Poletown is a section of
Detroit, Michiganbordering the enclave city of Hamtramck, Michigan. The area was named after the Polish immigrants who originally lived in the area. The residential neighborhood was destroyed in 1981 and the residents relocated by the city of Detroit, claiming eminent domain in order to make way for an automobile plant. [ [http://info.detnews.com/history/story/index.cfm?id=18&category=business Auto plant vs. neighborhood: The Poletown battle] by Jenny Nolan of the "Detroit News"]
First settled in the 1870s when the first waves of Polish immigrants came to Detroit, Poletown was the heart of Detroit's Polish community for many years. The nucleus of the community was the St. Albertus Catholic Church, which opened in 1873 and closed in 1990. Poletown experienced its greatest period of growth during the 1920s and 1930s as thousands of Polish immigrants came to Detroit in search of jobs in auto plants and the slaughterhouses that were in the area. Poletown was not only home to Poles, but was home to
Italiansand Blacks. During the 1950s and 60s however, Poletown fell on hard times as freeway construction and urban renewal projects destroyed the neighborhood.
In 1981 the neighborhood was cleared to make way for the construction of the General Motors
Detroit/Hamtramck Assemblyplant. The city of Detroit relied on eminent domainto compel the displacement of the 4,200 people who lived in the area, along with their 1,300 homes, 140 businesses, six churches and one hospital. [ [http://www.detnews.com/history/poletown/poletown.htm The History of Poletown] ] The plant was built at the boundary of Hamtramck and Detroit as a BOC factory ( Buick- Oldsmobile-Cadillac) and became known as the "Poletown Plant".
The displaced residents sued the city but the
Michigan Supreme Courtruled that economic development was a legitimate use of eminent domain. Public resistance especially from one Catholic parish led to national news attention and the involvement of Ralph Naderand the Gray Panthers. A 29-day sit-inat the Immaculate Conception Church came to an end on July 14, 1981when police forcibly evicted 20 people from the church.
The decision of the court became a landmark case for "public use" eminent domain matters. The decision was overruled by the Michigan Supreme Court in the 2004 decision "County of Wayne v. Hathcock". (Although the 2005
United States Supreme Courtdecision in the case of " Kelo v. City of New London" states that the use of eminent domain to promote economic development is constitutional on a federal level, the opinion in "Kelo" cites the "Hathcock" decision as an example of how states may choose to impose their own restrictions on the taking of property.)
Poletown is also used as slang for
Hamtramck, Michigan. Although Hamtramck has become highly diverse, there is still a small Polish-speaking minority. Polish bakeries and restaurants there are particularly popular, especially around Fat Tuesday. Many people around the city celebrate Fat Tuesday by eating Pączki(singular form: pączek), even if they are not Polish.
* [http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/2920831.html How Eminent Domain Ran Amok]
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