The “Royal Oak” which stood at Main/Rochester/Crooks
In 1819, Michigan Governor Lewis Cass and several companions set out on an exploration of this area 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 what is now 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.
Present day Royal Oak has developed from its beginnings of the historical Indian trail from holds a unique post as a local epicenter of transportation in the transportation capital of the world. With an interchange connecting interstate highways I-75 and I-696 in the southeast corner of the city, Woodward Avenue, which bridges ten communities from the Detroit River north to downtown Pontiac, defining the western border of the city and the southern terminus of Rochester Road about one mile north of the downtown district, the City remains a true crossroads of the metro Detroit area.