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Royal Oak is a city in Oakland Countymarker of the U.S. state of Michiganmarker. It is a suburb of Detroitmarker. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 60,062. It should not be confused with Royal Oak Charter Townshipmarker, a separate community located nearby. It is the 5th largest city in Oakland Countymarker and the 18th largest city in the U.S. state of Michiganmarker.

The images pictured at right are (from top, clockwise) downtown Royal Oak looking north towards 11 Mile Road, the National Shrine of the Little Flowermarker church, the Rackham Memorial Fountain at the Detroit Zoomarker, and the Woodward Dream Cruise.


Royal Oak was incorporated as a village in 1891, and as a city in 1921. The city's name originates in 1819, from one of Territorial Governor Lewis Cass' expeditions surveying land. A tree located near the present day intersection of Crooks, Rochester, and Main reminded Cass of the Royal Oak tree within which King Charles II of England hid to escape the Roundheads following the Battle of Worcestermarker.

In the 1920s, Charles Coughlin became Father of Shrine of the Little Flowermarker, a prominent landmark in the city. In 1926, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on the lawn of the original wooden church, and Coughlin used the incident to launch radio broadcasts on station WJRmarker. Through this publicity he raised enough money to build the current limestone complex and tower from which he aired his radio show thereafter. He built a large following; however, in the late 30s Coughlin's broadcasts became increasingly controversial eventually leading to his removal from the air in 1939.

On November 14, 1991, Thomas McIlvane killed five people, including himself, with a Ruger .22 caliber rifle in Royal Oak's post office, which was one of a string of incidents across the United States in which current or recently fired postal workers attacked and killed co-workers en masse, leading to the phrase "going postal."

Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, Royal Oak's downtown grew into an entertainment and nightlife destination. A number of large condominiums and lofts were built throughout the downtown and industrial areas. Though the economy took a downturn in 2006, the area remains an attractive area for young professionals and families.


The past decade has seen much in the way of development as the city's downtown has been transformed into a trendy and urban-chic restaurant, shopping, and entertainment district. Construction is underway on a number of high-rise building developments — mostly condo "lofts" with retail and office space on the lower levels. Points of interest include the Detroit Zoomarker, the renowned William Beaumont Hospital, the Royal Oak Music Theatre, the Main Art Theatre, the Baldwin Theatre, Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle, and the many unique shops, cafes, and restaurants which line the streets of the downtown area. In addition, the offices of Hour Detroit, a Metro Detroit lifestyle magazine, are located in the city. Royal Oak still has some edgier retail establishments, a few chain restaurants, dozens of unique restaurants and many new condominium projects.

The National Arbor Day Foundation has awarded Royal Oak the distinction of "Tree City USA" every year since 1976 due to the city's commitment to tree planting and preservation.

In 1998, the foundation of famous Saturday Night Live comedian and Detroit-area native Gilda Radner created a free cancer support community for people with cancer, their families, and friends. Gilda's Club Metro Detroit operates a three-story non-residential house in Royal Oak and has welcomed more than 3,000 members for social and emotional support and fun activities.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.8 square miles (30.6 km²), of which, 11.8 square miles (30.6 km²) is land and none of it is covered by water.

Royal Oak once had a river, the Red Run. Around 1967-1968 it was buried in a 6-foot drain pipe.


As of the census of 2000, there were 60,062 people, 28,880 households, and 14,440 families residing in the city. The population density was 5,083.0 people per square mile (1,961.9/km²). There were 29,942 housing units at an average density of 2,534.0 per square mile (978.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 94.80% White, 1.54% African American, 0.26% Native American, 1.56% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.38% from other races, and 1.40% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.30% of the population.

There were 28,880 households out of which 20.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.9% were married couples living together, 7.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.0% were non-families. 40.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.06 and the average family size was 2.86.

In the city the population was spread out with 17.8% under the age of 18, 7.5% from 18 to 24, 38.8% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 14.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 95.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $52,252, and the median income for a family was $68,109. Males had a median income of $50,562 versus $36,392 for females. The per capita income for the city was $30,990. About 2.0% of families and 4.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.4% of those under age 18 and 5.5% of those age 65 or over.


The city is served by Royal Oak Neighborhood Schools. It contains a location of Oakland Community College.There is also a private high school, Shrine Catholic, not operated by the city.

In recent years Royal Oak has begun to consolidate its public schools in response to enrollment levels that are lower than those of the baby boom era. In 2006, the city's two public high schools were combined into a new Royal Oak High Schoolmarker. Beginning in 2007, the city's two middle schools were combined into one school, named Royal Oak Middle School. Finally the total number of elementary schools was reduced to six. Some parents protested the planned closure and demolition of Longfellow and Whittier elementary schools and were seeking to have them considered for historic district recognition by way of signed petition. Despite their efforts, both schools, as well as a number of other former elementary schools, were demolished in the fall of 2007.


The U.S. post office in Royal Oak
Royal Oak utilizes the Council-Manager form of government, and is governed by a city commission consisting of a mayor and six commission members. The city commission appoints a city manager, who manages the day-to-day operations of the city. The current city manager is Donald E. Johnson.

The current mayor of Royal Oak is Jim Ellison. Current city commissioners are Michael Andrzejak, Terry Drinkwine, Carlo P Ginotti, Gary Lelito & Charles Semchena, Jr. Patricia Capello, David Poulton and Jim Rasor were elected on Nov 3, 2009 to replace Ginotti and Lelito who did not run for re-election and to fill a seat that has been vacant for several months. They will be seated on Dec. 7.


Royal Oak train platform

Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Royal Oak, operating its three times daily in both directions between Pontiacmarker, Michiganmarker and Chicagomarker, Illinoismarker via Detroitmarker.

Commuter rail service was once provided by Grand Trunk Western Railroad (GTW) and later Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority (SEMTA) from Pontiacmarker, Michiganmarker to downtown Detroitmarker with a stop in Royal Oak. This service ended on October 17, 1983 after subsidies were discontinued. Efforts continue to this day to restore such commuter service.

Class one freight rail service is provided by Canadian National Railway (CN).

Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) operates local and regional bus transit.

Highways: There is an interchange connecting interstate highways I-75 and I-696 in the southeast corner of the city. Woodward Avenue (state highway M-1) is about a mile west of the interchange in the southeast corner of the city. Woodward proceeds northwest defining the western border of the city, and intersects with the north-south Coolidge Highway just south of 13 Mile Road. Additionally, the southern terminus of Rochester Road is about 1 mile north of the downtown district, where it angles off from Main street, just south of the location of the "Royal Oak" tree mentioned above, and connects Royal Oak with Rochestermarker, Michiganmarker, although the road itself continues on far beyond the city of Rochester. This road used to also be the route of an early 1900s electric trolley line which connected downtown Royal Oak with downtown Rochester.



In addition to the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, regional newspapers serving all of southeast Michigan, the city is served by the Daily Tribune, the Royal Oak Review, and the Mirror.

The popular 1990s sitcom Home Improvement is set in Royal Oak. In one episode, Tim is pulled over on a traffic stop by a police officer wearing a Royal Oak Police Department shoulder patch.

In 2008, two movies were filmed in Royal Oak. Scenes from Prayers for Bobby and Gran Torino were filmed in the downtown area.

In 2009, the remake of Red Dawn had several scenes filmed in Royal Oak neighborhoods.

The independent record label Psychopathic Records is located in Royal Oak.


Looking south to 11 Mile Rd and Main St
Downtown Royal Oak features a wide assortment of nightlife venues, including The Royal Oak Music Theatre and The Landmark Main Art Theatre. Also notable is Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle, a club which hosts local and national comedians, and was an early stomping ground of famed performers such as Tim Allen and Dave Coulier. The many restaurants range in fare from take-out sandwiches to high-end establishments specializing in cuisines like Italian, Belgian, Nepali, and others. A variety of pubs are also available and include biker bars, dance clubs, upscale breweries, sports bars, and rooftop bars.

During the summer, downtown Royal Oak becomes host to hordes of motorcycle enthusiasts from around the metro Detroit area. Wednesday nights Main Street is often lined with Harley-Davidsons, whereas Thursday night the streets fill up with sport bikes.

While Royal Oak's nightlife has attracted its share of celebrities, such as Kid Rock and Bob Seger's manager Punch Andrews, it has also attracted a few famous celebrity crimes, such as hockey star Sergei Fedorov in September 2001 for failing a breathalyzer test, and Eminem in June 2000 for gun possession.

In 1999 Meg White of the White Stripes was a day bartender for two years at the downtown bar Memphis Smoke. Years later, Jack White's ex- girlfriend Renée Zellweger was known to stop in at Memphis Smoke for carry-out. During the 2005 Detroit Lions football season, 2004 Playboy Playmate of the year, Carmella DeCesare lived in a downtown, upscale loft with her boyfriend Jeff Garcia. She was known for calling into local Detroit sports radio stations and complaining about local reporters' treatment of Garcia.

Notable citizens

See also


  2. Consolidation Information | Royal Oak Neighborhood Schools
  4. Government Overview, City of Royal Oak. Accessed 2008-05-02

External links

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