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Ypsilanti ( , , commonly shortened to Ypsi, but often mispronounced yĭp′·sĭ·lăn′·tē by outsiders) is a city in Washtenaw Countymarker in the U.S. state of Michiganmarker. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 22,362. The city is bounded to the north by the Charter Township of Superiormarker and on the west, south, and east by the Charter Township of Ypsilantimarker.

The geographic grid center of Ypsilanti is the intersection of the Huron River and Michigan Avenue, the latter of which connects downtown Detroit, Michiganmarker with Chicago, Illinoismarker, and through Ypsilanti is coextensive with U.S. Route 12 Business.

On July 23, 2007 Governor Jennifer Granholm announced that Ypsilanti, along with the cities of Caromarker and Cliomarker, was chosen by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) to take part in the Blueprints for Michigan's Downtowns program. The award provides for an economic development consultant to assist Ypsilanti in developing a growth and job creation strategy for the downtown area.


Originally a trading post established in 1809 by Gabriel Godfroy, a French-Canadian fur trader from Montrealmarker, a permanent settlement was established on the east side of the Huron River in 1823 by Major Thomas Woodruff. It was incorporated into the Territory of Michigan as the village Woodruff's Grove. A separate community a short distance away on the west side of the river was established in 1825 under the name "Ypsilanti", after Demetrius Ypsilanti, a hero in the Greek War of Independence. Woodruff's Grove changed its name to Ypsilanti in 1829, and the two communities eventually merged.

A bust of Demetrius Ypsilanti stands between a Greek and a US flag at the base of the landmark Ypsilanti Water Towermarker.
Bust of Demetrius Ypsilanti at the Ypsilanti Water Tower

  • 1809 - Trading post established by French-Canadian Gabriel Godfroy from Montreal
  • 1823 - Woodruff's Grove platted
  • April 21, 1825 - Plat recorded under the name Ypsilanti
  • 1827 - Ypsilanti Township organized
  • June 19, 1832 - Village of Ypsilanti incorporated
  • 1849 - Eastern Michigan Universitymarker founded as Michigan State Normal School
  • February 4, 1858 - Village of Ypsilanti reincorporated as a city
  • 1890 - Michigan's first Interurban, the Ypsi-Ann, begins service
  • 1967-1969 - Ypsilanti resident John Norman Collins is suspected of being the perpetrator of the Michigan murders, a series of murders of coeds at the University of Michiganmarker and Eastern Michigan University. He was convicted in 1969, but of only one of the murders.

Automotive history

Ypsilanti has played an important role in the automobile industry. From 1920-1922, Apex Motors produced the "ACE" car. It was in Ypsilanti that Preston Tucker (whose family owned the Ypsilanti Machine Tool Company) designed and built the prototypes for his Tucker Torpedo car. Tucker's story was related in the film Tucker: The Man and His Dream, directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

In 1945, Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph W. Frazer bought the nearby Willow Runmarker B-24 Liberator bomber plant from Ford Motor Company, and started to make Kaiser and Frazer model cars in 1947. The last Kaiser car made in Ypsilanti rolled off the assembly line in 1953, when the company merged with Willys-Overland and moved production to Toledo, Ohiomarker. General Motors purchased the Kaiser Frazer plant, and converted it into its Hydramatic Division (now called its Powertrain division), beginning production in November 1953.

Ypsilanti is also the location of the last Hudson automobile dealership. Today, the former dealership is the site of the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum. The museum is the home to an original Fabulous Hudson Hornet race car, which inspired the character "Doc Hudson" in the recent animated film Cars developed by Pixar.

Political history

In the early 1970s, along with neighboring city of Ann Arbormarker, the citizens reduced the penalty for the use and sale of marijuana to $5 (the Ypsilanti Marijuana Initiative; see also the Human Rights Party). This fine was raised in the early 1980s to $25 in both Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.

In 1979, Faz Husain was elected to the Ypsilanti city council, the first Muslim and the first native of India to win elected office in Michigan.

In the 1990s Ypsilanti became the first city in Michigan to pass a living wage ordinance.

In the late 1990s, the city adopted an ordinance to ban discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity/transgender status, body weight (i.e., being obese or underweight). Two ballot measures to repeal the ordinance were led and bankrolled by conservatives, including Tom Monaghan. Both measures failed, the second by a larger percentage than the first.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.5 sq mi (11.7 km²). 4.4 sq mi (11.4 km²) of it is land and 0.1 sq mi (0.3 km²) is water. The total area is 2.45% water. The Huron River flows through both the City of Ypsilanti and the Charter Township of Ypsilanti.

Ypsilanti is located at , in the western reaches of the Detroit/Windsor metropolitan area. Suburban development between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, via Washtenaw Avenue and Packard Road, has been unbroken since the late 1960s.


As of the census of 2000, there were 22,362 people, 8,551 households, and 3,377 families residing in the city. The population density was 5,081.5 per square mile (1,962.3/km²). There were 9,215 housing units at an average density of 2,094.0/sq mi (808.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 61.40% White, 30.58% African American, 0.44% Native American, 3.18% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 1.32% from other races, and 3.01% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.47% of the population. 13.6% were of German, 6.8% Irish, 6.4% English and 5.5% Polish ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 8,551 households out of which 19.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 23.0% were married couples living together, 13.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 60.5% were non-families. 40.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.15 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the city the population was spread out with 15.9% under the age of 18, 38.2% from 18 to 24, 26.4% from 25 to 44, 12.4% from 45 to 64, and 7.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 24 years. For every 100 females there were 89.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $28,610, and the median income for a family was $40,793. Males had a median income of $30,328 versus $26,745 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,692. About 16.9% of families and 25.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.1% of those under age 18 and 15.3% of those age 65 or over.


K-12 education

Ypsilanti Public Schools serve residents of the city, as well as parts of Ypsilanti Township.

Higher education

University Park on EMU campus.
A college town, Ypsilanti is home to Eastern Michigan University, founded in 1849 as Michigan State Normal School. Today, EMU has 22,000+ undergraduate and more than 4800 graduate students. The college is vital to the commercial landscape of the city and keeps the median age in Ypsilanti relatively low.


It has been said that Ypsilanti is the Brooklyn to Ann Arbor's Manhattan. Comparable to the gentrification causing many artists, poets, musicians, and hipsters to flee the Lower East Sidemarker of Manhattanmarker in New York Citymarker to areas like Bushwickmarker, nearby Ann Arbor has experienced massive increases in land value and taxes over the last several decades. Despite Ann Arbor's reputation in the region as a bohemian cultural center, many creative people have been driven out of the city to Ypsilanti due to these changes. A vibrant, underground arts scene has begun to emerge as a result. This community gathers semiannually at the juried Shadow Art Fair held at The Corner Brewery.

Since 1979, the city has become known for summer festivals in the part of the city called "Depot Townmarker," which is adjacent to both Riverside and Frog Island Parks along the banks of the Huron River. Festivals include the annual Heritage Festival, the Elvis Festival, the Orphan Car Festival, the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival, and a Latino festival.

RANDY, by Fay Kleinman, Ypsilanti District Library collection
Overlooking Riverside Park is the non-profit Riverside Arts Center. Established in 1994 through the efforts of the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority and several public spirited citizens, the Riverside boasts a 115 seat black box theater, a sizeable art gallery and some meeting rooms and offices. In 2006 the adjacent DTE building was renovated with "Cool Cities Initiative" money and is in the process of being incorporated into the center's activities.

Domino's Pizza was founded in Ypsilanti in 1960 near the campus of Eastern Michigan University.

Fay Kleinman, the internationally recognized painter, moved to Ypsilanti in the late 1980s with her husband, the pianist Emanuel Levenson.

Author Kurt Vonnegut has a chapter titled "Girl From Ypsilanti" in his 2005 book A Man Without a Country

In music

  • The Ypsilanti City Council declared Lee Osler's "Back To Ypsilanti" the city's official song in 1983.

  • Iggy Pop grew up in the Coachville trailer park on Carpenter Road in Pittsfield Townshipmarker (Ypsilanti) during his teenage years at the start of his music career.

  • Ypsilanti is the subject of Sufjan Stevens' song, "For The Widows In Paradise, For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti", on his 2003 album Michigan.

  • A portrait of jazz guitarist Randy Napoleon, painted by his grandmother, Fay Kleinman, is part of the permanent art collection of the Ypsilanti District Library. Napoleon performed his first public gig as leader at the age of twelve under a tent at the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival, an event sponsored by WEMUmarker radio.

  • Noise musicians Wolf Eyes hail from Ypsilanti.

  • Joe Henry performed "Ypsilanti", an instrumental track included on the Loudon Wainwright III album, "Strange Weirdos: Music From and Inspired by the Film Knocked Up" (2007). It is purported that Joe Henry formerly lived in Ypsilanti.

  • Daniel May's 'Girl From Ypsilanti', from the Fight Club soundtrack.

  • The president of the Motown Alumni Association Billy J. Wilson was raised throughout the city and township. Wilson also played bass guitar for stars such as Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Contours, Marv Johnson, Valerie Barrymore and the Foundation of Funk, and other superstar artists of the Motown era, along with a group titled Bigfoot. The Ypsilanti based group also had a drummer Stevie Bray that went on to produce mega star Madonna.

  • Musician Elvis Costello references Ypsilanti in his song "Sulphur to Sugarcane" from his 2009 album Secret, Profane & Sugarcane. The lyric goes as follows: "The women in Poughkeepsie take their clothes off when they´re tipsy / But I hear in Ypsilanti they don´t wear any panties"

  • Musician, author, performance artist, and puppeteer Patrick Elkins hails from Ypsilanti.

  • Noted harpsichord maker John Challis originated in Ypsilanti.

Sites of interest

Ypsilanti has the second largest contiguous historic district in the state of Michigan, behind only the much larger city of Grand Rapidsmarker. The historic district includes both downtown Ypsilanti, along Michigan Avenue, and the Depot Town area adjacent to Frog Island Park and Riverside Park, which features many specialty shops, bars and grills, and a farmers' market.

The Ypsilanti Water Tower, adjacent to the campus of Eastern Michigan University, holds the unique distinction of being the winner of the Most Phallic Building contest.

Other sites of interest include:
  • Ypsilanti District Library
  • Ypsilanti Historical Museummarker (housed in a Victorian-style mansion built in 1860)
  • Automotive Heritage Museum
  • Michigan Firehouse Museum
  • Ypsilanti Water Tower (built in 1890)
  • First United Methodist Church
  • Highland Cemetery
  • Pease Auditorium (on the campus of Eastern Michigan University)
  • Starkweather Hall, built in 1896 as a student religious center (currently housing EMU Honors College)

Local media

Ypsilanti is served by daily newspapers from Detroit. Ypsilanti once had its own daily newspaper, the Ypsilanti Press, but that paper closed in the early 1990s. Upon closing, the Press sold its masthead, archives and subscriber list to the Ann Arbor News, which then began publishing an Ypsilanti edition. The Ann Arbor News ceased publication on July 23, 2009; it was replaced by a new Internet-based news operation,, which also produces print editions on Thursdays and Sundays. A weekly newspaper, the Ypsilanti Courier, is published every Thursday by Heritage Newspapers from their Belleville, MImarker offices. The are two Internet-based news outlets that cover local Ypsilanti news, sports and politics., which started in August 2006, and the Ypsilanti Citizen which started in November 2008.

Local radio stations include:
  • WEMU FMmarker (89.1 FM), a public radio station, which broadcasts jazz and blues music and NPR news from Eastern Michigan University
  • WQBR (610 AM carrier-current and University Cable Channel 10), EMU's student-run radio station
  • WDEO (990 AM), a Catholic religious radio station targeting the Detroit area
  • WSDS (1480 AM), licensed to nearby Salem and a former longtime country-music station, now broadcasts Spanish-language popular music as "La Explosiva" and has studios in Ypsilanti.
  • WAAMmarker (1600 AM), a Talk and News station serving Washtenaw County. Broadcasting local talk, sports and music shows. Owned by First Broadcasting.
  • AM1700 (1700 AM), Radio AM1700 broadcasts from high atop the Martha Washington Theatre (currently known as the Deja Vu) in Downtown Ypsilanti.



  • I-94 bypasses the city to the south.

US highways
  • US 12 travels east to Detroit and west toward Chicago; it runs concurrently with I-94 from exit 181 to the west of the city to exit 185 to the east of the city.
  • US 23 passes just west of the city.

  • BUS US 12 is a loop route through downtown Ypsilanti.

Michigan State Trunklines
  • M-17 connects Ypsilanti with nearby Ann Arbor.


Ypsilanti is often shortened to "Ypsi," particularly in spoken conversation and local/regional usage.

Because a large number of residents or their ancestors migrated from Appalachia, certain neighborhoods (particularly on the far east side of the city and into Ypsilanti Township) are sometimes called "Ypsitucky." Harriet Arnow's book The Dollmaker, which was made into a film starring Jane Fonda, focused on the lives of these "Ypsituckians."

Recently, the use of the term "Ypsitucky" has come under increased scrutiny due to its historically derogatory connotation. In 2008, the issue was raised after a dinner being held in Ann Arbor to honor Harriette Arnow was described as an "Ypsitucky Supper" in some of the event organizer's media releases. In 2009, planning began for the "Ypsitucky Jamboree," a new music festival celebrating bluegrass music to be held in Ypsilanti in September 2009; this resulted in objections from some area residents and ultimately the City Council, leading to renaming the event as simply "The Jamboree."

Sister cities

See also



External links

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