Madison Heights, Michigan - Overview

Madison Heights is an inner suburb of central Metro Detroit, also known as the Tri-County Area. Its southern city border is two miles north of Detroit-Oakland County border at 8 Mile Road, and it shares its eastern border with Macomb County, which is nearest to Lake St. Clair. While it is not one of the Great Lakes, it is still part of the Great Lakes System and one of the waterways that divides Michigan from Canada. The third county in the Tri-County area is Wayne County, which contains Detroit and the suburbs "Down River").

Madison Heights was originally known as Royal Oak Township, founded in 1832, which also included the neighboring cities of Hazel Park, Ferndale, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Huntington Woods, Royal Oak, Berkley, and Clawson, which have all since become independent of each other. Madison Heights split off from Royal Oak Township and became its own city in 1955.

Personal History and Attractions

My family has lived in Madison Heights since it was Royal Oak Township and still mostly farmland. During the Great Depression, Madison Heights had a Tent City, where my grandmother and her family lived. My dad has lived in the same house for the past fifty years, which is also the house where I grew up. My family seems to be a permanent fixture of Madison Heights.

One of my favorite places in the Mad Heights is the Green Lantern Pizzeria. It’s one of those old-style restaurants with deep booths and bad lighting, with lots of pictures of Detroit culture and people. Their deep-dish pizza and cheese bread will probably give you a heart attack, but it’s delicious and totally worth it. Their sign does not lie. They have the best pizza in town.

However, the biggest attraction of Madison Heights is its proximity to other cities, specifically Royal Oak. It is common knowledge that Madison Heights is the not-as-cool twin of Royal Oak. The only thing to do in Madison Heights is eat (which is not a bad pastime in itself). On the other hand, Royal Oak has all the cool landmarks, like the National Shrine of the Little Flower and the Detroit Zoo.

Madison Heights has the advantage of being in biking distance of Royal Oak. While not as hip, Madison Heights is a nice, cheap alternative to Royal Oak, and you can still reap the fruits of being near one of the cultural centers of Metro Detroit.

It also has a lively downtown area, which means that it hosts many fun festivals, like Arts, Beats & Eats during Labor Day weekend, and the Woodward Dream Cruise, the annual world-famous automotive event where people dust off their classic muscle cars, and go cruising down Woodward Avenue, a main road from Detroit that runs unbroken for 27 miles.

Madison Heights is also a short drive away from Downtown Detroit, which includes some of my favorite restaurants, such as Slows BBQ, as well as cultural landmarks, such as the Detroit Institute of Arts (which is a fantastic museum; if you ever visit Detroit, this is a must-see!)

Dialect Facts

Being part of the greater Detroit area, Madison Heights is in the dialectal region known as the Inland North, with the characteristic Northern Cities Vowel Shift (NCVS) distinguishing us from other parts of the Midwest. We share this dialect with other Inland North cities, most notably Chicago.

The Inland North dialect and NCVS are thought to have originated from the migration patterns along the Erie Canal. The cities that were settled along this migration pattern all speak the Inland North dialect and have undergone the vowel shift to varying degrees. And the shift continues to spread.

In Detroit, NCVS is quite advanced. In fact, I have identified all six stages of the shift in my own speech. But the peripheral cities along this chain are in flux. Not all of the cities affected by the shift are as advanced as the epicenters of NCVS like Detroit are. Some speakers only exhibit about two or three stages of the shift, but every speaker is different. It is fascinating to see how this dialect feature is disseminated throughout the region.