Madison Heights, Michigan

Madison Heights is an inner suburb of central Metro Detroit. Its southern city border is two miles north of Detroit-Oakland County border at 8 Mile Road. Madison Heights was originally part of 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 became its own city in 1955, and it is home to many commercial and industrial businesses.

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. Madison Heights has changed a lot over the past sixty-odd years. Even in my memory, a lot of the old landmarks and businesses have disappeared in the process of Madison Heights transitioning into a more urban and commercial environment.

However, there are a few of the old hang-outs of my childhood that are still around. One of my favorite haunts in Madison Heights is The Telway, a hole-in-the-wall burger joint, open 24/7 (except Christmas), which serves cheap sliders that you just know that you’re going to regret later, but still eat anyway. Plus, since it’s the only place open at midnight, the Telway is a great place to grab a late-night snack.

Another 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 photographs and pictures of Detroit culture and people. I love getting the deep-dish pizza and order of their cheese bread to make my life complete.

However, the biggest attraction of Madison Heights is its proximity to Royal Oak. It is common knowledge that Madison Heights is the not-as-cool twin of Royal Oak. Royal Oak has all the cool landmarks, like the National Shrine of the Little Flower and the Detroit Zoo.

It also has a lively downtown area, which means that it hosts all the 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 all the way to Pontiac.

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. Royal Oak is like a second hometown for me. I was born in Royal Oak and it’s my mom’s hometown, so I’ve spent just as much of my childhood there as I have in Madison Heights.

Dialect Facts

Madison Heights is part of the greater Detroit area, and we speak what is called the Inland North dialect, with the characteristic Northern Cities Vowel Shift (NCVS) distinguishing us from other parts of the Midwest. We share this dialect with other Great Lakes and 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. The shift has reached as far as west as Madison, Wisconsin and as far south as St. Louis, Missouri, not typically considered a Great Lakes or Northern city.

In such cities as Detroit and Chicago, 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. Some speakers only exhibit about two or three stages of the shift, but every speaker is different. It is fascninating to see how this dialect feature is disseminated throughout the region.


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