The Birwood Wall - east side of the wall from the park.

Eight Mile Wall

Field review by the editors.

Detroit, Michigan

In 1941 a real estate developer wanted to build a subdivision of homes in the Eight Mile neighborhood of Detroit. However, because African-Americans lived in the area, the Federal Housing Administration wouldn't insure mortgages for prospective homeowners. So the FHA and the developer reached a compromise: a wall was built between the black neighborhood and the new subdivision.

Despite its name, Eight Mile Wall was only a half-mile long and six feet high. It was easy to get around or over: strictly symbolic. But it was enough to keep the races separate for decades.

In 2006, Detroit artist Chazz Miller and a group of neighborhood volunteers painted murals along a stretch of the wall facing the Alfonso Wells Memorial Park: images of Civil Rights pioneers and colorful houses. And the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office has gotten the wall listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is working to erect a historical marker on the site.

Eight Mile Wall

Address:
20233 Birwood Ave., Detroit, MI
Directions:
Northwest of downtown. From MI-102/Eight Mile Rd (eastbound only) turn south at the stoplight (liquor store) onto Birwood Ave. Drive until the street dead-ends in Wells Park. You'll see the wall on the right.
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In the region:
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