The City of Dearborn is home to many historic buildings and attractions, including it's own historic subdivision. The Ford Homes District is known for it's unique architecture and attractive landscaping.
The subdivision was the idea of Henry Ford who learned that many of his employees at the Henry Ford and Son Tractor plant, located near present day Michigan Avenue and Oakwood, were commuting from rented homes in Detroit. At the time, the Detroit United Railway street-car was crowded and took an hour to reach Dearborn. Ford suggested a group of homes be built near the plant.
During January 1919, the Dearborn Realty and Construction Co. was formed with the intent of purchasing, dividing, improving, and selling real estate. Ford's personal secretary, E.G. Liebold, was elected president and Edsel Ford was named vice president. In the few months that followed, Dearborn Realty and Construction Co. purchased 312 lots of land in the J.B. Molony Subdivision. The area was bounded by the railroad tracks, Military (Lapham), Nowlin and Monroe.
Albert Wood, an architect for Ford Motor Co., was asked to draw up several models for the new Ford Homes District. He came up with six different designs; all two-story homes with a living room, dining room, kitchen, three bedrooms, a bathroom and a porch. There was only one four-bedroom model offered, however only 13 were built.
Models were assigned lots so that no two were next to each other and facade designs were mirror imaged or flopped for added variety. Ford Homes were not placed at an even distance from the street, but were staggered. Effort was made to make each house look distinct.
Work on the homes began in May 1919 on Park and Nona streets. Ford incorporated his assembly line idea to the production of the houses. A separate work crew was used for each job on the construction site. One crew used Ford tractors to dig the foundations; another crew came in and laid the basement walls; while yet another raised the framework and finished the interior. The materials used to build the homes were of the highest quality available at the time.
From May to November 1919 work crews completed 33 homes on the south side of Park and 61 homes on Nona. Tractor plant employees purchased the homes directly from Dearborn Realty and Construction Co. at prices determined by construction costs and the model. Prices ranged from $7,000 to $8,000.
Additional homes were built in the subdivision during 1920 and possibly into 1921. It is reported that 200 to 350 homes were originally planned, however only 156 were built after houses on Park and Nona were completed. The remaining homes were constructed on plots of land on Edison, Beech, Francis, Gregory and Military. The slowdown may be blamed on the fact that work at the tractor plant was moved to the Ford Rouge Plant in 1921.
The Ford Homes Historic District continues to thrive today. Many residents have restored their homes and go to great lengths to preserve their part of history. The subdivision has also hosted tours to showcase the historic homes.
FORD HOME DRAWINGS
By MIKE ASSENMACHER
The Beginning of the Tour
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