Everyone has a story. Lives are understood through the narratives built by the facts of existence. My life is my story, built of childhood and bad dreams and loved ones and inspiration. But lives are not lived by the living alone. There are lives in the events that unfold over time, lives in the objects we surround ourselves with and lives in places: homes, neighborhoods and, of concern to me today, lives in cities. Narratives get messy when pulled out this far. No one person can tell the story of a city alone, and collective narratives get complicated by the unreliability of personal truths, the structures of power that be and, ultimately, whose voice rises above the rest. And when it comes to a city with a history as varied as Detroit’s — once America’s sweetheart, now bankrupt and destitute — the story can get hard to distinguish.

But it starts with the facts of history. In 1903, Henry…

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