The oldest things in Detroit

Detroit was founded in 1701 and incorporated as a city in 1806. A lot has changed since then, with each year bringing another wave of redevelopment and new businesses, but a lot has stuck around, too. Here’s to the staying power of some of Detroit’s oldest things.

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Oldest documented building: Charles C. Trowbridge House (c. 1826)
Located at 1380 East Jefferson Ave., this house was originally built on what was then farmland — far from the heart of Detroit. At some point it was updated with Victorian elements, and today it houses multiple businesses, including the Trowbridge Law Firm.
Photo via Google Maps

Oldest documented building: Charles C. Trowbridge House (c. 1826)

Located at 1380 East Jefferson Ave., this house was originally built on what was then farmland — far from the heart of Detroit. At some point it was updated with Victorian elements, and today it houses multiple businesses, including the Trowbridge Law Firm.

Photo via Google Maps

Oldest commercial building: 1208-1244 Randolph St. (c. 1800)
The Randolph Street Commercial Buildings Historic District includes six buildings, and is a rare example of surviving Victorian-era commercial structures in the city. Businesses in the block operating today include a Buffalo Wild Wings and the Baltimore Bar & Grille, a classic Detroit dive that plays the Stooges on its jukebox.
Photo via Google Maps

Oldest commercial building: 1208-1244 Randolph St. (c. 1800)

The Randolph Street Commercial Buildings Historic District includes six buildings, and is a rare example of surviving Victorian-era commercial structures in the city. Businesses in the block operating today include a Buffalo Wild Wings and the Baltimore Bar & Grille, a classic Detroit dive that plays the Stooges on its jukebox.

Photo via Google Maps

Oldest remaining military structure: Barracks of Fort Wayne (c. 1848)
Originally the location of burial sites for Indigineous tribes, this fortress was constructed due to tensions with British Canada in the 1830s. It was also used during the American Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War, when the Army discontinued its use. While it has been largely vacant in recent years, it’s now poised for a massive redevelopment that will include a number of organizations and businesses, thanks to federal funds.
Photo is public domain, Wikimedia Creative Commons

Oldest remaining military structure: Barracks of Fort Wayne (c. 1848)

Originally the location of burial sites for Indigineous tribes, this fortress was constructed due to tensions with British Canada in the 1830s. It was also used during the American Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War, when the Army discontinued its use. While it has been largely vacant in recent years, it’s now poised for a massive redevelopment that will include a number of organizations and businesses, thanks to federal funds.

Photo is public domain, Wikimedia Creative Commons

Oldest congregation: Ste. Anne de Detroit (c. 1701)
Founded just two days after Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded Detroit, Ste. Anne de Detroit is the oldest congregation in Michigan and the second-oldest continuously operating Catholic parish in the U.S. (Its current home, the Gothic Revival-style church at 1000 Ste. Anne St., was built much later, in 1886.)
Photo by Andrew Jameson, Wikimedia Creative Commons

Oldest congregation: Ste. Anne de Detroit (c. 1701)

Founded just two days after Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded Detroit, Ste. Anne de Detroit is the oldest congregation in Michigan and the second-oldest continuously operating Catholic parish in the U.S. (Its current home, the Gothic Revival-style church at 1000 Ste. Anne St., was built much later, in 1886.)

Photo by Andrew Jameson, Wikimedia Creative Commons

Oldest church building: Saints Peter and Paul Church (c. 1848)
Commissioned in 1844, this church was the original cathedral of the Diocese of Detroit and was later given to the Jesuit Order with the intention of becoming Detroit’s first Catholic college, which eventually became the University of Detroit-Mercy. 
Photo by Andrew Jameson, Wikimedia Creative Commons

Oldest church building: Saints Peter and Paul Church (c. 1848)

Commissioned in 1844, this church was the original cathedral of the Diocese of Detroit and was later given to the Jesuit Order with the intention of becoming Detroit’s first Catholic college, which eventually became the University of Detroit-Mercy.

Photo by Andrew Jameson, Wikimedia Creative Commons

Oldest jazz club: Baker’s Keyboard Lounge (c. 1933)
This Avenue of Fashion staple is one of the oldest continuously operating jazz clubs in the world. It has hosted many notable performers over the years, including Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, and Miles Davis, among others.
Photo by Dwight Burdette, Wikimedia Creative Commons

Oldest jazz club: Baker’s Keyboard Lounge (c. 1933)

This Avenue of Fashion staple is one of the oldest continuously operating jazz clubs in the world. It has hosted many notable performers over the years, including Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, and Miles Davis, among others.

Photo by Dwight Burdette, Wikimedia Creative Commons

Oldest bowling alley: Garden Bowl (c. 1913)
Now part of what is known as the Majestic Theatre entertainment complex, the Garden Bowl claims to be the oldest continuously operating bowling alley in the nation. Today, it has 16 lanes and is known for its “Rock ’n’ Bowl” DJ nights. 
Photo by Andrew Jameson, Wikimedia Creative Commons

Oldest bowling alley: Garden Bowl (c. 1913)

Now part of what is known as the Majestic Theatre entertainment complex, the Garden Bowl claims to be the oldest continuously operating bowling alley in the nation. Today, it has 16 lanes and is known for its “Rock ’n’ Bowl” DJ nights.

Photo by Andrew Jameson, Wikimedia Creative Commons

Oldest cemetery: Elmwood (c. 1846)
This cemetery claims to be the state’s oldest continuously operating non-denominational cemetery. It’s home to many Michigan notables, including Governor Lewis Cass, Mayor Coleman Young, and Fred “Sonic” Smith of the rock band MC5.
Photo by Goldnpuppy, Wikimedia Creative Commons

Oldest cemetery: Elmwood (c. 1846)

This cemetery claims to be the state’s oldest continuously operating non-denominational cemetery. It’s home to many Michigan notables, including Governor Lewis Cass, Mayor Coleman Young, and Fred “Sonic” Smith of the rock band MC5.

Photo by Goldnpuppy, Wikimedia Creative Commons

Oldest stretch of road (c. 1819)
Originally an Indigenous trail known as the Saginaw Trail that led to what is now Pontiac, after Detroit’s devastating fire of 1805, Judge Agustus Woodward devised a plan for a new city that would utilize a wheel-like design with major thoroughfares as its spokes, including this one. In other firsts, the first automobile in Detroit was driven down Woodward Avenue, and a stretch of it also became the nation’s first road paved with concrete.
Photo is public domain, Wikimedia Creative Commons

Oldest stretch of road (c. 1819)

Originally an Indigenous trail known as the Saginaw Trail that led to what is now Pontiac, after Detroit’s devastating fire of 1805, Judge Agustus Woodward devised a plan for a new city that would utilize a wheel-like design with major thoroughfares as its spokes, including this one. In other firsts, the first automobile in Detroit was driven down Woodward Avenue, and a stretch of it also became the nation’s first road paved with concrete.

Photo is public domain, Wikimedia Creative Commons

Oldest market: Eastern Market (c. 1841)
Started as a farmers market in Cadillac Square downtown, by the 1850s additional markets opened on the present-day site, and in the 1890s the first of Eastern Market’s large sheds were constructed. Today it’s a vibrant shopping district and home to the annual Murals in the Market festival, which invites artists from Detroit and beyond to decorate its walls.
Photo by Evan Gonzalez, Detroit Stock City

Oldest market: Eastern Market (c. 1841)

Started as a farmers market in Cadillac Square downtown, by the 1850s additional markets opened on the present-day site, and in the 1890s the first of Eastern Market’s large sheds were constructed. Today it’s a vibrant shopping district and home to the annual Murals in the Market festival, which invites artists from Detroit and beyond to decorate its walls.

Photo by Evan Gonzalez, Detroit Stock City