Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

Birwood Wall

In 1941 James T. McMillana, a real estate developer in northwest Detroit faced a dilemma. He needed federal financing for white clients purchasing lots in a new subdivision adjacent to a community of mostly African Americans.

When the banks deemed the development too risky because of potential racial tension, the developer proposed a unusual solution. He built a six-foot-tall, one-foot-thick concrete barrier extending from Eight Mile Road south for three city blocks—the notorious Birwood Wall.

If not for the murals, the cinder block structure which would keep Blacks and Whites separated, might go unnoticed.

Efforts to reclaim the wall from historical anonymity have led to the recognition of the Birwood Wall's significance by the U.S. Park Service, which placed the structure on the National Register of Historic Places in Jan 2021.

The wall no longer serves to racially segregate homeowners and since the early 70's, both sides of the wall have been predominantly black.

Last updated 10/04/2023