Black Bottom, Detroit
Black Bottom was a predominantly black neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan, that was demolished and replaced with Lafayette Park in the 1960s. The Black Bottom–Paradise Valley area on the city's east side became known for its significant contribution to American music including Blues, Big Band, and Jazz from the 1930s to the 1950s. It was located on Detroit's near East side bounded by Gratiot Avenue, Brush Street, Vernor Highway, and the Grand Trunk railroad tracks.
The area's main commercial avenues were Hastings and St. Antoine streets. An adjacent north-bordering area known as Paradise Valley contained night clubs where famous Blues, Big Band, and Jazz artists such as Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstine, Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, and Count Basie regularly performed. In 1941, the city's Orchestra Hall was named Paradise Theatre. Aretha Franklin's father, the Reverend C. L. Franklin, first opened his New Bethel Baptist Church on Hastings Street. Hastings Street, which ran north-south through Black Bottom, had been an area populated by immigrants before World War I. With ethnic succession, by the 1950s it became an African-American community of black-owned business, social institutions, and night clubs. Historically, this area was the source of the River Savoyard, which was buried as a sewer in 1836. Its "bottomland" and rich marsh soils are the source of the name "Black Bottom". Detroit's Broadway Avenue Historic District contains a sub-district sometimes called the Harmonie Park District which has taken on the renowned legacy of Detroit's music from the 1930s through the 1950s and into the present.
Black Bottom endured the Great Depression, with many of its residents working in factories. Following World War II, the physical structures of Black Bottom were in need of replacement. In the early 1960s, the City of Detroit demolished the Black Bottom district as part of an urban renewal project. The area was replaced by the Chrysler Freeway (Interstate 75) and Lafayette Park, a residential development designed by Mies van der Rohe and intended as a model neighborhood. It combined residential townhouses, apartments and high-rises with commercial areas. Many of the residents relocated to large public housing projects such as the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects Homes and Jeffries Homes.