Detroit’s ‘Point of Origin’ gets historical showcase

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit — The late morning sun was blazing across Campus Martius Park and jets in the park’s central fountain were throwing water into the sky, but all eyes were on the ground looking into a hole where a special stone sat to mark Detroit’s point of origin.

On Monday, marking the 15th anniversary of the groundbreaking for Campus Martius Park, members of the Downtown Detroit Partnership unveiled a new plaza showcasing Detroit’s “Point of Origin.”

That’s the place where, after Detroit’s fire of 1805, surveyors under the direction of Chief Judge Augustus Woodward of the Michigan Territory placed their instruments and astronomical devices on top of a large stone to lay out Detroit’s streets, squares and lots.

It is at this point the City of Detroit was created.

This point was marked by a six-foot-tall granite post, which is buried about four feet down into the ground at the intersection of Woodward and Michigan avenues, right in the front doorway of Parc, a restaurant in Campus Martius Park. It is covered by a round piece of glass that is level with the park ground. Around the glass is a metal frame and the words Point of Origin.

Edsel B. Ford II, former chairman of the Detroit 300 Conservancy and creator of Campus Martius Park, said on Monday that Detroit is home and where families have come to make a better life and remains a focal point of our lives, no matter what ZIP code one resides in.

“So we are here today ... making another moment: The Point of Origin,” Ford said. “Campus Martius Park has exceeded all our expectations. It stands as a witness to who we are as Detroiters. A place where we can gather and celebrate all that our community offers.”

Robert F. Gregory, chief public spaces officer with the Downtown Detroit Partnership, said he is proud of and excited about the new plaza as well as the opportunity for people to understand more about Detroit’s history.

“The stone has always been there. We took it out only back when we were building the park for only about six months. But it’s always been there,” Gregory said. “That stone is in the same place it was put in in the 1800s.”

Jeanette Pierce, founder and executive director of the Detroit Experience Factory, was thrilled to see the new plaza and Point of Origin open for viewing after the spot was covered up during the winter and for final construction of the new plaza.

Pierce, whose company has taken 100,000 people around Detroit, said she always starts her Detroit tours at the Point of Origin.

“But for a while, we have not been able to show them the actual spot. So it’s so exciting to have this reopened and have a beautiful space to really showcase that example of Detroit’s rebirth many times over,” Pierce said.

Olga Stella, a Detroit resident and executive director of Design CORE Detroit, wanted a closer look at the stone, so she laid her iPhone down on the glass and took some photos of the gray rock.

“I think it’s wonderful. It’s a really important historical marker not just for our city but for all the states that are part of the Northwest Territories. It’s important for people to understand the relevance Detroit has had in Michigan’s history,” she said.