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> History

Ypsilanti's Bicentennial, 2023   

In-Person Class:  The Elderwise classroom at the Vineyard Church.

What do the Greeks, Underwear, and Henry Ford Have in Common? Ypsilanti’s Bicentennial, 2023

Christened Ypsilanti in honor of Demetrius Ypsilanti, the hero of the Greek Revolution, the town grew when its original site at Woodruff’s Grove was displaced after the Chicago Road was built. The railroad brought business and industry to the community, and also brought its most famous inventor, “The Real McCoy,” Elijah McCoy, whose father and mother were significant conductors on the Underground Railroad. Ypsilanti thrived in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. Education and commerce joined hands. Henry Ford’s decision to bring manufacturing to the community provided abundant opportunities for a strong workforce. WWII expanded Ford’s contribution with the building of the bomber plant at Willow Run in the early 1940s. The 21st century has brought new energy, along with a focus on the unique cultural and social opportunities the city offers. Preservation of Ypsilanti’s architectural heritage is reflected in the strength of local historical organizations.  


Rochelle Balkam taught history and government at Ypsilanti High School for 36 years, and taught Michigan history at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) for 27 years. She holds an M.A. degree in history and an M.S. in historic preservation from EMU. Rochelle serves on the board of the Michigan One-Room Schoolhouse Association, and formerly served on the board of the Historical Society of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Historic Commission. 


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