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Situated near several major thoroughfares, the City of Royal Oak, Michigan is a northern suburb of the Detroit Metro Region.

Interestingly, the city developed around the Red Run River. When Vinsetta Boulevard was built, it skirted a source branch of the Red Run. However, in the 1930s, Vinsetta's entire median, along with the river and all but the tops of the bridges for the crossing streets, was filled in as part of a WPA project during the Great Depression. Between 1967 and 1968, the remaining river in Oakland County was buried within a six-foot drain pipe.

Royal Oak is located along the Woodward Corridor (M-1), and Interstate 75 and Interstate 696 also pass through the city. The Detroit city limits are about three miles to the south, and a small portion of the Detroit Zoo is within the Royal Oak city limits, with the remainder extending into Huntington Woods.

Royal Oak is surrounded by the cities of Pleasant Ridge, Huntington Woods, Berkley, Madison Heights, Clawson, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Birmingham, and Troy, as well as Southfield Township.

Other cities and villages within twenty miles of Royal Oak include Oak Park, Lathrup Village, Highland Park, Center Line, Southfield, Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms, Bloomfield Hills, Franklin, Warren, Hamtramck, Rochester Hills, Eastpointe, Pontiac, Roseville, Detroit, Farmington Hills, Fraser, St. Clair Shores, Sylvan Lake, Rochester, Orchard Lake, Sterling Heights, Keego Harbor, Farmington, Utica, Harper Woods, Dearborn, Grosse Pointe Woods, Grosse Pointe Shores, Dearborn Heights, Grosse Pointe Park, Auburn Hills, and Grosse Pointe Farms.

The peak population of Royal Oak was 86,238 in 1970. After that point, it declined each census year to a population of 57,236 in 2010. Between 2010 and 2020, the city's population increased slightly to 58,211.

Prior to its incorporation as a city on November 8, 1921, Royal Oak was organized as a township on January 23, 1819, and as a village on March 18, 1891.

Reportedly, the city got its name from Governor Lewis Cass, who camped under a large oak tree in the area in 1818, and recalled the story of the Royal Oak in Scotland, under which King Charles II hid to escape his pursuers.

However, the first Europeans in the area were probably the French, who traded with the Sauk, Huron, and other Native Americans in the region. The region became a British possession after France was defeated in the French and Indian War. It was made part of the Province of Quebec in 1774, but became part of the United States following the American Revolutionary War.

The first European-American land purchase was made by William Thurber in 1819, and, at that time, it was part of Royal Oak Township. A post office was established on April 6, 1826, with James Lockwood as the first postmaster.

Early settlers were largely farmers, who cleared the land for homes and crops. When the Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad came through, logging, milling, and other industries became important to the area's economy.

In 1826, Sherman Stevens acquired 120 acres, later platting and recording a village site, although the village wasn't incorporated until 1891, at which time it had a population of only a few hundred residents.

An early manufacturer was Orson Starr, who opened a factory building cowbells. In 1845, he built a frame home that still stands at its original site on Main Street, listed in the State Register of Historic Sites.

By the time Royal Oak became a city in 1921, its population had expanded to more than six thousand residents, largely due to nearby jobs in the auto industry. When Woodward Avenue was developed, replacing the old Saginaw Trail, connecting the area with Detroit, Pontiac, Flint, and Saginaw, Royal Oak became more accessible and attractive to residents, industries, and businesses. The completion of I-75 and I-696 positioned Royal Oak for further growth.

Royal Oak once had a downtown district with a mixture of retail and service industries serving residents of the city, but much of this business was lost to the mall that grew up along the interstate highways. Today, Royal Oak's downtown district has developed into a destination for nightlife and other entertainment venues, as well as condominiums and lofts.

Royal Oak's population decline since 1970 might be attributed to a general industrial decline in the Detroit Metro Region, as well as to an aging population and small household sizes.

This portion of our guide focuses on the City of Royal Oak, Michigan. Online resources representing the municipal government or any other governmental entities within the city, as well as local businesses, industries, schools, places of worship, organizations, attractions, events, entertainment venues, and recreational opportunities, are appropriate for this category.


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