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MotorCities National Heritage Area Historical Markers
The MotorCities National Heritage Area, designated by Congress in 1998, celebrates the auto industry and its impact on the Detroit area, southeastern Michigan, and communities as far away as Saginaw, Flint, Lansing, and Kalamazoo.
By Joel S., July 4, 2015
Travel Through Time on Farmington's Grand River Avenue Marker
Long before our everyday journeys,
people traveled along this important road. This was once the Grand River Trail, a pathway Native Americans followed across Michigan before European settlement. Farmington founder Arthur Power came here along . . . — Map (db m85441) HM
He was a man of vision and achievement,
and he called Haven Hill his "nerve retreat," his restful refuge. The only child of Henry and Clara Ford, Edsel Ford was born in 1893 and became the youngest president of Ford Motor Company in 1919. . . . — Map (db m99082) HM
Michigan state parks welcomed the newly-mobile drivers
of automobiles in the early 1900s. Genevieve Gillette made it her life's work to preserve precious natural settings and make them available to the travelling public. In 1920 she began . . . — Map (db m99055) HM
It was a garage and a playhouse.
The Carriage House was planned to be the chauffeur's home and to shelter Ford family vehicles. But the chauffeur moved into the Lodge, and the Carriage House became a playhouse for the Ford children — . . . — Map (db m99117) HM
An expression of deep respect for the land,
this complex was called the Farm Group Buildings. Edsel Ford learned from his father Henry Ford who wrote in 1932 that "with one foot in industry and another foot in the land, human society is . . . — Map (db m99131) HM
The Gatehouse was the formal entryway
into the 2,422 acre Haven Hill Estate, Edsel Ford's chosen "weekend getaway." While Edsel gathered property for his country estate in the 1920s, Packard Motor Car Company and General Motors bought large . . . — Map (db m99066) HM
It was an expression of new wealth and mobility
created by the early automobile industry. Twenty years after his father founded Ford Motor Company in 1903, Edsel Ford began buying the hilly property that became his family's rural retreat . . . — Map (db m99106) HM
They came from around the world.
In the early 1920s, "weekend jaunts" in automobiles and on new roads brought day travelers to this countryside like never before, and also brought prominent people from around the world. The world of Edsel . . . — Map (db m99075) HM
This lovely building has been many homes.
It was built in the Italianate style in 1860, as our nation's Civil War approached, for the family of bank president Asa Dow. It continued as a home for families until 1922. As apartments, it . . . — Map (db m96994) HM
Something had to be done.
Constructed in 1898 and in service for over 75 years, this firehouse combined two separate volunteer fire companies into one centalized fire station. A paid department and a dedicated building represented a major . . . — Map (db m98474) HM
Along the road, a welcoming tradition.
The road was once called the Sauk Trail, the Military Chicago Road, Congress Road, and, eventually, Michigan Avenue. For travel by foot, horse, stagecoach, truck, or automobile, it has endured as a . . . — Map (db m98488) HM
The building has stories to tell
It can tell about first being built as an electric plant before being converted to manufacturing in 1905. There are memories of 1916 when it became the first Dodge dealership outside Detroit, later becoming a . . . — Map (db m94320) HM
Manufacturing here spanned most of the 20th Century,
reflecting the changing economy in Ypsilanti and in America. In 1907 the Ypsilanti Hay Press Company first built a factory here by the Huron River and the railroad tracks to make . . . — Map (db m98955) HM
The early automotive industry came to Ypsilanti
just after World War I. In 1919, Apex Motor Corporation built a small factory on River Street just south of Michigan Avenue to manufacture various "Ace" vehicles. But by 1925 three . . . — Map (db m98724) HM
Henry Ford wasn't the first to harness the flowing Huron River.
In the 1880s, dams built along the river through Ypsilanti provided waterpower to mills processing paper, wool, lumber, and grain. In 1931, Ford bought property along the river . . . — Map (db m98723) HM
It's hard to count all the brands of automobiles
that were sold on the south side of Michigan Avenue. Right here, between the Huron River Bridge and Park Street, 17 auto dealers sold 31 different brands of cars and trucks during the 1900s. . . . — Map (db m98722) HM
You can get hungry building B-24 bombers.
The Bomber Restaurant was first given its name in 1942 by Florence Bladwin [sic] Averill. The massive Ford B-24 bomber plant had just opened at nearby Willow Run Airport to supply aircraft . . . — Map (db m98698) HM
It was America's "first completely new car in fifty years"
and the vision in 1945 of Preston Tucker, who lived at 110 North Park Street in Ypsilanti. He was the general manager of his family's Ypsilanti Machine & Tool Company at 103 North . . . — Map (db m98420) HM
At Cherry Hill Village, Henry Ford did something different.
In front of you, at the southwest corner of Cherry Hill and Ridge Roads, was one of his "village industries," small factory sites which produced Ford parts with special local . . . — Map (db m99544) HM
Walking among the headstones
of Canton's pioneer families, one cannot escape their contribution to American history. You see the Hustons, the Lewises, the Gills, and veterans from every war, beginning with the War of 1812 through modern . . . — Map (db m99580) HM
This beautiful Italianate-style Inn
was built by Abner Hitchcock in 1866 on speculation that a railroad spur would come through Cherry Hill and travelers would need a place to stay. The railroad never came, and Hitchcock lost the building . . . — Map (db m99509) HM
Cherry Hill Village originated in the 1830s
at the crossroads of Cherry Hill and Ridge Roads. As the economic and social center for the area, local families came here to trade at the general store, to pick up mail, to get shoes for . . . — Map (db m99621) HM
Canton's loamy soil was a natural draw
to the region's settlers. From 1825 to the 1960s farming was the main vocation in Canton. At first, self-sustaining farms provided the only food and income for a family. By the 1920s, automobiles, . . . — Map (db m99847) HM
Dearborn was an outpost on the western frontier
Because of expansion from Detroit and Indian disturbances to the west, in 1833 the federal government began construction of an arsenal on its military reserve land near where the Sauk Trail . . . — Map (db m98178) HM
Parallel to the Great Meadow, the Trail Garden offered visitors a more intimate garden-walk experience. As it meandered through shrub borders and woodland, the Trail Garden was full of surprises. Large semi-circular flower beds were planted with . . . — Map (db m96436)
This Morley Avenue neighborhood has a special history.
In the early 1800s, the U.S. government purchased this land near the Rouge River for a frontier military reserve and arsenal. When the arsenal closed in 1875, the land was sold and . . . — Map (db m98620) HM
East Downtown Dearborn is "the neighborhood the Rouge Plant built,"
and its fortunes have been tied to Ford Motor Company. Ford taxes generated much of the income used to build the impressive Georgian Revival-style building, which opened on . . . — Map (db m96996) HM
Henry Ford built the City of Dearborn
His business interests drove the consolidation of the City of Fordson and the City of Dearborn in 1929. To the east were the Ford Rouge Plant and the Ford Administration Building. To the west were . . . — Map (db m96992) HM
It was a gift for his hometown.
Henry Ford developed an 18-hole golf course at Outer Drive and Military Street that opened in 1925. With the course designed by Donald Ross and the clubhouse designed by architect Albert Kahn, Ford wanted to . . . — Map (db m98085) HM
Once open farmland, the osage-orage tree hedge on the right still exists. It dates from the 1800's farming community that formed the boyhood environment of Henry Ford. Landscape designer Jens Jensen told the Fords he would transform the land back . . . — Map (db m89482) HM
From State Fair to Fair Lane
Henry Ford had the miniature farmhouse, along with a miniature barn, steam engine and threshing machine, constructed for the 1924 Michigan State Fair to educate children living in an urban area about life on a . . . — Map (db m96264) HM
The manufacturing technology developed by Henry Ford and the auto industry affected all aspects of life in early 20th century Michigan. Among the labor-saving items pioneered in the state during that period were specialized valves for watering . . . — Map (db m89361) HM
Dearborn has long been a transportation hub,
first by water and land, later by rail, air and automobile. The Rouge and Detroit rivers provided water transport to the Great Lakes. Major overland routes included the Sauk Trail (later the . . . — Map (db m96842) HM
In 1926, a 2.5-acre rose garden was designed for this meadow, with the help of landscape architect Herbert Kellaway and rosarian Harriet Foote. Once completed, the garden contained approximately 10,000 rose plants of 400 varieties and cost more than . . . — Map (db m98927) HM
Where you are standing now was once an open channel to the Rouge River. The Fords would pilot their boat, the Callie B, out of the boathouse to the river. The Ford grandchildren would harbor small boats here, as well. Conveniently, Mrs. . . . — Map (db m88431) HM
Fruit orchards were planted in various locations around the estate consisting of apples, pears, cherries, and other varieties of fruit. The open lawn next to the weeping beech tree was previously an apple orchard with fruit favored by Mrs. Ford. . . . — Map (db m96261) HM
Radio has a strong tradition in Dearborn.
In 1934, Henry Ford inspired the "Ford Sunday Evening Hour" on Detroit's WWJ - AM radio. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra appeared on the broadcast regularly and became the nation's first radio . . . — Map (db m98481) HM
In 1915, landscape designer Jens Jensen created a picturesque rock garden masterpiece for Henry and Clara Ford. His design was engineered to work with nature and be relatively maintenance-free.
(Left Photo Caption)
In the early 1920's, . . . — Map (db m89338) HM
Long before cars were built along the lower Rouge River
in Dearborn, the site was home to shipbuilding. Early 1700s French settlers established a small shipyard on the Rouge River at Baby Creek. The British later used the same site to build . . . — Map (db m99189) HM
There has always been a lot to stop for here.
In the 1800s, the Six Mile Inn was a rural rest stop here along the Chicago Road (today's Michigan Avenue) from Detroit. But the development nearby in the early 1900s of Ford Motor Company's . . . — Map (db m85498) HM
Guests of the Fords came from all walks of life, and the Great Meadow that greeted them remains. Its designer, Jens Jensen, used thousands of native plantings to create this vista he labeled, "The Path of the Setting Sun-Summer." Every summer . . . — Map (db m96937) HM
The intersection of Michigan Avenue and Schaefer Road
has been important in metropolitan Detroit's history. In its early days it was a rest stop on the road between Detroit and Chicago. Joseph Schaefer built the Six Mile House tavern at the . . . — Map (db m96169) HM
The Chicago Road was the way to go west from Detroit.
After the Erie Canal in New York state opened in 1825, great numbers of Americans searched for their future to the west across the Great Lakes. Many of them traveled on the Chicago Road, . . . — Map (db m96775) HM
Henry Ford established this one-room schoolhouse
for children of workers at his nearby Nankin Mill village industry plant producing automotive parts. The rural school operated from 1937 to 1946 as part of Ford's Edison Institute School . . . — Map (db m96980) HM
It was a short walk to work.
This was home to milling families who owned and operated Nankin Mills during its gristmill heyday, from 1842 to 1918. Its Greek Revival style was popular when it was built in 1834. The last farmer living here . . . — Map (db m96981) HM