Hamtramck in Wayne County, Michigan — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
Poletown and Eminent Domain
Michigan Legal Milestone
Harsh economic conditions and the need to attract high-paying manufacturing jobs to keep the automobile industry centered in the Motor City led the cities of Detroit and Hamtramck to join forces in 1980 to condemn a working-class neighborhood known as Poletown. Homes, businesses, churches, and a hospital were demolished to make room for a new plant to build Buick, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac automobiles.
While most residents were willing to sell their homes and businesses, some were not. A small, vocal group of protesters staged sit-ins and demonstrations that attracted national attention. They waged a public relations and legal battle against GM and the two cities, claiming that government could not use its power of eminent domain to transfer property from individuals to private corporations.
In a landmark 5-2 decision in March 1981, the Michigan Supreme Court rebuffed the challenge (Poletown Neighborhood Council v. Detroit), allowing GM to build a state-of-the-art plant employing up to 6,000 workers. It was an important ruling with national ramifications that set a new legal standard expanding the power of eminent
In 2004, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed its Poletown decision (County of Wayne v. Hathcock), ruling that taking property for developing a business or technology park did not constitute a valid public use under the state's Constitution.
Placed by the State Bar of Michigan and the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, December 2, 2008.
Erected 2008 by State Bar of Michigan and the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association. (Marker Number 33.)
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Civil Rights. A significant historical month for this entry is March 1981.
Location. 42° 23.964′ N, 83° 3.185′ W. Marker is in Hamtramck, Michigan, in Wayne County. Marker is on Falcon Avenue north of Evaline Street, on the left when traveling north. Marker is in Zussman Park, across the street from the Hamtramck City Hall. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Hamtramck MI 48212, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Saint Francis Hospital (within shouting distance of this marker); Tau Beta Community House (approx. 0.4 miles away); Saint Florian Church / Saint Florian Historic District (approx. half a mile away); Hamtramck Stadium (approx. 0.6 miles away); Colonel John Francis Hamtramck (approx. 0.7 miles away); Hamtramck Veteran's Memorial (approx. 0.7 miles away); The Dodge Brothers / Dodge Main (approx. 0.7 miles away); Central Woodward Christian Church (approx. 1.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Hamtramck.
Also see . . .
1. 33. Poletown and Eminent Domain. Information about the marker and case on the State Bar of Michigan website. (Submitted on August 5, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.)
2. Poletown Neighborhood Council v Detroit. Information about the case in the Michigan Bar Journal. (Submitted on August 5, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.)
3. County of Wayne v Hathcock. Information about the case on the Michigan Municipal League website. (Submitted on August 5, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.)
Credits. This page was last revised on August 5, 2019. It was originally submitted on August 5, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan. This page has been viewed 82 times since then and 20 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on August 5, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.