Answered By: Archives & Library Staff @The Henry Ford
Last Updated: Jan 27, 2017 Views: 31

The Ford Homes Historic District was originally part of the J.B. Molony subdivision in Dearborn, MI. Henry Ford bought most of the land after he built his Henry Ford and Son tractor plant, where the Ford Engineering Laboratory now stands, and realized the housing situation for his workers was rather poor. There was little housing available in the then quite rural Dearborn and the few houses that were for rent were too expensive. Most of the workers at the tractor plant lived in Detroit and had to commute about half an hour each way via street car. The neighborhood was not planned to be a company town, or company housing, Henry Ford bought the land, but did not want to be involved in building and selling the housing.

On January 10, 1919 the Dearborn Realty & Construction Company was founded with Ford’s secretary Ernest Liebold as president, Edsel Ford as vice-president, and L.R. McLaughlin as secretary-treasurer. According to an April 11, 1919 Detroit Journal article written by Liebold “the object is to furnish to the employees a modern type of house, well equipped and tastefully designed, and thus lay the foundations for a large city which Dearborn is confidently expected to become.” The houses were designed by Ford architect Albert Wood, who drew up six different models, A-F. The houses were placed at varying distances from the curb and the models were interspersed to avoid uniformity. Each house included a living room, dining room, kitchen, three bedrooms (some later models had four), bathroom, and porch.

The first 94 houses went up between May and October 1919 on Park and Nona, 156 more were built between 1920-1921 on Beech, Francis, Gregory, and Military. The Dearborn Realty & Construction Company built the houses using the production method instead of craftsmen building the house from start to finish, the company had specialized crews come in to complete each task and then move to the next house. A crew would dig out the basement, the next would add the foundation, then another team would put up the frame and so on. The company hired Ford Motor Company workers whenever possible to work on the crews, as Ford believed men should get out of the factory for part of the year and could use their skills from the job in other areas.

In 1919 the houses ranged in price from $6,750-&7,750 (a little more than the original plan which was $4,500-$5,500) the next year saw an increase in price to $8,750-$9,550. Purchasers bought the houses directly from the Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, no banks were involved. Monthly payments were 6% of the total cost of the house for the first five years and at the end of five years had to total half the house cost. There were other stipulations to buying these homes, buyers could not sell the houses for seven years after purchase and the Dearborn Realty & Construction Company could buy back any house within that time if the owners were deemed undesirable (apparently this only happened once when it was found one homeowner was brewing wine in their basement).

Unlike earlier Ford housing plans for Fordson Village, the Dearborn Realty & Construction Company did not focus on community amenities such as parks, community gathering places, stores, etc. but more on creating modern conveniences in the houses such as underground electric lines, telephones in houses, optional garages, and up to date bathrooms and kitchens. However, a school, Southwestern (now Duvall), was built in September 1921 offering grades K-12 until 1931, when Edison School opened, and then just K-4. The school added more classrooms over 1947-1950 and in 1957 expanded to add more classrooms, a gym, and a library.

The first houses built in 1919 sold faster than they were built but after that purchasing slowed. The houses were built with the Henry Ford and Son tractor plant employees in mind, but with the post-war agricultural recession, tractor sales were down, and operations moved to the Rouge by 1921. The commute from the Ford homes to the Rouge was too long for many tractor employees as many did not have cars at that time, and fewer employees were interested in living in the area. As a result the full number of planned homes were never built and the company found it difficult to fill all the homes that were built. Despite this, the company eventually posted a profit and continued in other realty ventures until they dissolved in 1943.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Archival

   Acc. 47 Dearborn Realty and Construction Company
      box 1 Moloney Subdivision
                Pictures; Dearborn Houses
                Correspondence

      box 2 House Inquiries
                Houses; Average cost of construction
                Houses; Cost data

   Acc. 587 Office of Henry Ford and Clara Ford Estate records series
      box 93 Dearborn Realty and Construction Company (card files by contract number,
                  house number, lot number, alphabetical, and purchaser)

      box 99 Dearborn Realty agreements, D1-D20

   Acc. 291 Frank Campsall records series
      box 1 Dearborn Realty and Construction Company, Maloney Subdivision correspondence,
                1914-1927

      box 2 Dearborn Realty and Construction, Maloney Subdivision (various drawings, details,
                elevations, and floorplans) 

   Acc. 284 Henry Ford Office papers
      box 28 Survey; Dearborn, Michigan, Maloney subdivision

   Acc. 284 Henry Ford Office Papers (addendum)
      box 2 Dearborn Realty and Construction Company
                General file
                Notes

   Acc. 285 Henry Ford Office papers
      box 4 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1921
                Form letters to sell houses

      box 5 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1921
                Progress Reports & Cost Data

      box 24 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1921
                  Dearborn Realty & Construction Company statements

      box 52 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company - B.F. Mullen, etc, 1922

      box 92 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1922

      box 126 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1923

      box 167 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1923

      box 220 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1924

      box 360 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1925

      box 471 Dearborn Realty and Construction Company, 1926      

      box 609 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1927

      box 773 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1928

      box 951 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1929

      box 1125 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1930

      box 1291 Dearborn Realty and Construction Company, 1931      

      box 1553 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company (2 folders), 1933-1934      

      box 1742 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1935

      box 1876 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1936
                      Financial Statements 1930-1936      

      box 2000 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1937

      box 2124 Dearborn Realty and Construction Company
                      Dearborn State Corporation re: Dearborn Realty Collections

      box 2185 OLS-OM (includes Francis O'Malley re: Block "E" of J. B. Molony Subdivision)

      box 2262 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company – General, 1939-1940
                      Dearborn State Corporation; Dearborn Realty Collections Daily

      box 2467 Dearborn Realty & Construction Company, 1941-1942
                      Dearborn State Corporation; Dearborn Realty Collections Daily

      box 2647 Dearborn Realty and Construction Company, 1943-1944
                      Dearborn Realty Company

      box 2815 Dearborn Realty Company, 1945-1946

      box 2941 Dearborn Realty Co., 1947-1949
                      General
                      Sale of Park Ave. lots
                      Statements, 1943-1948

      box 3034 Dearborn Realty Company, 1950-1952
                      Dissolution and transfer of its assets to the Ford Foundation, 1951-1952
                      General
                      1949-1951 (Monthly statements)

   Acc. 38 Charles E. Sorensen Office Files
      box 163 Blueprints; Plat of J. B. Molony's subdivision

   Acc. 1660 Photograph Vertical File
      box 68 Historic Houses-Ford Homes Historic District (construction, interiors, model homes)

   Acc. 1538 Ford Homes Historic District Commission records  (Small Accessions)
      Letter to residents, 1980

   Acc. 1479 Joseph Oldenburg Papers (Small Accessions)
      Report of the Ford Homes Historic Study Committee, 1979

Ford News

   The Call of a Cozy Home, 1:1:5:2-3
   Prices Cut on All Ford Houses in Dearborn, 1:16:4+:1-4   
   What You Will See When Going Through Dearborn, 1:15F:7:3-4, 2:9L:7:3-4
   Ideal Suburban Home in Dearborn Subdivision, 1:15F:3+:1-4, 2:9L:3+:1-4

Oral Histories

   65_ 108 E.G. Liebold (pages 239-251)

Vertical File

   Dearborn Realty and Construction Company
   Ford Homes Historic District

Books, Periodicals and Secondary

   Beyond the Model T: The other Ventures of Henry Ford. Ford Bryan
      338.96292 F699 B915b 1997

   Ford: Expansion and Challenge. Allan Nevins, Frank Hill.
      338.76292 F699 N527 1957

   Entrepreneurial vernacular: Developers' subdivisions in the 1920s. Carolyn S. Loeb
      333.77 L825 2001

   “School Sketches: Duvall School.” Tara B. Gnau. The Dearborn Historian
      v. 17 n. 4 p. 126, Autumn, 1977

Contact Us

To set up an appointment to visit the research center call (313) 982-6020 or write to us at research.center@thehenryford.org.

If you wish to do research from offsite, please contact us in writing. Fees apply to many research requests, and we will clarify this when we receive your request. For more information on cost please see our research services. Requests for information can be emailed, faxed or mailed:

Benson Ford Research Center
The Henry Ford
20900 Oakwood Blvd.
Dearborn, MI
48121-1970
USA

fax: (313) 982-6244