Development of Royal Oak – 20th Century into Present Day:
The starting of the automobile industry and the $5.00 daily wage to work at the plants was a source of work for many residents and led to extensive development. In addition, the accessibility to better transportation from rail to roads led many into the city to reside. In 1900, the population was 468. The first quarter century was the dawn of many “firsts” in Royal Oak Village: an electric light plant, The Royal Oak Tribune newspaper (still running today), savings banks, an automobile, a moving picture house, a volunteer fire department, a police department, a bus line connecting the city to other close towns, the paving of Woodward Avenue, and a radio station. The village became a city on November 8, 1921.
The mid-part of the century began with Royal Oak connecting to the Detroit water supply. More churches were built, as well as schools and large stores. The Detroit Zoo opened in 1928. In 1939 the Historical Society formed. The population of Royal Oak soared as the popularity of the small city rose. In 1950, 46,898 people called the city home. The downtown grew with an auditorium, two hospitals, two hotels, additional public and parochial schools, movie theaters and many new businesses and restaurants along with a new library and police station.
Royal Oak residents in the last half of the 20th century witnessed more population and business growth. Banking deposits in city banks exceeded 36 million dollars. The auto industry was still the largest employer of city inhabitants and all the surrounding area. Additional schools were built to handle the population explosion. Modernization of buildings took place as the police station and city hall were built. Later in the era, construction of tall apartment buildings helped house all that wanted to live in the area. Large employers such as Beaumont Hospital and Consumers Energy expanded and provided employment for Royal Oakers. The downtown area and the corridor of Woodward Avenue exploded with small stores and restaurants and professional offices. Cruising was the favorite pastime of the young.
When Royal Oak first became a city in 1921, the population was just over 6,000. Ninety-five years later, in 2016, the population comes in at just over 57,000. The population is mainly white, with just below 52,000 people identifying as Caucasian living in Royal Oak. The next largest portion is made up by African-Americans, numbering around 2,400.
Because of the central location of Royal Oak, today it is home to numerous professional offices, restaurants and night life for concerts and plays which drive the local economy. It is a resting spot for people to come relax, have a few drinks, and eat at the trendiest restaurants of the area on the way in and out of the big city of Detroit and surrounding suburbs, much like the first inn that started it all back in 1822.
Penney, David G. My Royal Oak: Images from the 20th Century. Royal oak, MI: Little Acorn, 2008. Print.
Penney, David G, and Lois A. Lance. Royal Oak Twigs and Acorns: Articles, Essays, Letters and Other Historical Writings; Also Pictures and Various Illustrations Most Previously Unpublished About Royal Oak and Royal Oak Township. Royal Oak, MI: Little Acorn Press, 1996. Print.