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Pontiac, Michigan
City of Pontiac
Downtown Pontiac as seen from City Hall
Downtown Pontiac as seen from City Hall
Official seal of Pontiac, Michigan
Location within Oakland County
Location within Oakland County
Pontiac, Michigan is located in Michigan
Pontiac, Michigan
Pontiac, Michigan
Location in Michigan
Pontiac, Michigan is located in the United States
Pontiac, Michigan
Pontiac, Michigan
Location in the United States
Country United States
State Michigan
County Oakland
Settled 1818
Incorporated 1837 (village)
1861 (city)
 • Type Mayor–council
 • City 20.25 sq mi (52.46 km2)
 • Land 19.89 sq mi (51.50 km2)
 • Water 0.37 sq mi (0.95 km2)
922 ft (281 m)
 • City 61,606
 • Density 3,042.3/sq mi (1,174.34/km2)
 • Metro
4,296,250 (Metro Detroit)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP code(s)
48302 (Bloomfield Hills)
48320 (Keego Harbor)
48321, 48326 (Auburn Hills)
Area code(s) 248 and 947
FIPS code 26-65440
GNIS feature ID 0635224

Pontiac ( pohn-TEE-ack) is a city in and the county seat of Oakland County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2020 census, the city had a total population of 61,606. A northern suburb of Metro Detroit, Pontiac is about 20 miles (32.2 km) northwest of Detroit.

Founded in 1818, Pontiac was the second European-American organized settlement in Michigan near Detroit, after Dearborn. It was named after Pontiac, a war chief of the Ottawa Tribe, who occupied the area before the European settlers. The city was best known for its General Motors automobile manufacturing plants of the 20th century, which were the basis of its economy and contributed to the wealth of the region. These included Fisher Body, Pontiac East Assembly (a.k.a. Truck & Coach/Bus), which manufactured GMC products, and the Pontiac Motor Division. In the city's heyday, it was the site of the primary automobile assembly plant for the production of the famed Pontiac cars, a brand that was named after the city. The Pontiac brand itself was discontinued in 2010 by General Motors. The City of Pontiac also was home to Oakland Motor Car Company, which was acquired by General Motors in 1909.

In 1975, the city built the Pontiac Silverdome, the stadium that hosted the Detroit Lions of the National Football League from 1975 to 2001, when the team returned to Downtown Detroit at Ford Field. Super Bowl XVI was played at the Silverdome in 1982. After 2001, the stadium continued to be used for concerts and other events until it was demolished in 2018. It is now the site of an Amazon Fulfillment and Distribution facility.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 20.28 square miles (52.52 km2), of which 19.97 square miles (51.72 km2) is land and 0.31 square miles (0.80 km2) is water.

Pontiac is bounded by the city of Auburn Hills to the east and north, the city of Lake Angelus to the north, Waterford Township to the west, and Bloomfield Township to the south.

The former Pontiac Township included what are now the cities of Pontiac, Lake Angelus, and Auburn Hills. The township incorporated as the city of Auburn Hills in 1983. Although the township no longer exists as a civil entity, it is still used as a survey township for land use purposes.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1840 1,904
1850 1,681 −11.7%
1860 2,575 53.2%
1870 4,867 89.0%
1880 4,509 −7.4%
1890 6,200 37.5%
1900 9,769 57.6%
1910 14,532 48.8%
1920 34,273 135.8%
1930 64,928 89.4%
1940 66,626 2.6%
1950 73,681 10.6%
1960 82,223 11.6%
1970 85,279 3.7%
1980 76,715 −10.0%
1990 71,166 −7.2%
2000 66,337 −6.8%
2010 59,515 −10.3%
2020 61,606 3.5%
U.S. Decennial Census

2020 census

Pontiac city, Michigan - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010 Pop 2020 % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 15,815 14,448 26.57% 23.45%
Black or African American alone (NH) 30,384 29,046 51.05% 47.15%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 242 176 0.41% 0.29%
Asian alone (NH) 1,359 1,408 2.28% 2.29%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 2 13 0.00% 0.02%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 69 295 0.12% 0.48%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 1,809 2,763 3.04% 4.48%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 9,835 13,457 16.53% 21.84%
Total 59,515 61,606 100.00% 100.00%

Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 59,515 people, 22,220 households, and 13,365 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,980.2 inhabitants per square mile (1,150.7/km2). There were 27,084 housing units at an average density of 1,356.2 per square mile (523.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 34.4% White, 52.1% African American, 0.6% Native American, 2.3% Asian, 6.2% from other races, and 4.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 16.5% of the population.

There were 22,220 households, of which 35.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 26.4% were married couples living together, 27.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 39.9% were non-families. 33.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 3.28.

The median age in the city was 33.4 years. 27.2% of residents were under the age of 18; 11.2% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 28.2% were from 25 to 44; 24.2% were from 45 to 64; and 9.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.1% male and 50.9% female.


Early expeditions into the land north of Detroit described the area as having "extreme sterility and barrenness". Developments and exploration were soon to prove that report false.

The first European-American settlers arrived in what is now the city of Pontiac in 1818. Two years later the fledgling settlement was designated as the county seat for Oakland County. The Pontiac Company, consisting of 15 members and chaired by Solomon Sibley of Detroit, comprised the first landowners in Pontiac. Sibley, along with Stephen Mack and Shubael Conant, Pontiac Company members, also formed the partnership Mack, Conant & Sibley to serve to develop a town. Solomon and his wife Sarah Sibley largely financed construction of the first buildings. While Solomon was the first chair of the Pontiac Company, for two years Sarah Sibley was the most active as the go-between with settlers at Pontiac. Solomon Sibley was constantly traveling as a Territorial Congressman and later a Territorial Supreme Court judge.

In the 1820s Elizabeth Denison, an unmarried, free Black woman, worked for the Sibleys. They helped her buy land in Pontiac in 1825. Stephen Mack, agent for the Pontiac Company, signed the deed at the request of the Sibleys, conveying 48.5 acres to Elizabeth Denison. She is believed to be the first Black woman to purchase land in the new territory of Michigan.

In 1837 Pontiac became a village, the same year Michigan gained statehood. The town had been named after the noted Ottawa Indian war chief who had his headquarters in the area decades before during the resistance to European-American encroachment. Founded on the Clinton River, Pontiac was Michigan's first inland settlement. Rivers were critical to settlements, as transportation ways in addition to providing water and, later, power.

The village was incorporated by the legislature as a city in 1861. From the beginning, Pontiac's central location served it well. It attracted professional people, including doctors and lawyers, and soon became a center of industry. Woolen and grist mills made use of the Clinton River as a power source.

Abundant natural resources led to the establishment of several carriage manufacturing companies, all of which were thriving at the turn of the century. At that time, the first self-propelled vehicles were introduced. Pontiac quickly became a capital of the new automotive industry. Throughout the 1920s and 30's, Pontiac had tremendous growth in its population and size as tens of thousands of prospective autoworkers moved here from the South to work in its GM auto assembly plants at Pontiac Assembly. African Americans came in the Great Migration, seeking work, education, and the chance to vote.

As the small "horseless carriage" manufacturers became consolidated under the mantle of the General Motors Corporation, Pontiac grew as the industry grew, suffering the same setback as other cities during the Great Depression years of the 1930s. The first postwar years were a time of prosperity but the city changed as suburbs were developed and people commuted by car to work. The more established residents moved out to buy newer housing being built in the suburbs, draining off business and resulting in vacancies downtown.

In order to prevent flooding, the Clinton River was confined in concrete in downtown Pontiac in 1963.

In late 1966, Pontiac-born real estate developer A. Alfred Taubman tried to build a large-scale shopping mall on vacant downtown land (where the Phoenix Center now stands). It was unsuccessful. Pontiac resident C. Don Davidson and his University of Detroit architectural class created a more comprehensive plan for development to benefit the city and the entire region around it. In 1969, the city of Pontiac adopted the Pontiac Plan as the official plan for rebuilding the vacant area of the downtown district.

In 1968, Davidson overheard news that the Detroit Lions were seeking a new football stadium in Southeast Michigan. Professor Davidson and city leaders made a push to develop a new multi-purpose stadium, which was built and became known as the Silverdome. Construction began on the 80,000-seat stadium in 1972 and it opened in 1975 as the Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium.

This was a part of Davidson's vision for Pontiac. Besides becoming the new home stadium of the NFL's Detroit Lions, NBA's Detroit Pistons and USFL's Michigan Panthers, the arena hosted such events as the 1979 NBA All-Star Game, the 1982 Super Bowl XVI game between the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals, and four matches of soccer's 1994 World Cup.

Construction began in the 1970s on an urban renewal project known as the "Pontiac Plan". The initial phase of this plan included the Phoenix Center, three office buildings, a transportation center, and a high-rise residential complex. The remainder of the plan was never completed. The city has struggled with declining population since 1980, due to industrial restructuring, especially in the automotive industry.

In July 2012, Mayor Leon Jukowski and Emergency Financial Manager Louis Schimmel announced plans to demolish the Phoenix Center. Its vacancy rates were high, and the city did not want to continue its high maintenance costs. New thinking about downtown was to re-emphasize the street grid; the city wanted to reconnect Saginaw Street to the downtown area. Owners of the connecting Ottawa Towers filed an injunction, claiming the demolition would devalue their property and result in lost parking. In December 2012, a judge granted an injunction for the Ottawa Towers on an "expedited calendar" which prevented the demolition of the Phoenix Center for the time being.

In 2010, city leaders and business owners had launched "The Rise of The Phoenix" initiative. This plan was intended to attract businesses interested in downtown retail space. The applicants selected would be given free rent in exchange for multi-year leases (two years or more) as well as one year of free parking in city lots. Some 52 new businesses were recruited to locate in downtown Pontiac, bringing new life to the city. Plans for the development of mixed-use and loft flats in downtown were announced in September 2011 by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA). MEGA estimates the development could generate $20.4 million in new investment and create up to 107 permanent full-time jobs in downtown. The development was to be supported by a state tax break.

On January 26, 2012, West Construction Services began the renovation and restoration of the former Sears building for the Lafayette Place Lofts, the largest construction investment in Downtown Pontiac in approximately 30 years. The 80,000-square-foot (7,400 m2) project is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified residential and commercial mixed-use development: it will have 46 new urban rental lofts, a fresh food grocery store and café, and an Anytime Fitness center. Construction was completed during 2012 and the loft and market opened in December of that year. 10 West Lofts, another development in the area, will bring more residents to downtown Pontiac.


Regionally, the city was known for the Arts, Beats and Eats Festival, a widely attended summer festival featuring an art show, musical concert venues, and a sampling of food from numerous regional restaurants. In 2010, the festival was moved to nearby Royal Oak. The First Annual Scheme Cruise was held September 6, 2015, an event sponsored by the Scheme Street Battle League. The event combined rap battles, basketball competitions, and a car show. Pontiac officials are considering relocating the event to the downtown area of the city.

The city is at the north end of the famous Woodward Avenue which extends as a major boulevard into Detroit. It was originally lined with mansions and prestigious businesses. In the 1950s and 1960s it was popular with young people who would "cruise" and drag-race their hot-rods in the area. Pontiac participates in the annual Woodward Dream Cruise, an event celebrating Woodward's hot-rod history, stretching from Detroit to Pontiac. Downtown Pontiac's nightlife includes nightclubs and music venues such as Club Visions, Tonic, and The Crofoot.

The city hosts two nationally renowned haunted houses: The Realm of Darkness and Erebus. The Realm of Darkness has in previous years been chosen as America's Best Haunted House. Erebus held the world record from 2005-2009 for "Largest Haunted House;" it is 4 stories high.

Together with the automotive industry, Pontiac was an early location of movie making, with the Raleigh Michigan Studios, renamed as the Motown Motion Picture Studios. Scenes of the 2012 remake of the film Red Dawn were filmed in Pontiac and other Michigan locations, recreating Spokane, Washington. Additionally, downtown Pontiac in August 2012 was the filming site for the forthcoming tornado-themed disaster movie Black Sky. The 2013 fantasy adventure film Oz the Great and Powerful was filmed at Motown Motion Picture Studios. Transformers: Age of Extinction is the latest movie to be filmed within the studio, with the bulk of filming taking place in Pontiac.

Pontiac is home to the Michigan Fallen Heroes Memorial. It is located within the Oakland County Government Complex off Telegraph Road.



Amtrak operates passenger service with its Wolverine from Pontiac to Chicago via Detroit and Battle Creek, Michigan. Service is three times daily, both arriving and departing.

Commuter rail service was once provided by Grand Trunk Western Railroad (GTW) and later Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority (SEMTA) from Pontiac to downtown Detroit. This service ended on October 17, 1983, after subsidies were discontinued. Efforts continue to restore such commuter service.

Class one freight rail service is provided by Grand Trunk Western Railroad (GTW), which also operates a large classification yard in Pontiac serving the local auto industry. The Grand Trunk Western Railroad (reporting mark GTW) is an important subsidiary of the Canadian National Railway (CN). It constitutes the majority of CN's Chicago Division (which is part of CN's Southern Region). It operates in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, forming the CN mainline from Port Huron to Chicago, as well as serving Detroit and Toledo.


Oakland County International Airport serves the city and surrounding areas with commuter air service. When previously owned by the city, it was known as the Pontiac City Airport. But it is located outside the city in neighboring Waterford Township and not on land contiguous with Pontiac's city limits. Detroit Metropolitan Airport, a larger international airport, is 35 miles south of the city in Romulus.


Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) operates local and regional bus transit.


Launched in March 2021, SMART Flex is an on-demand public transit service launched in partnership with TransitTech company Via Transportation as a way to help encourage first-and-last mile connections to existing bus routes as well as trips to universities, grocery stores, local hospitals and other destinations. SMART Flex is available to residents and workers in Dearborn, Troy, Pontiac, and the Hall Road corridor between Utica and New Baltimore to book rides using the SMART Flex app.


The major thoroughfares in the city are: Woodward Avenue (M-1), Huron Street (M-59), and Telegraph Road (US 24). Portions of Woodward Avenue were once known as "Saginaw Street" and "Wide Track Drive" (the portion of "Wide Track Drive" that encircles the downtown business district is now known as the "Woodward Loop")

  • I-75 provides a connection northwest to nearby Flint. Detroit is to the south.
  • BL I-75 runs through Pontiac.
  • US 24 ends north of Pontiac in at I-75. Southbound, US 24 serves suburban Detroit and Monroe before crossing into Ohio.

  • Bus. US 24 serves local business traffic through the city.
  • M-1 (Woodward Avenue) northbound loops around Pontiac's downtown district (now known as the "Woodward Loop", continuing its loop back southbound as "Saginaw Street", then returning to the name of Woodward Avenue and routing directly to Downtown Detroit.
  • M-24 (Lapeer Road) southbound ends in Auburn Hills at I-75. Northbound, the highway connects to Lapeer. Note: M-24 does not intersect with US 24.
  • M-59 runs west to Howell and east to Utica and several other Detroit suburbs.


The Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is "Dfb"(Warm Summer Continental Climate).


Residents are zoned to the School District of the City of Pontiac. The district runs one main high school, Pontiac High School. There were once two high schools, Pontiac Northern and Pontiac Central, but by December 2008 administrators were making plans to consolidate the schools.

Four charter schools operate in Pontiac; they are Pontiac Academy for Excellence (K-12), Arts and Technology Academy, Walton Charter, and Great Lakes Academy. Pontiac is also home to Notre Dame Preparatory High School, a private Catholic school located in the North East area of the city.

Notable people

  • Geri Allen, jazz pianist, born in Pontiac
  • Lawrence S. Bacow, President of Harvard University, born in Detroit, grew up in Pontiac
  • Mark Bego, author, born in Pontiac
  • Tim Birtsas, MLB pitcher, born in Pontiac
  • Jim Bundren, NFL player, born in Pontiac
  • Adolphus W. Burtt, South Dakota Attorney General
  • Albert J. Campbell, U.S. Representative from Montana
  • Madonna Louise Ciccone, known mononymously as Madonna, singer and actress, lived in Pontiac during childhood
  • Sara Lynn Darrow, United States District Court judge, born in Pontiac
  • DDG, rapper and YouTube personality, born and raised in Pontiac
  • Pete Dexter, journalist, novelist, and screenwriter, born in Pontiac
  • Thomas J. Drake, justice of Utah Territorial Supreme Court and third Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, died in Pontiac
  • Electric Djinn, the solo musical project of NYC-based electronic musician and producer Neptune Sweet
  • Kirk Gibson, MLB player and manager, two-time World Series champion, born in Pontiac
  • Jonas Gray, NFL player, born in Pontiac
  • K. J. Hamler, NFL player for the Denver Broncos
  • Laura Innes, actress, starred in hit television series ER; born in Pontiac
  • Isaiah Jackson, NBA player for the Indiana Pacers
  • Elvin Jones, jazz drummer of the post-bop era, born in Pontiac
  • Hank Jones, musician, 2009 recipient of Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award; lived in Pontiac
  • Hayes Jones, hurdler, NCAA champion and 1964 Summer Olympics gold medalist; lived in Pontiac
  • Thad Jones, jazz musician, born in Pontiac
  • Jack Kevorkian, pathologist, euthanasia activist, painter, author, composer and instrumentalist, born in Pontiac
  • Micki King, diver, Olympic gold medalist and 10-time national champion, U.S. Air Force colonel, born in Pontiac
  • Rebecca Kleefisch, Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin 2011–2019, born in Pontiac
  • Henry W. Lord, U.S. Congressman from Michigan
  • Tony Lucca, actor/singer and former Mouseketeer, born in Pontiac
  • Michael Mallory, author/actor, grew up in Pontiac
  • Yante Maten, NBA player for the Miami Heat
  • Clara McDaniel (born 1948 in Pontiac), blues singer and songwriter
  • Derek Minor, rapper, born in Pontiac
  • Daniel O'Shea, figure skater, 2016 national champion, born in Pontiac
  • Duane D. Pearsall, physicist and inventor
  • Gary Peters, United States Senator, born in Pontiac
  • Howard "Howdy" Quicksell, musician, lived and died in Pontiac
  • Walker Russell, pro basketball player, born in Pontiac
  • Walker Russell Jr., pro basketball player, born in Pontiac
  • Frank Russell, NBA player, Chicago Bulls, first from Oakland County and Pontiac to play in modern NBA; raised in Pontiac
  • Campy Russell, basketball player, Michigan and NBA; Best High School Player in America 1971–72, NBA All-Star 1978–79; broadcaster for Cleveland Cavaliers; raised in Pontiac
  • Bryan Rust NHL hockey player for the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2x Stanley Cup Champion
  • Alfred Taubman, real estate developer, owned famed Sotheby's auction house and Michigan Panthers pro football team; born in Pontiac
  • Wilma Vaught, U.S. Air Force brigadier general, born in Pontiac
  • Martell Webb, NFL player
  • Tim Welke, MLB umpire, born in Pontiac

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