Grosse Ile entryway signGrosse Ile, Michigan - A great place to live or visit!

While still something of a secret, you will feel it as you cross the bridge:
Grosse Ile is the perfect place to live, raise a family, recreate, and relax in southeast Michigan.

A unique island community enveloped by the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, Grosse Ile is historic, natural, and among the very safest places to live in Michigan.

However you measure success in providing for your family - whether the water-wonderland atmosphere, a charming neighborhood, excellent schools, public safety or community spirit - you will find it in Grosse Ile, Michigan!

Pre-1600

  • The Potawatomi people and other Native Americans occupy Grosse Ile.

1600 - 1762

  • 1630? French explorers named the island as la grosse ile, the "big island".
  • 1679 Father Louis Hennepin accompanied fellow French explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle on the ship Le Griffon in exploring the Great Lakes, mentioning Grosse Ile in his journals.
  • 1701 French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac and his convoy of 25 canoes sailed down the Detroit River and camped on the shore of Grosse Ile on his way to founding the City of Detroit. On the morning of July 24, Cadillac returned upriver and reached a spot on the shore near the present intersection of West Jefferson and Shelby streets in Detroit where he claimed French possession of the territory under the authority of King Louis XIV.

1763 - 1850

  • 1763 British control Michigan after victory in the French and Indian War.
  • 1776 William and Alexander Macomb purchase Grosse Ile from Potowatomi chiefs.
  • 1800s Summer homes were built along Grosse Ile’s shoreline and the southern end of the island.
  • 1800s Grosse Ile became a popular destination for boaters. An amusement park, dance pavilion and bathing beach were built on Sugar Island, one of the twelve islands which comprise Grosse Ile. People made the trip to Sugar Island from the Michigan side of the Detroit River by paddle steamers.

1850 - Present

  • 1867 St. James Episcopal Church, the oldest church building on island, is built in part with funds provided by freed slave Elizabeth Denison.
  • 1873 Canada Southern Bridge Company, a subsidiary of the Canada Southern Railroad Company, builds a railroad to Grosse Ile for passenger and freight service. The company built bridges over the Detroit River enabling trains to transfer to ferryboats off Stony Island. The boats went on to Gordon, Ontario where the train cars were put back on rails to continue on to Buffalo and elsewhere. Following dissolution of the Canada Southern Railroad in 1883, the Michigan Central Railroad took over operations and established rail services between Grosse Ile, Trenton, Detroit and other cities.
  • 1894 Federal government funds construction of a series of channel range lights to assist navigation of the Detroit River.
  • 1904 The Michigan Central Railroad builds depot near East River Road on the east side of the Grosse Ile.
  • 1905 Cameron Waterman invents outboard motor and establishes Waterman Marine Motor Company.
  • 1913 Edward W. Voigt opens the Grosse Ile Toll Bridge.
  • 1914 Grosse Ile obtains status as an independent unit of government on October 27th when it officially separates from Monguagon Township.
  • 1920 US Census totaled 802 people living on Grosse Ile.
  • 1920s Airport constructed on Grosse Ile. The ZMC-2, first all-metal airship (dirigible), is built by Aircraft Development Corporation on Grosse Ile.
  • 1929 U.S. Navy opens Naval Air Station Grosse Ile.
  • 1931 Wayne County converts the Michigan Central Railroad's defunct rail bridge into a publicly owned bridge for vehicles and pedestrians.
  • 1954 U.S. Army opens Nike Ajax missile base on Grosse Ile.
  • 1963 Nike Ajax missile base decommissioned.
  • 1969 Naval Air Station Grosse Ile is decommissioned.
  • 1971 Federal government deeds Naval Air Station Grosse Ile to Grosse Ile Township.
  • 1990s Grosse Ile Township establishes the "Open Space Program" to buy undeveloped land and preserve the natural character of the Island.
  • 1993 The Grosse Ile Land & Nature Conservancy is established to aid in the protection and stewardship of the diverse natural resources on the island.
  • 2001 Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is established. The first International Wildlife Refuge in North America, it includes islands, coastal wetlands, marshes, shoals, and riverfront lands along 48 miles of the Detroit River and western Lake Erie. Grosse Ile is located entirely within its borders.

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