By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Have you ever driven a driven around and wondered what buildings were standing before the current structures, and what their stories were?
Well, author Craig Hutchison has your answers in his new book, “Lost Dearborn.”
The lifelong Dearborn resident explores the history of Dearborn’s buildings that have been demolished or transformed for other uses.
“My goal with this publication was not just to inform readers of the amazing structures that have been built here, but to impart an appreciation that everything we have today was built on a foundation that has now led to where we are today,” he said. “I think readers will find this book full of interesting tidbits and I hope enlightening.”
The book focuses on the U.S. Arsenal complex buildings, Edison School, Oxford School, Ford Rotunda, the Ford Motor Co. Administration building, school buildings, retail buildings, restaurants, motels, buildings erected by Henry Ford and theaters.
“Knowing that I was going to be researching and writing about structures that have either been razed or have changed into a different use, I knew that the beginning of the book should cover the United States Arsenal buildings,” Hutchison said. “The rest of the categories fell into place based on what area residents would have needed and visited.”
Hutchison said the study of history has always fascinated him and credited Henry Ford for some of the attractions in Dearborn.
“In terms of this book specifically, what fascinated me the most was to learn about the variety of offerings area residents have had in terms of retail, restaurants and entertainment,” he said.
“Another facet that must always be a part of the discussion is Henry Ford, because of Ford’s impact on the world, Dearborn was placed on the world map and has had attractions like no other area can boast of like The Henry Ford, the Ford Rotunda and the Dearborn Inn, just to name a few.”
In total, 80 photos with details about buildings in Dearborn were selected and compiled for book, which was not an easy process.
“The most difficult part of writing this book was deciding what to include and what would end up on the cutting room floor,” Hutchison said. “After a few visits to the archives at the Dearborn Historical Museum, it quickly became apparent that I would be able to write at least three books this size. After some difficult decisions, the possibility of a sequel is definitely a possibility.”
His research came with the help of Dearborn Historical Museum Chief Curator Jack Tate when the pair spent time going through the museum’s archive.
“Jack knows Dearborn like few others do and I was able to bounce ideas off of him in terms of structure and content,” Hutchison said. “It was very difficult deciding what should be included and what would not make it into the book.”
The book took Hutchison 18 months to complete after he was asked by Arcadia publishers if he was interested in researching and writing the book. His love for writing and history come from going on field trips to Greenfield Village and listening to these stories being told inside the historic houses and buildings.
“I began looking at images and taking notes back in January of 2016,” he said. “I had never written anything close to this length before as the book has over 30,000 words. It was a lot of hard work but at the same time it was tremendously rewarding.”
Hutchison is a historian, researcher and author who graduated with his bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Michigan.
He is a volunteer maintaining the Dearborn Historical Museum’s website and a freelance writer while earning his master’s degree in public history from Arizona State University.
He has worked in history-related positions for such institutions as the Henry Ford Estate, The Henry Ford, Wayne County Parks and the Dearborn Historical Museum.
Hutchison served on the National Heritage Area project, which resulted in the metropolitan Detroit area being named the Motor Cities National Heritage Area while working at the Wayne County Parks.
During his time at the the Henry Ford Estate, he worked on projects related to the interpretation of history, including the improvement of tours and re-enactment activities.
While working as a historical interpreter at Greenfield Village, Hutchison guided the public as to what life was really like in the past, provided an interesting perspective compared to writing about historical topics.
“My hope for this publication is that it will serve as a way to tell and protect a wonderful legacy for those who know Dearborn,” Hutchison said.
“Lost Dearborn” is available for purchase at the Made Metro Collective, Dearborn Historical Museum, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Questions regarding the book can be emailed to [email protected].
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)