Soon after the Wright Brothers' historic flight launched the aviation industry, Henry Ford and his son, Edsel, both became fascinated with this new mode of transportation and saw the business potential the new industry offered.
In 1922, when Edsel Ford was 28, he invested in a new company, the Stout Metal Airplane Company, which named him a director. Edsel and Henry offered the company land for an airfield and the airplane company agreed. When the airport was completed in January 1925, it was hailed by experts of the emerging field of aviation as one of the finest in the country.
With the opening of the new airport, Henry Ford, seeing a new business opportunity, purchased the land across from the airport and arranged for the construction of a hotel. The Dearborn Inn opened on July 1, 1931, to provide lodging for pilots and visitors to nearby Ford laboratories and the new Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.
One of the first airport hotels, the three-story, red-brick Dearborn Inn was built in a gracious and stately Georgian style reminiscent of a time dear to the heart of Henry Ford. The balcony railings, elegant main entrance and arch-topped windows suggested 19th-century nostalgia. However, the guest rooms were outfitted with the most modern conveniences of the day, including bathtubs with showers.
A group of rooms near the check-in desk was reserved for pilots. "Pilot's Row" was separated from the main guest area, so that the pilots' comings and goings would not disturb other patrons.
In 1937, five Colonial-style guest buildings were built. The "Colonial Village" homes are reproductions of the residences of American historical figures Patrick Henry, Barbara Fritchie and Governor Oliver Wolcott, as well as those of literary giants Walt Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe.
The airfield is now part of a Ford test track, the Dearborn Proving Grounds, but the Dearborn Inn, now a Marriott Hotel, remains an inn that still evokes the distinction and comfort Henry Ford envisioned more than 75 years ago.