History of Livonia, Michigan


Livonia is a city in Wayne County in the U.S. state of Michigan. Livonia was incorporated as a village in 1950 and as a city in 1964.

The name Livonia was chosen because many of the early settlers had come from Livonia, New York. Livonia has emerged as one of the most important suburbs in metropolitan Detroit over the past 60 years.

Early Settlement (pre-1835)

The area that is now Livonia was originally inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Potawatomi and Ojibwe peoples.

French settlers explored the region in the late 17th and 18th centuries, claiming it for New France. After Britain defeated France in the Seven Years War in 1763, it took control of the territory.

In 1817, the Treaty of Fort Meigs was signed, in which Native American tribes in Michigan ceded large amounts of territory to the United States. This opened the door for American settlement in the region.

Land in what is now Livonia was first purchased from the government by settlers in 1832. Two important early settlers were John M. Curtis and John Brueck, who built sawmills to process the abundant timber in the region.

Founding of Livonia and Early Growth (1835-1900)

The settlement that would become Livonia was founded in 1835. That year, Gideon Ruffner purchased 160 acres of land from the United States government and settled there with his wife and children.

Other settlers soon joined the community, clearing the land for farming. Wheat, corn, oats, potatoes and apple orchards became important crops.

In 1837, Charles C. Hasselius built the first sawmill in Livonia. This spurred economic development in the settlement.

More settlers, mostly of Yankee stock from New York and New England, arrived during the 1840s and 50s. The township of Livonia was formally organized in 1839.

The Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee Railroad was constructed through the township in the late 1860s.

The village of Livonia Station was established around the railroad. In 1869, the Livonia post office opened to serve the growing community. By 1900, improved roads linked Livonia with nearby towns, helping it develop into a small rural farming village.

20th Century: Suburban Growth

The development of Livonia into a booming Detroit suburb began in the years following World War II.

The rise of the automobile industry led to rapid expansion of Detroit and the growth of surrounding suburban communities. Livonia offered affordable land for housing developments.

Several key events facilitated Livonia’s suburban growth in the 1950s:

  • 1950 – Livonia incorporated as a village
  • 1953 – Detroit Metropolitan Airport opened, improving Livonia’s connectivity
  • 1956 – Interstate 96 opened through Livonia, linking it to Detroit and Lansing

Livonia’s population rose from 8,438 in 1950 to 64,319 by 1960 as new middle-class subdivisions were constructed.

The Unity Club was founded in 1957 to promote camaraderie among the growing population. Schools, parks, libraries and other infrastructure expanded to serve the needs of suburban families.

On May 19, 1964, Livonia incorporated as a home rule city. The city continued growing rapidly through the 1960s and 70s:

  • 1960 – Ford Motor Company opened an engine plant in Livonia
  • 1970 – Livonia’s population peaked at 114,086

By the late 20th century, Livonia had emerged as Michigan’s ninth largest city and one of the most important suburbs in metropolitan Detroit.

Government and Politics

Livonia utilizes the council-manager form of municipal government. The city council consists of seven members elected to four-year terms in non-partisan elections. The city council appoints a professional city manager to oversee day-to-day operations.

The city’s first mayor, Irving M. Bailey, served from 1958 to 1962. Subsequent mayors have included Jack Kirksey (1970-1976), Edward McNamara (1976-1986), and Maureen Miller Brosnan (1986-1990).

Other notable Livonia politicians include Representative Thaddeus McCotter, who served in Congress from 2003 to 2012.

Politically, Livonia has been a Republican stronghold for most of its history. However, Democrats have made gains in recent elections.


Livonia has been an overwhelmingly white, middle-class suburban community for most of its history. Following World War II, the city attracted many white families moving from Detroit as part of suburbanization trends.

The percentage of African-American residents increased modestly from 0.6% in 1970 to 3.8% in 2010.

Livonia’s population peaked at 114,086 in 1970. It declined to 96,942 by 2010 due to shrinking household sizes and the aging of the baby boom generation. However, recent years have seen renewed growth in Livonia:

  • 2010 Population: 96,942
  • 2020 Population: 94,471
  • 2022 Population Estimate: 95,637

Other major demographic groups in Livonia as of the 2020 census include:

  • Asian: 8.3%
  • Hispanic or Latino: 3.4%
  • Foreign born: 12.5%

Economy and Industry

Livonia has been shaped by the automobile industry and related manufacturing sectors. Major employers in the city include:

  • Ford Motor Company engine plant – Opened in 1960, produces engines for Mustang and F-150 vehicles
  • Trinity Health (St. Mary Mercy Hospital) – 2,300 employees
  • Roush Industries – Automotive testing and product development
  • Schoolcraft College – Livonia campus opened in 1965

Other important industries in Livonia include retail, healthcare, professional services, and technology companies. Livonia is home to several large shopping centers and malls, including Laurel Park Place.

The largest property taxpayers are the Ford plant and Schoolcraft College. Livonia’s median household income was $66,895 in 2020, above the national median. The city has boasted low unemployment rates and a highly educated workforce.


Most of Livonia is served by the Livonia Public Schools district. LPS was established in 1839 and today serves over 14,000 students across 19 elementary, middle and high schools. There are also several private schools located in the city.

Higher education institutions include:

  • Schoolcraft College – Livonia campus opened in 1965. Over 18,000 students.
  • Madonna University – Catholic liberal arts university, founded in 1937 by the Felician Sisters.

Livonia schools are known for high educational outcomes. Stevenson High School in particular is recognized as one of the top public high schools in Michigan.

Culture and Contemporary Life

As a middle-class suburban community, Livonia offers a wide range of parks, recreational facilities, dining and shopping options for residents. Important attractions and institutions include:

  • Greenmead Historical Park – 19th century farmstead depicting Livonia’s early history
  • Livonia Community Recreation Center – Fitness center, indoor/outdoor pools, hockey rinks, racquetball, and more. Opened in 2001.
  • Laurel Park Place – Upscale shopping mall with over 70 stores and eateries
  • Livonia Public Library – Extensive suburban library system with three branch locations
  • Roush Performance – Auto enthusiasts can take racing classes and workshops at Roush Racing School
  • St. Mary Mercy Hospital – Major medical center employing over 5,000 people

Livonia has a vibrant civic culture with events like the Livonia Spree festival every August. Numerous community groups are active in the city, including the Livonia Rotary Club, Livonia Lions Club, and Livonia Chamber of Commerce.

As of the 2020 census, nearly 75% of occupied housing in the city consisted of owner-occupied single family homes.

Livonia provides typical suburban neighborhood amenities like good schools, low crime rates, parks and recreation. It continues to attract middle-class families looking for an affordable alternative to living in Detroit.


Over the past century, Livonia has grown from a small rural farming settlement into one of Michigan’s largest suburbs.

Strategically located near Detroit and facilitated by the auto industry, Livonia expanded rapidly in the 1950s and 60s as middle-class families sought affordable single-family homes.

Today, Livonia is a mature, built-out suburban community with approximately 95,000 residents. It serves as a hub for manufacturing, retail, education and healthcare in western Wayne County.

While growth has slowed in recent decades, Livonia remains an attractive place for families seeking good schools, amenities and a convenient suburban lifestyle. The city has a long, rich history that shaped its development into the thriving suburban community it is today

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  • Take I-94 W from Detroit for 20 miles. Exit at Merriman Rd, turn right. Go 3 miles north to Schoolcraft Rd. Turn left, drive 2 miles to Livonia.
  • From downtown Detroit, take Lodge Fwy NW 10 miles to I-96 W. Drive 15 miles, exit at Inkster Rd. Turn left, go 5 miles north to Schoolcraft Rd. Turn right, follow 3 miles into Livonia.
  • From Detroit, go west on Michigan Ave 8 miles. Turn right on Greenfield Rd, go 12 miles north to Schoolcraft Rd. Make a left, drive 3 miles west to reach Livonia.