Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Hexagonal Plan for Detroit

Thomas Jefferson appointed Augustus Woodward on March 3, 1805 as the Michigan Territory's first Chief Justice. The judge arrived with the city in ruins from a devastating fire.

“Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus” - we hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - became the city's motto. Woodward, turned town-planner, came up with a hexagonal plan with a park in the middle and wide streets radiating outward in a triangular pattern:

“ the bases of the town …shall be an equilateral triangle,having each side of the length of forur thousand feet (1200 meters), and having every angle bisected by a perpendicular line upon the opposite side”.

Woodward’s hexagonal grid plan for Detroit, 1807.
Source:Cauchon (1927)


Citizens who had lost their homes were given larger pieces of land. The idea was that additional hexagons could be added one as the city grows. But this plan was abandoned after just 11 years, and a grid street pattern was superimposed over the hexagonal design.


  • Spiro Kostof, The City Shaped, 1991
  • Eran Ben-Joseph and David Gordon,Hexagonal Planning in Theory and Practice, Journal of Urban Design, Vol. 5, No. 3, 2000
    2 Mb pdf download

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