A tavern was established in the area in 1820. Farmers settled in the area thereafter.
Formerly Known As:
Ferndale, Michigan was almost called “Urbanrest”
Back in the early 1800s, an Indian trail ran north from Fort Detroit. The thoroughfare grew, becoming a raised military trail made from wooden planks that ran between Fort Detroit and Saginaw Bay. It eventually became known as “Wood” ward and became one of the main spokes of Detroit’s hub-and-spoke design.
It wasn’t until 1820 that a tavern sprouted up along Woodward in what would eventually become known as Ferndale. The area immediately surrounding the tavern, however, was filled with bogs and swamps that required a rowboat for navigation. The area also sported more than 40 varieties of indigenous ferns – hence the name “Fern”dale assigned to the village and city when they were established in 1918 and 1927 respectively.
Ferndale’s growth was directly related to the draining of its swamps and its proximity to roads and transportation, including the Inter-urban, an electric train that ran parallel to Woodward Avenue from 1890 through the 1920s. Additionally, Woodward Avenue was the first road in Detroit to sport cars and get paved. In fact, the first traffic signal in the area, the Crow’s Nest, was set up at the intersection of Woodward Avenue and Nine Mile Road. Of course, the Ford Plant in nearby Highland Park helped along the population. By the 1940s, downtown Ferndale was thriving and remained that way until its decline in the 1970s.
Following an influx of gays and lesbians from Palmer Park in the 1980s and the re-emergence of nearby Royal Oak as a trendy shopping destination, a deliberate attempt was made by Ferndale businesses and residents in the 1990s to revive Ferndale’s downtown area. In addition to adding new roads, Nine Mile Road was narrowed to give it sidewalks and parking, zoning restrictions were loosened and art was commissioned, including artist Shan Sutherland’s interpretation of The Crow’s Nest, a traffic tower that stood at the intersection of Woodward Avenue and Nine Mile Road until 1928.
Funky and Fabulous:
Today, Ferndale is Fabulous and Funky with an eclectic population and selection of restaurants, stores and clubs. It purposely shuns the affluence and trendiness of nearby Royal Oak and Birmingham. In fact, the head of Ferndale’s Downtown Development Authority was quoted by the Detroit News in 2002 as saying, “We want to be real, urban and unpretentious.” There is a relatively large gay population in Ferndale. In fact, Ferndale elected Michigan’s first openly gay mayor, Craig Covery, in 2007 and hosts the Motor City Pride festival in the summer.
The median age of Ferndale residents is in the low 30s. In 2004, the residents were evenly split along political party lines. Ferndale residents have a higher-than-state-average median income and percentage of residents who work in the “professional, scientific and technical” professions. In spite of the downtown resurgence over the last decade, Ferndale’s population has steadily declined. Ferndale also has a larger than average gay/lesbian population, a fact that is reflected in the city’s average household size.
Ferndale is nothing if not eclectic. No one style or word describes the variety of establishments that make up its downtown. In addition to several shops specializing in resale merchandise, such as books (Library Bookstore), music (New to You Music), vintage clothing (Mother Fletchers) and collectibles (American Pop!), furniture stores abound (Contempo Home and Elegance by Design). Ferndale also has several specialty markets, including Natural Food Patch, Western Market and Ferndale Foods. Other unique establishments include The Twisted Shamrock, Just-4-Us, Bubble and Bark and Ferndale Glass.
Downtown Ferndale has over 20 restaurants serving just about every cuisine imaginable from organic to Indian. The truly fabulous thing about Ferndale is that many of the restaurants are not part of a chain, but privately owned and operated. It makes for a unique dining experience from people with a stake in the dining experience. Here are just a few:
- Maria’s Front Room (Italian)
- Blue Nile (Ethiopian/vegetarian)
- Nami Sushi Bar
- Angel’s Café (European)
- Josephine’s (Crepes)
- Star of India
- Starving Artist (Vegetarian menu)
- Le Soups!
Ferndale also hosts many types of clubs, bars and night-time entertainment, including neighborhood bars, dance clubs, GLBT bars, Irish pubs, concert halls and folk dances:
- AJ’s Music Café – Home to the three-day “Danny Boy” Marathon
- Boogie Fever – Dance club
- Bosco – Modern and trendy bar
- Club Bart – Hosts live entertainment
- Como’s (GLBT)
- Danny’s Irish Pub
- Magic Bag – Concert hall/music club that features brew/movie nights and a marquee of national and local acts
- New Way Bar – Showcases local bands
- Q -- Dance club with an eclectic clientele
- Woodward Avenue Brewery -- Neighborhood bar/brew pub
- Ferndale’s Craig Covery is the state’s first openly gay mayor
- The city plays host to the Motor City Pride festival
- Ferndale is home to Affirmations, a non-profit organization that helps “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals find and develop community where we value and respect ourselves and others.”
- Motor City Pride
- The Woodward Dream Cruise with unique Ferndale Dream Cruise events
- The Ferndale Funky Art Fest
- Ice Festival
- Memorial Day Parade
- Relay for Life
- The Castle on the Nine was home to Youth, Inc. during the depression, a club that offered classes and social activities
- In 1920, Ferndale made Ripley’s Believe It or Not as having more children per capital than any other town in the nation.
- Rodger’s Dutch Mill Restaurant (1928)
- Radio City Theatre (1937)
- Hedge’s Wigwam Restaurant