Livonia is a large city in Wayne County in southeastern Michigan. Livonia is a Detroit suburb near the Wayne-Oakland County line. Endowed with fertile soil and an ample supply of fresh water, the city began its history as Livonia Township. The mid-20th century brought about a dramatic change from a farming town to a bustling factory town when the automotive industry came to the city in the form of factories manufacturing and distributing car parts. Around the same time, the township became a unified city, adapting to rapid growth for about four decades. Over the years, the declining fortunes of the auto industry led to a decline in population in Livonia and the Detroit area in general.
Geography and climate of Livonia
Livonia is approximately 2 miles west of the Detroit city limits. Livonia covers a total area of 92.86 km², of which 92.45 km² is land and 0.41 km² is water. The land that the Detroit metropolitan area is located in is mostly flat and is actually a strait that connects Lake St. Clair to Lake Erie. Livonia is about 45 km from the Detroit River. The River Rouge flows through Livonia alongside many streams and smaller waterways, and provides plenty of fresh water.
Livonia experiences a humid continental climate according to the Koppen climate classification. The four seasons are very different, with warm, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. The coldest month of the year is January with average temperatures ranging from -7.7 °C to -1.9 °C. January also receives the most snow, falling for an average of 14.3 days and accumulating 124 mm. Throughout the year, snow falls on about 48.8 days, for a total of 409 mm of snow. July is the warmest month of the year with an average high temperature of 27°C and an average low temperature of 17.8°C. It rains throughout the year on an average of 155.1 days with a total of 659 mm of precipitation.
Short history of Livonia
The Potawatomi Indians inhabited the Detroit and Livonia region about 12,000 years ago. The fertile soil and good harvests attracted them, as did the European settlers who came from the 17th century onwards. The first to arrive were the French, who claimed the territory for France and began trading furs with the local aborigines. The English defeated the French in the mid-17th century during the French and Indian War. During the 18th century, the Potawatomi were expelled from the area. In 1805 Michigan became part of the United States.
A wave of new settlers came after 1825 after the nearby Erie Canal made overland travel much easier. In the 1830s, Europeans from the eastern United States began coming to the area to farm. Livonia Township was founded in 1835 and was then largely a dairy and orchard area. It is believed that many of the township’s first residents were from Livonia Center, in upstate New York, and hence the name.
In the mid-18th century there was a craze for so-called plank roads, where two layers of wooden planks kept stagecoaches from getting stuck in the mud. Livonia City was founded in 1836 and became known as Plank Road. In 1880, Livonia City became known as Clarenceville, after a prominent local family. Clarenceville had a population of about 200 to 300 people and contained a village school as well as other businesses. In addition to Clarenceville, villages in the parish included Stark, Schwarzburg, and Newburg.
The city was incorporated in 1950, absorbing all villages in the parish into the new city of Livonia when it was going through a period of tremendous growth due to the arrival of the automobile industry in the city. Livonia continued to grow until the late 20th century, when a downturn in the auto industry and local economy in the early 21st century resulted in a slight decline in population.
population of Livonia
The city’s population increased from 17,000 in 1950 upon its incorporation to over 100,000 in 1998 due to the booming auto industry. The city’s population had been declining along with Greater Detroit since 2000, when the population was 100,545. At the same time, the population of the Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn Metro Division was 2,061,162 and the Detroit-Warren-Livonia Metro Area was 4,452,557. By 2010, Livonia was down to 96,942, the Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn Metro Division was down to 1,820,584, and the Detroit-Warren-Livonia Metro Area was down to 4,296,250. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, Livonia has a population of 95,531. In contrast to nearby downtown Detroit, which is over 77% Black and only 14.4% White, Livonia’s population is 87.8% White, 4.1% Black and 3, 7% Asian.
Economy of Livonia
Livonia was a first-century farming community with shops providing its residents with products such as soap and ice cream and a distillery for the many hotels. Agricultural activity included dairy farming along with produce, and Powers Creek provided the impetus for four mills. At the end of the 19th century, a cheese factory and a dairy were established in the area. World War II brought a surge of industrial development, particularly the manufacture of automobile parts, to supply Detroit automakers.
The first auto parts plant was established by General Motors Corporation in 1948 to manufacture automatic transmissions. Ford set up a parts warehouse in Livonia not long after. In 1953, General Motors’ Detroit Transmission Division’s Livonia plant was completely destroyed by a fire that was the worst industrial fire in the United States. Many workers died or were injured, and physical damage was estimated at $80 million. Auto parts manufacturing, which declined in the late 20th and 21st centuries, continues to drive the local economy.
Sights in Livonia
Modern Livonia includes more than 4,000 acres of parkland and green spaces to explore. Greenmead Historical Village takes visitors back to the pioneering days at a 103-hectare farm and museum, with exhibits showcasing Livonia’s history and early development.