The Legends of Detroit’s Hippie Underground in the 1960s – Plum Street
Today Plum Street is barely a blip on Detroit's street grid, running just a few blocks near the MGM Grand Casino, sliced by th I-75/Fisher Freeway and M-10/Lodge Freeway junction. But in the 1960s, Plum Street was every bit a Hippie Haven as the more famous Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco.
This video slideshow will give you a feel for the area in the late '60s:
An essay on the community from the Detroit News recalls,
They hoped for a communal effort in planning and developing the area. Inviting anyone with the same interest in a thriving art center to buy buildings and, or open shops.
Mayor Cavanagh promised his support and had the city put in gas lights and trash cans that people painted bright psychedelic colors. Then Parks and Recreation Supt. John M. May told Cobb and Shapiro they could use nearby Elton Park for concerts and art exhibits. He also promised to help schedule concerts if they attracted enough people....
The people who were attracted to Plum Street were loitering college kids from Wayne State and the University of Michigan. At first the businesses welcomed the hippies hanging out, to help create an image. The merchants became upset after realizing the hippies were harassing customers for money and not spending it in the shops. The area became known for drug dealing and later motorcylce gangs, which scared away customers.
What Happened to Plum Street?
The answer to that is the Lodge Freeway. M-10 pushed through the area in early 1970. The highway cut the street in half and that spelled the end to the businesses that were already greatly diminished by that point.
You can drive Plum Street today for one block between Third and Grand River - although this block is unmarked.
The footprint of Plum Street between Third and Brooklyn falls in line with the parking garage for the MGM Grand. Two more blocks of Plum exist between Trumbull and Brooklyn and deadends at the Lodge.
We'll give the Detroit News reports the last word here:
Plum Street is long gone. Urban renewal has erased any trace of the stores. Flower children grew up and cut their hair and got establishment jobs and had kids of their own. John Lennon was murdered and the Democrats had a peaceful convention in Chicago last year. American businessmen trade with Communist Vietnam. Occasionally one sees an aging hippie on the street, looking lost.