Be sure to check Paul’s photo out bigger and see more of Royal Oak photos in his slideshow. You can also check out about 400 more Royal Oak photos from the Absolute Michigan pool.
In 1819, Michigan Gov. Lewis Cass and several companions set out on an exploration of Michigan territory to disprove land surveyors’ claims that the territory was swampy and uninhabitable. The beginning of their journey seemed to support those claims until they reached a desirable area of higher ground near the intersections of Main, Rochester and Crooks Roads. Here they encountered a stately oak tree with a trunk considerably wider than most other oaks. Its large branches reminded Cass of the legend of the royal oak tree, under which King Charles II of England took sanctuary from enemy forces in 1660. Cass and his companions christened the tree, the “Royal Oak.” And so Royal Oak received its name.
As early as 1891, when Royal Oak was a small village, there were only a few hundred residents. In the 10-year span from 1900 to 1910 the population grew to over 1,000. By the time Royal Oak was incorporated as a city in 1921, the population had exploded to over 6,000. This was due in large part to new jobs created by the booming auto industry. The development of the super highway, Woodward Avenue, led to greater population expansion. Woodward Avenue replaced the old Indian road, Saginaw Trail, as the connection between Detroit, Pontiac, Flint and Saginaw, making Royal Oak more accessible. Today, the 28-mile Woodward Avenue (M-1), bridging 10 communities from the Detroit River north to downtown Pontiac, holds the honorary designation of Michigan Heritage Route. The designation was awarded because of the historical and cultural significance of some 350 sites along Woodward Avenue, including 42 historic churches.
You can get tons more great Royal Oak history & historic photos from Historic Royal Oak by Dr. David G. Penney.
Wikipedia’s Royal Oak entry says that as of 2000, the city had a total population of 60,062, making it Michigan’s 18th largest city. Michigan in Pictures has a lot of photos that involve Royal Oak (apparently there’s some sort of Photographic Guild that exhibits there).