The House that Henry Built
In the 1920’s, Henry Ford’s vision to automate the production of automobiles ignited the Golden Age of Travel. By 1931, the airplane had given it wings. In Detroit, the man behind the wheel watched planes land at Ford Airport in Dearborn, Michigan, dispensing passengers far from Detroit’s downtown hotels. With a business mogul’s savvy, a love for colonial architecture and an admiration for traditional Southern hospitality, he commissioned famed architect, Albert Kahn, to design one of the world’s first airport hotels.
The Dearborn Inn opened for business in 1931 on a 23-acre colonial setting reminiscent of a traditional American inn, but with the modern conveniences that would attract luminaries throughout the years, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Jesse Owens, Norman Rockwell and Orville Wright.
By the time the Ford Airport closed and was replaced by the Ford vehicle test track in 1933, The Dearborn Inn was enjoying a reputation as one of the nation’s premier lodging and dining establishments by visitors and locals, alike. But that did not stop Henry Ford from expanding on his vision. In 1933, a Dormitory Building was added to house the hotel’s employees, many of whom were Irish immigrants. In 1937, the Inn was expanded to include five replica homes in a Colonial Village setting, recreating with painstaking detail the historic homes of famous Americans: Edgar Allan Poe, Oliver Wolcott, Barbara Fritchie, Walt Whitman and Patrick Henry. In 1960, the completion of two additional motor houses, geared toward the growing automobile travel market, added another 54 rooms to Dearborn Inn.
After an extensive renovation in the late 1980s that included enlarging the Inn’s banquet facilities, increasing and completely refurbishing all of the guest rooms and extensively re-landscaping the grounds, The Dearborn Inn reopened in 1989 as a Marriott hotel. Since then, additional renovations and upgrades have positioned the hotel to accommodate the needs of current and future travelers, while maintaining its sense of history and tradition.