Dearborn, Michigan, USA Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Dearborn, Michigan, USA

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Dearborn, Michigan is located in Wayne County in the south eastern part of the state of Michigan, USA, and borders directly with the City of Detroit.

A Very Brief History

The city was first established as a frontier fort and outpost in 1786 and was named for General Henry Dearborn, a distinguished physician and Revolutionary War hero who served as Secretary of State under President Thomas Jefferson from 1801-1809 and commanded the American armies during the war of 1812.

Dearborn is home now to over 98,000 people1, and has one of the highest population densities in the metropolitan Detroit area. Dearborn's population represents more than 80 different nationalities, cultures and ethnicities, and is home to one of the largest Arabic populations in the United States.

The city is probably best known as the birthplace of Henry Ford (1863-1947) and the home of the Ford Motor Company (established 1903). Ford's World Headquarters (known locally as 'The Glass House') and their main research and development facilities remain in Dearborn. The Ford influence is clearly visible everyday throughout the city. One of the easiest ways to know you're in Dearborn is to drive through during rush hour. Try to pick out any non-Ford vehicles on the road. Foreign makes (most specifically Japanese brands) are seen very rarely indeed.

It's often easy to tell when you're speaking to someone from the area because its the only place in the country where the Ford Motor Company is commonly referred to the in the plural. It's not uncommon to hear someone say something like 'My brother just got a job with Fords'.

Things to Do while Visiting

Sharing a common campus in Dearborn and located adjacent to Ford's Engineering and Testing facilities are the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. Together, some refer to them as the 'Smithsonian of the Midwest'2. The museum and village are shortly going to be renamed simply 'The Henry Ford'. It's felt that this will be less confusing to out of town visitors who are not sure what all those names mean. Incorporated into The Henry Ford is an IMAX theatre and in the near future, tours of the Ford Rouge Plant.

The museum is dedicated to helping visitors better understand the growth of America from the 1800s to the 1950s. The museum alone covers 12 acres and boasts world-renowned collections and exhibits, which offer visitors a glimpse of America's past. On display are classic automobiles, early flying machines, period household furnishings and appliances from two centuries. There are even whole locomotives indoors and open to visitors who wish to climb aboard. A great way to learn a little bit about American culture is to visit one of the newest exhibits, the Automobile in American Life. This exhibit offers insight as to how and why the automobile has been one of the greatest forces in shaping the way 20th Century Americans work, play, and conduct their daily lives. On the more gruesome side, you can view things like the Limousine President Kennedy was riding in when he was assassinated, and the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was shot as well. Kennedy's blood is not visible anywhere, Lincoln's however, is.

Covering every bit of 240 acres is Greenfield Village. This is an outdoor museum where visitors can see what life was like for both the wealthy and powerful as well as the common person in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Whole buildings are on display from colonial times to the turn of the century. Its truly amazing exhibits include national treasures such as Thomas Edison's original Menlo Park Laboratory, where the electric light bulb, the motion picture, phonograph and hundreds of other inventions sprang from Edison's rather fertile mind. And since Henry Ford was at times a bit sentimental, you can find Edison's birthplace as well as the birthplace of Harvey Firestone there too. Not far from Edison's lab is the Wright brothers' cycle shop where Wilbur and Orville dreamt up and built their Wright Flyer. These and other buildings were dismantled, transported and rebuilt brick by brick, and opened for public display. You can also view places like the courthouse where Abraham Lincoln once practised law. Open for visit is a working farm. Guests can also take rides in a horse-drawn carriage, or take a stately cruise on a steam-powered paddlewheel riverboat. There is also a working 1913 carnival carousel for kids of all ages and for those model railroaders who want to see the real thing, an early steam train will take you around the village.

The Ford Rouge Plant was at one time the largest automotive plant in the world. At its largest, the plant employed about 50,000 workers. The Rouge plant is so named because it sprawls across the Rouge River, a tributary of the Detroit River. The plant was originally designed be nearly fully self-contained. Coal, iron ore and sand came in at one end, somewhere in the middle Firestone tyres arrived, and at the other end out came a complete automobile. The plant generated its own electricity and made its own glass and steel. It also housed what may or may not still be the world's largest self-contained railroad. If the history of labour unions interests you, you can find the Rouge River Bridge where workers clashed (and died) with Henry Ford's strike breakers while trying to unionize the plant. During the Second World War the Rouge Plant was one of the biggest reasons that Detroit was known as 'The Arsenal of Democracy'.

If you'd like a sense of Henry Ford himself, the Ford mansion, called Fairlane is open all year round for tours. The Mansion is located less than a mile from the museum complex, but due to the size of the road network and a lack of sidewalks its best not to attempt walking there from the museum. You can see most of the rooms in the mansion as well as Henrys' workshop in the adjacent carriage house. The indoor pool has been converted into a courtyard type of restaurant and is open for lunch. Fairlane is not as large as many people expect, but its richly detailed and decorated rooms are a treat for people who enjoy the architecture of the early 20th Century. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and can fill you in on the day-to-day personal life of one of the men who helped make the United States what it is today.

The city-owned and operated Dearborn Hills Golf Course is the oldest public course in the state, and is registered with the state as an historical site. The course was built in 1922 and completely redesigned in the early 1990s. A short course containing no Par 5 holes (also called an Executive Course), it's nonetheless very challenging as most holes have fairly narrow fairways with abundant water hazards. Water is so abundant in fact that except during times of severe drought the turf is fairly soft. This will often limit a ball's roll in the fairway. While you won't often reach into your bag for a driver, the course will challenge your irons play a great deal.

Educational Institutions

Dearborn is also home to the Henry Ford Community College (a two-year institution which offers certificate programmes and Associates Degree programmes), Davenport University, and a remote campus for one of the states most prestigious schools, the University of Michigan. Together they serve a full- and part-time student base of nearly 25,000. It's worth noting that both Henry Ford Community College and The University of Michigan-Dearborn are built on land that was once part of the Ford estate.

Local Interest

Dearborn has an excellent system of city parks, easily found in most neighbourhoods. Most are small to medium-sized playgrounds for children, although the largest have athletic fields, running tracks, and occasionally, swimming pools. Dearborn also finished construction on a new state-of-the-art recreation centre that includes a full workout room, gymnasium (basketball, volleyball etc) indoor track, short course lap pool, wading pool, rock-climbing wall and an auditorium/theatre. Outside the city by about 20 miles is Camp Dearborn, a city-run park system on a lake that includes picnic areas, camping, fishing, cycling, mountain-biking, and light hiking.

Area residents unofficially divide the city into East and West Dearborn, usually considering the Southfield road as the line of demarcation. East Dearborn borders the city of Detroit, while West Dearborn buffers some of the western and Downriver3 suburbs from Detroit proper. From east to west there are three high schools: Fordson, Edsel Ford and Dearborn. Each has a number of primary and middle schools feeding them. In very broad and general terms, East Dearborn has a greater ethnic diversity than West Dearborn. East Dearborn is also the place to go to experience some of the best Middle Eastern cuisine in North America. The geographic centre of Dearborn's Arabic enclave is on the east side.

Beginning in downtown Detroit and running more or less east-west right through the middle of the city is Michigan Avenue. Also known as US-12, this was once (before the creation of the interstate highway system) the main road linking Detroit to Chicago. Michigan Avenue is Dearborn's main surface artery and is lined with shops, theatres, restaurants, government and municipal buildings and Ford World Headquarters.

Dearborn is convenient to several interstate highways and only a few miles from the Detroit Metropolitan airport.

So there you have it in a nutshell. Dearborn, a city of industry, education and cultural diversity.

198,153 - US Census, April 2010.2The Smithsonian Institution is a collection of museums in Washington DC and is maintained by the US Government.3Downriver means cities that are more or less south of Detroit, along the Detroit River.

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