Experiences In The D | The Blog for Visit Detroit

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The Hart of Detroit

Posted on Thursday, August 22 2013 in Outdoors


Ask a Detroiter to put a pin in the heart of the city and many would place it in Hart Plaza. Aptly named, the 14-acre plaza actually honors the late U.S. Sen. Phillip A. Hart, a Civil Rights Act supporter known as “The Conscience of the Senate.” Today, it is both a place for public art and a venue for artists of all sorts.

From Hart Plaza, you can straddle two distinct faces of Detroit. To the east, visitors can take in an across-the-river view of the city’s Canadian neighbors, watch the big freighters slowly drifting past or wave to guests aboard a Detroit Princess Riverboat Cruise.


Hart Plaza reveals views of Windsor, Ontario

Turning around and looking to the west, visitors can take in the skyline and towering skyscrapers — including one of the city’s most recognized landmarks, the GM Renaissance Center — and watch the hustle and bustle of the People Mover passing by and Detroiters scurrying to business meetings or running out for bite. It’s a favorite spot for the city’s professionals to take a leisurely lunch in the warm months.

Regardless of the view, Hart Plaza is also synonymous with the Detroit Red Wings, decades of memories of Stanley Cup victories at nearby Joe Louis Arena and the unparalleled celebratory rallies held in the plaza after parades down Woodward.

But besides the occasional rally, Hart Plaza hosts some of the city’s most popular annual festivals, concerts and events, thanks to its 40,000-person capacity: the Detroit Jazz Festival, Motor City Pride, Ford Fireworks and Ribs R-n-B Jazz Fest, to name a few.

When Hart Plaza’s agenda is clear, the landmark offers an entirely different atmosphere — and arguably even more special. When temperatures dip low in winter months, Hart Plaza hosts an ice skating rink enjoyed by adults and kids alike.

The plaza is likely most recognized by its Horace E. Dodge and Son Memorial Fountain right in the center, comprised of two stainless steel legs with a ring on top above a circular, black granite pool. It was designed by artist-architect Isamu Noguchi in 1978 after a $1 million donation to the city from the wife of auto pioneer Horace E. Dodge.

The other notable feature of the plaza is the Gateway to Freedom International Memorial to the Underground Railroad, which commemorates Detroit’s role in the path to freedom for thousands of African Americans fleeing enslavement.

Interested in checking out the Detroit landmark? Hart Plaza’s address is easy to remember — One Hart Plaza — located just south of the intersection of Woodward and Jefferson avenues. There’s plenty of parking in nearby structures, or try parking farther away and taking the People Mover for a more leisurely trip.


What’s your favorite memory spent in Hart Plaza?

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About the Author: Heidi Tiano is a writer by day and reader by night, born and raised in metro Detroit. On the weekends you’ll find her outdoors — most likely running or biking the tree-lined trails in Oakland and Macomb counties.