A community situated in the lower Detroit River
Wyandotte is located in southeastern Michigan, approximately 11 miles south of Detroit on the Detroit River, and is part of the collection of communities known as Downriver. The population was 25,883 at the 2010 census.
Originally founded as a village in 1854 (deeded by John Biddle to Eber Ward, et al. on December 12, 1854), Wyandotte was incorporated as a city, and granted a charter by the State of Michigan, on December 12, 1866, with the first city election held in April 1867 (the second oldest incorporated city in Wayne County outside of Detroit.
Captain Eber Brock Ward used a high-quality grade of iron ore (known as "Superior") from the recently opened Marquette Range in the Upper Peninsula, and smelted it into the first Bessemer Steel commercially cast in America, using the patented Bessemer process. In 1865, the process created steel rails and allowed an explosion of iron-related businesses to open in the region. As a result, Detroit soon became a major center of iron production, especially for use in stoves. (Wyandotte was home to several companies as well, including the Regeant Stove Co.) It would be this technology that would give Henry Ford from nearby Dearborn the capabilities to create large amounts of steel for his automobile assembly lines.
John S. Van Alstyne, General Manager for Eber Ward of both the Eureka Iron & Steel Works and the associated Wyandotte Rolling Mills, laid out the master plan for the city. This plan was frequently called the "Philadelphia Plan", with streets laid out on a north/south and east/west grid. Streets going along one axis were named after native plants and trees; the streets running away from the river, into the interior, were simply numbered. Van Alstyne was elected as the city's first mayor in 1867. He would also go on to found the Wyandotte Savings Bank in 1871, which was housed in the Main Office building of the Eureka Iron Works (which still stands at the southwest corner of Biddle and Elm; though greatly remodeled it remains the oldest building in the city today). Eureka Iron Works prospered through the late 19th century but suffered a shortage of raw materials. It closed in 1892, but not before Wyandotte became a major hub in the chemical production industry, possible because of the many salt mines deep below the city.
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