Corktown has been in the news a lot lately as one of the most up-and-coming neighborhoods in the country, let alone the Detroit region. And now the area has become even more popular due to Ford Motor Company buying the abandoned Michigan Central Station and promising to build a campus right in Corktown.
It’s a place that is on the rebound and has a definite sense of identity and community. Sure, it’s part of Detroit, but much like the storied neighborhoods in New York or Chicago, Corktown has an identity of its own.
The area has a long history as Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, with “1834” emblazoned proudly on the signs. The name, some say, refers to County Cork in Ireland, as many of the early residents were immigrants after the potato famine.
Busy-ness on Michigan Avenue
Just a few years ago, Michigan Avenue had more boards than businesses, but now, it’s not just the well-known Slow’s Bar BQ in the shadow of the old Michigan Central Station (which should be back in its prime in no time–thanks Ford!). Joining Slow’s on Michigan Avenue alone, you have restaurants and bars such as Astro Coffee, Mercury Burger & Bar, LJ’s Lounge, Ottava Via, PJ’s Lager House, Two James Spirits, Takoi and Gold Cash Gold, not to mention a host of other restaurants underway. The strip also includes shops such as El Dorado General Store.
But here’s the more encouraging sign: there’s much more to Corktown than one strip.
There are neighborhood streets lined with homes from another era mixed with some new development, which although not all grand in size, are generally well kept up and some of the cutest places you will find anywhere. Folks travel from downtown and points farther to Mudgie’s, which is a Corktown neighborhood anchor with some of the best sandwiches in the city. Another popular gathering spot is Batch Brewing Co. down the street from Michigan Avenue, serving elevated pub cuisine and beer brewed on the premises. The Trumbull & Porter hotel is quickly gathering a reputation as a great boutique hotel, but also a great hangout spot for tourists and locals alike. Their courtyard has cornhole, fire pits, lounge chairs and a great restaurant to enjoy your evening at.
The critically acclaimed Lady of the House is one of the restaurant stars of the neighborhood, and nearby Folk is a favorite breakfast spot among quirky locals.
Corktown’s Ethnic Emphasis
When it comes to spiritual life, the historic Catholic roots of the community are part of the neighborhood to this day. St. Anne’s, the second oldest continuously operating Catholic parish in America, established two days after Antoine De La Mothe Cadillac founded the city of Detroit (however, the current building is not from 1701, but 1886), serves not only Corktown but parts of southwest Detroit as well due to its location.
But it’s not alone. Most Holy Trinity Church on the east side of the neighborhood was founded in 1834. It’s the oldest English-speaking Catholic parish in Detroit, as the previously mentioned St. Anne’s originally performed mass in French. Here’s an interesting fact about Most Holy Trinity: you can get your marriage vows read in Maltese.
The Maltese community has also been a part of the history of Corktown. If you get your car fixed at the Mobil auto repair shop on Michigan Avenue and talk to the owner, you may find not only that he’s part Maltese but also that he grew up in the neighborhood, just across from the train station.
Ponyride, a business incubator, provides a home for multiple creative businesses. Many times, the nationally recognized Detroit Soup, which raises microgrants for local projects, holds their events in the neighborhood.
There’s still a lot of work to be done in the area, but it’s made a lot of progress in the last ten years as part of a greater downtown Detroit revival.
In short, Corktown is not only a place to visit, but a place more and more Detroiters are proud to call home.
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