By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Homeowners in the Ford Homes Historic District will open their doors to visitors to discovery Dec. 8 as part of the district’s 100th Anniversary Holiday Home Tour.
Of the 250 homes built in the neighborhood, 15 will be on this year’s tour along with vintage Model T’s on display and holiday decorations throughout.
The homes were built near downtown west Dearborn from 1919 to 1921 when Henry Ford opened his Henry Ford & Son tractor plant and employed 400 workers by 1918.
Those workers rented homes for $75 a month in Detroit and spend an hour on a streetcar to get to the plant, which led to Ford’s housing solution after it was suggested to him.
Ford did not want his name connected to the project so it could succeed or fail on it’s own merit, but the three suggestions he made were that the homes be different in appearance, suitable in size to comfortably accommodate an average family and for the best materials to be used, according to the Ford Homes website.
Ford Homes Holiday Home Tour Committee member Danielle Bergeron and her husband have been a resident in the district in a house in the 24000 block of Gregory for 15 years.
Her house, which has an original 100-year-old light globe, was chosen for the 2009 tour. While renovations were taking place, contractors found 1937 Detroit newspapers in the wall.
“All the houses on the tour have so much character and are unique in their own right,” she said. “One of the houses still has the original kitchen cabinets, which have been refurbished so they remain in great condition.”
Bergeron’s husband lived in Dearborn and after looking into other cities in which to reside, they decided to stay in the community because they couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
“We looked at a house in the district in 2009 but never bought it that year,” she said. “Five years later when we purchased our home we realized it was the same one we looked at. There is a great sense of community in the neighborhood and we fell in love with the charm of the city.”
The area, south of Michigan Avenue east of Outer Drive, was originally part of the J.B. Molony subdivision when Ford’s Dearborn Realty and Construction Co. purchased 312 lots between January and May 1919.
According to the Ford Homes website, six different models labeled A through F were designed with their own style, but each were two-stories with a bathroom, dining room, living room, three bedrooms and a porch included.
The first 94 homes in the district were completed on Park and Nona between May and October 1919. Another 156 houses were put up in 1920 on Beech, Edison, Francis, Gregory and Military.
Customers were able to purchase a Ford Homes house directly from Dearborn Realty with no banks involved and a monthly payment of 6 percent of the total cost of the house for the first five years of ownership followed by an increase in payments to half of the house cost.
Purchasing contracts included a provision that once a house was purchased it could not be sold again by the buyer for at least seven years. Prices for the homes ranged from $6,750 to $7,750 when they first went on sale in 1919 but changed to $8,750 to $9,550 the next year.
By 1921, the tractor plant operations were shifted to the Rouge plant factory leaving only 115 of the 250 homes occupied as of October that year, according to the Detroit Saturday Night.
A total of 350 homes were planned for the area, but only 250 were built when construction stopped because of the shift in plant location and travel route for employees. Dearborn Realty dissolved in 1943 with records showing houses in the district still being sold as of 1924.
The 2019 Ford Homes Historic Homes Holiday Home Tour will run from noon to 6 p.m. starting at Duvall Elementary School, 22651 Beech.
Duvall, the school that was build due to the influx of families and children into the Ford Homes neighborhood, will celebrate its 100th year anniversary in 2020. Photos of the building will be on display during the tour.
Tickets for the tour can be purchased in advance for $20 and at the door for $25 at Duvall where tour booklets must also be picked up to begin the tour.
Tickets are available at Speckles + Splatter, Fairlane Florist, McFadden-Ross House, Dearborn Brewing, Z-Coil and Cabinets to Go.
For more information or to purchase tickets go to www.fordhomes.org.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])