 1981

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