The Ambassador Bridge: An Iconic Symbol of Unity in Detroit

With all the amazing developments beginning in Detroit today, we often forget the iconic projects that once defined the Motor City.


From the booming automobile industry, to the reputable and unique music of Motown, Detroit has always been a front runner for innovation and excitement in our changing world. As we continue down the path of success for our beloved city, we can also look to the horizon at an iconic landmark that’s been consistent over time: The Ambassador Bridge.



The bridge was the longest suspended central span in the world upon completion in 1929. The Ambassador Bridge also stood as a symbol of unity – serving as a vital link between the United States and Canada for global visitors and commerce.


Prior to the construction of the Ambassador Bridge, Detroit experienced an exciting period architecturally. Major projects constructed during this era include the General Motors Building, Fisher Building, Masonic Auditorium and Penobscot Building. The only feasible next step for this amazing city: a bridge connecting two countries.


A Sparkling Detroit


Photo Credit: James Gates


The bridge is owned by the Detroit International Bridge Company, and in the year 1981 – the bridge became even more prominent to Detroit’s skyline with a permanent installation of lights. This project escalated quickly, as the city hoped it would be complete just in time for Detroit to welcome fans from across the globe to Super Bowl XVI in January of 1982 at the Pontiac Silverdome.


With a crunch for time, Detroit Mayor Coleman Young created a task force to, once again, unite a city through embracing the beauty and future of Detroit – one project at a time.


The lights were purchased from fundraising calls that created a wave of excitement across the city. Major businesses began donating to the project, and in November 1981, those involved in the project met at the bridge as a helicopter set up the breathtaking lights. This international team ignited a positive and enthusiastic public, who saw the sparkling necklace of lights as a symbol for unity on the world’s friendliest border.


Today you can see the beautiful bridge and its lights that illuminate the sky from the Riverwalk of the Detroit River on the GM Plaza of the GMRENCEN. The lights can also be seen from live video channels each day.


What’s happening today?


Photo Credit: Dane Van


The Ambassador bridge may be a symbol of pride and unity for Detroit, but its presence on the Detroit River also serves as a catalyst for positive international relations – and a booming economy.


The Ambassador bridge is the largest international crossing in North America for trade volume, as 150,000 jobs depend on the Detroit-Windsor border crossing. This international border is also responsible for more than $13 billion in the United States’ annual productivity.


The bridge is responsible for more than 25 percent of all merchandise trade between the United States and Canada, and has adapted over time – just as Detroit has. Although parts have been replaced over the years, segments of the original roadbed from the bridge have been used in Windsor’s bike trails and parks.


The bridge remains a symbol for positive international relations, and pride for the city of Detroit. As city visitors and residents admire its beauty in the Detroit skyline, we remember the determination and creativity that was required to build a world-altering landmark.


Want to learn more? Check out the Ambassador Bridge display between towers 200 and 300 on Level 1 of the GMRENCEN!

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