Last Friday, November 20th, was the annual Christmas tree lighting at Campus Martius. Thousands of people from metro Detroit gathered at Campus Martius in order to witness the lighting of the 60 foot Christmas tree. This event is more than just a lighting of a miraculous tree; it signifies the community of Detroit coming together. This is just one example of how Campus Martius unites and connects the city of Detroit. Throughout history, Campus Martius has been a representation of the city of Detroit and its people by being a public gathering place. .
In 1805, the city of Detroit was demolished in a fire that leveled the city in one afternoon (Campus Martius Official Website). Detroiters had two options, rebuild the city or migrate to a different promising city. The decision was clear. This disaster gave Detroit and its people the opportunity to create an identity for themselves. Territorial Judge Augustus Woodward created a street plan to rebuild Detroit. Like Washington D.C., the plan included diagonal streets that radiated like the spokes of a wheel (Campus Martius Official Website). Before he started, Judge Woodward gathered the best surveyors from Canada in order to find the true center of the city. They placed their instruments and astronomical devices on the summit of a huge stone. He then viewed the planets and meteors in order to determine "true North." Today, we still call this the "Point of Origin," marked by a medallion embedded in the stone walkway. The city was built around this specific point. Campus Martius is both symbolically and geographically at the center of the city.
Campus Martius was not always as popular as it is today. In fact, that piece of land was low and marshy and very undesirable at that time. It started out as a drill ground for militia training (Campus Martius Official Website). Detroit was heavily involved in the Civil war, and Campus Martius's role represents the city's commitment to the war.