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Ferndale is primarily residential, with a smaller commercial and industrial sector in the southeast part of the city. Ferndale's business district is anchored by the intersection of Woodward Avenue and 9 Mile Road, where privately owned shops, storefronts, dance clubs, bars and numerous restaurants are featured. Ferndale is well known in the Detroit area for its LGBT population and progressive policies. It is also the setting for the NBC sitcom Undateable.
Native Americans were early inhabitants of the area now known as the City of Ferndale. In the 1800s farmers began cultivating the land. After the invention of the automobile and the development of the automotive assembly line, the population of Ferndale increased rapidly.
Ferndale was incorporated into a village in 1918. It was then incorporated into a city on March 7, 1927, by vote of the citizens of the village. It became a bedroom community for Detroit workers, with most of its growth in housing from 1920-1951. Through the early 1950s there were trolley (interurban railroad) lines in the median strip of Woodward Avenue from downtown Detroit to Pontiac. These helped the northern suburbs of Detroit grow as bedroom communities as people could take the trolley to shop or work in Detroit.
In the 1970s, the Ferndale suburban community emerged as a place for families to raise children during the "Baby Boom" era, with its elementary schools, a downtown, city parks, active churches and civic groups. Ferndale High was completed in 1958.
Ferndale's downtown shopping area, 9 Mile Road, featured many busy, popular stores in the 1940s to 1960s, but later went into decline, and many business closed. In recent decades, the downtown area has revitalized. Ferndale's downtown is formed by two major thoroughfares, Nine Mile Road and Woodward Avenue. Circa 1997 the city made the downtown more pedestrian-friendly by narrowing West Nine Mile Road, the heart of the downtown, to one lane in each direction and adding on-street parking. The result has been a return of pedestrian traffic and an influx of new stores and restaurants. The city has continued to make itself more accessible to people by reducing traffic lanes on Hilton Road and Pinecrest Road, two major local north/south streets, and adding bicycle lanes.