Michigan Shelby Township (population 73,804) is a suburb of Detroit, located in Macomb County in southeastern Michigan approximately 15 miles north of the city center. On land originally settled by Nathaniel Burgess in 1818, Shelby became a township on April 12, 1827, through an act of the Michigan Territory Legislature. It remained a small farming community on the outskirts of Detroit through much of the 19th century.
As automobile manufacturing expanded in the Motor City during the first decades of the 1900s, Shelby Township's economy, like those of other communities surrounding Detroit, became more industrial and involved in the automobile industry. In Shelby Township, this shift culminated in the construction of the Packard Proving Grounds in 1927. The Grounds were used as a testing site for Packard vehicles and also housed laboratories for research on new engines, fuels, and other automotive components. The Packard Proving Grounds are also significant for their use for testing tanks and other armored vehicles during World War II.
In 2007, the Packard Proving Grounds was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and became a State of Michigan Historic Site, as well as being included in the MotorCities National Heritage Area. The Grounds preservation and restoration were completed through a partnership between Shelby Township and the Packard Motor Car Foundation, a non-profit organization. The project was funded through private donations and prominent contributions from the Shelby Gardeners Club, the Shelby Township Downtown Development Authority, and the Shelby Township Senior Center. On July 7, 2015, the Shelby Township Board of Trustees approved special land use for the Grounds to allow for a museum and events space for activities including weddings, job fairs, charity events, Cub Scout events, and the Shelby Township Farmerâ€™s Market.
In addition to the Packard Proving Grounds, visitors and locals can enjoy the Shelby Township Heritage Trail, a 21-mile trail including a number of historic and cultural resources including historic agricultural, industrial, and municipal buildings, structures, and sites; historic houses; and parks. Prominent stops on the Heritage Trail are the Andrews Schoolhouse Museum, built in 1871 and the last remaining of six 19th century one-room schoolhouses; and the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center, Pioneer Cabin, and the Underground Railroad site of Beacon Tree within River Bends Park. The Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center also sponsors the Sisters of the Unionâ€™s Pioneer Christmas event, an annual two-day reenactment event and celebration of Michigan's pioneer history and the history of the stateâ€™s early settlement period.
Since the establishment of the Shelby Township Historical Committee in 1995, the township has been a great proponent of historic preservation and the utilization of its historic resources for educational and entertaining activities that aim to share Shelby's rich history with citizens and visitors.
Designated a Preserve America Community in June 2016.