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World’s first airport hotel, historic Dearborn Inn, a Marriott Hotel

The Dearborn Inn in Dearborn, Michigan outside of Detroit claims to be the world’s first airport hotel. And the airport hotel was Henry Ford’s idea.

Dearborn, Michigan is Ford Motor Company’s global headquarters. There are hundreds of buildings and many square miles of land in and around Dearborn and Detroit owned by Ford.

An unanticipated surprise for me of the #FordNAIAS events for some 150 bloggers invited by Ford Motor Company to the 2014 North America International Auto Show in Detroit this week was attending workshops at the Marriott Dearborn Inn the final day.

The Dearborn Inn

During a 30-minute break on Tuesday morning at The Dearborn Inn, I hastily arranged a tour of the hotel and I snapped photos.

It was a surprise for me to learn something about this Marriott managed hotel.

Dearborn Inn entrance

The Dearborn Inn, a Marriott Hotel.

The Dearborn Inn is owned by Ford Motor Land Development Company.

Turns out that I visited two Marriott managed hotels on this trip that have a deep connection to Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company.

The Henry, a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel and formerly a Ritz-Carlton brand from 1989-2010 was the hotel I stayed two nights after arriving at Detroit Airport. That stay was arranged by me and in no way connected to the Ford invitation to Detroit. Turns out The Henry hotel and surrounding lands have a connection to the Ford Motor Land Development Corporation, a real estate spin-off in 1970 from Ford Motor Company.

The Dearborn Inn, a Marriott managed hotel, is where Ford Motor Company held seminar breakouts for bloggers and served as the starting point for a vehicle test drive in a Ford Escape I made with another blogger into downtown Detroit.

The World’s First Airport Hotel

The Dearborn Inn was the idea of Henry Ford who realized in 1930 that air passengers arriving by plane to Ford Field (1924-1933) in Dearborn, Michigan had nowhere closer than Detroit to spend the night at a hotel. Ford commissioned architect Albert Kahn to design the world’s first airport hotel.

Dearborn Inn early photo

Ford Trimotor plane flying over Dearborn Inn in the 1930s.

German-born and Detroit-raised Albert Kahn gained his architectural design reputation designing the Detroit Packard Motor Car Company factory in 1903 using reinforced concrete. The traditional mix of wood frame factories with gasoline and oil soaked automobile factories resulted in some quick burning fires in the early days of the industry. Henry Ford worked with Albert Kahn to design Highland Park, his Model T assembly line factory opened in 1910. Then, in 1917 Kahn designed the Ford River Rouge Complex in Dearborn, which at the time was the largest industrial complex in the world.

Fisher Auto Body Plant 21

Fisher Auto Body Plant 21 is another Albert Kahn designed factory built in 1919 that sits abandoned in downtown Detroit just one block from the historic 1904 Ford Piquette factory where Henry Ford developed the original Model T car.

The Dearborn Inn, a red brick, colonial Georgian-style structure opened in July 1931. The Dearborn Inn was built on a 23-acre site across from Ford Airport on Oakwood Boulevard. Henry Ford had many of his own design ideas for The Dearborn Inn. The Alexandria Ballroom was based on a room Henry Ford had seen in Alexandria, Virginia. Henry and Clara’s love for dancing made the ballroom a centerpiece of the new hotel.

Dearborn Inn hstoric place

The Dearborn Inn had established its reputation by 1933 when the Ford Airport closed and was replaced by the Ford Motor Company test track. These days, there are Ford Motor Company design and research facilities across Oakwood Boulevard from the hotel. The location of the hotel, surrounded by Ford Motor Company infrastructure does not make a typical tourist hotel setting. The hotel itself is attractive and its proximity to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village historic park less than one-half mile away offer a good incentive to stay at the hotel, even if you are not in the area as a visitor to Ford Motor Company. The hotel offers complimentary shuttle service to the museum.

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company buildings across Oakwood Boulevard from The Dearborn Inn.

Ford Motor Company occupies a large portion of Dearborn, Michigan. When I stayed at The Henry hotel for the first two nights in the area, my room looked out at Ford Motor Company business office skyscrapers in the fields.

The Dearborn Inn hotel is surrounded by Ford Motor Company buildings and the Henry Ford Museum is down the street. The Ford Motor Land Development Company was created in 1970 to oversee development and management of several square miles of Dearborn real estate.

Ford at Dearborn MI

Dearborn Inn is pin A and Henry Ford Museum is Pin B. Ford vehicle test track is center of map where the Ford Airport formerly existed (1924-1933).

William Stout

Outside the Dearborn Inn hotel is a plaque honoring William Stout (1880-1956), an airplane designer in the 1920s whose company, Stout Metal Airplane Company, was bought by Ford Motor Company in 1925. Stout was consulting engineer during the design of the Ford Tri-Motor airplane. The plaque also attributes Stout with founding Stout Air Services in 1926 as the first regularly scheduled airline passenger service in the U.S.

Inside the Dearborn Inn

Dearborn Inn-lobby-1

Dearborn Inn lobby view to reception desk. Clara Bryant Ford’s portrait on wall. She was Henry Ford’s wife.

Dearborn Inn-lobby-2

Dearborn Inn lobby view. Henry Ford’s portrait hangs over fireplace.


The hotel restaurant is Edison’s, named after Henry Ford’s close friend, Thomas Edison.

Dearborn Inn Ten Eyck Tavern

Ten Eyck Tavern

The hotel bar is named the Ten Eyck Tavern after Dearborn’s first tavern and inn built in 1826 by Conrad Ten Eyck (1782-1847). The old tavern was one day’s ride west of Detroit. The original Ten Eyck Tavern burned down in 1869.

conference room wing

Dearborn Inn conference wing hallway.

One of the unique features of the Dearborn Inn are replica historic houses  added in 1937 when the Colonial Village was built. There are five houses built with attention to detail as replicas of the homes for five famous Americans:

  • Barbara Fritchie (1755-1862) Maryland resident who performed with Francisc Scott key in a ceremony for George Washington’s death.
  • Walt Whitman (1819-1892) New York/New Jersey poet, essayist, journalist.
  • Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) Baltimore, Maryland author and poet.
  • Patrick Henry (1736-1799) first and sixth governor of Virginia
  • Oliver Wolcott (1726-1797) signer of Declaration of Independence and governor of Connecticut

These five homes offer 31 guestrooms at the Dearborn Inn. The buildings were constructed to precise detail from building materials to interior décor. The original plans called for 18 replica homes in the  Colonial Village, however, World War II halted the construction of additional structures.

Colonial Village

Left to right are homes of Barbara Fritchie, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe and Patrick Henry.

Oliver Wolcott home

Oliver Wolcott home in Colonial Village. Patrick Henry home to left.

Patrick Henry home

Patrick Henry 1736-1799. This colonial house holds four guestrooms.

Patrick Henry bed

Bedroom of Patrick Henry home

Patrick Henry bedroom

Fireplace in bedroom is decorative only.

Patrick Henry sitting room-1

The ground floor guest room is a one bedroom suite with two full bathrooms. In 1961, the Dearborn Inn was the first hotel in Michigan to install direct-dial telephones for guests.

Patrick Henry house details

Obviously these rooms have indoor plumbing, TV and telephones as modern conveniences Patrick Henry did not appreciate in his 18th century colonial home. The Dearborn Inn offers the best of both times.

Patrick henry bathroom

Henry Ford had a fascination for historic American architecture as demonstrated in Greenfield Village, one of the largest historic outdoor parks in America where over 100 buildings are located to represent 300 years of American history. There is an outdoor museum featuring Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park labs and the Wright Brothers’ Cycle Shop.

Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum are less than one mile from The Dearborn Inn on Oakwood Road in Dearborn, Michigan.

Patrick henry second floor

Stairway in Patrick Henry house.

Colonial Village at the Dearborn Inn is more evidence for Henry Ford’s love of American history.

Dearborn Inn fitness

The main building has a 3rd floor fitness room. Many art pieces hanging in the public spaces, hallways and rooms of The Dearborn Inn are Ford automotive and airplane photo prints.

Dearborn Inn standard room

Standard hotel room in main building Dearborn Inn.

There is a seasonal outdoor pool between the main building and hotel’s auxiliary buildings, originally designed for staff.

The Dearborn Inn is a category 5 Marriott Rewards hotel at 25,000 points per night. The historic Dearborn Inn hotel and The Henry, a modern hotel, are both part of Marriott Rewards and the top hotel choices for visitors to Dearborn, Michigan. Either hotel property is a good location for an immersion into Ford Land.

Related posts:

Intro to Dearborn Ford Land and #FordNAIAS (Jan 16, 2014)

The Henry, Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan (Jan 10, 2014)

Aviation History at the henry Ford Museum – Part 1 (Jan 11, 2014)

History of Early Commercial Aviation at Henry Ford Museum – Part 2 (Jan 12, 2014)

Travel Remembrances of Things Past (Jan 12, 2014)

Detroit in my Pictures (Jan 14, 2014)


Blogger Disclosure –

Ford Motor Company paid for my travel and accommodations at the three- day NAIAS Digital Summit. I was not compensated in any other manner for my time. My opinions posted here are my own.

Monterey-Detroit economy class ticket on United Airlines.

Two nights at Westin Detroit Airport.

Transportation and admission as media attendee for North America International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday Jan 13, 2014.

Test drive of Ford Escape, workshops on electric cars and automotive design and lunch at the Dearborn Inn. Swag consists of a Ford logo neck scarf and one toy model Ford Escape.


Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests.

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  • jpgisbd January 16, 2014

    Being a Detroiter I really have enjoyed your posts and have even learned a few new things. Thanks for these excellent posts!

  • Ric Garrido January 18, 2014

    @jpgisbd – I went, I saw, I wrote.

    The opportunity to see a place I have never been is always exciting to me. With Detroit in the news so much, I wanted to see what the buzz is all about.

    Ending up in Dearborn for several days was an unexpected immersion into Ford country. I don’t even recall if I knew Dearborn was the global HQ of Ford Motor Company. That link is indelibly etched on my brain now.

    I hope to get back again someday when the grass is greener. Having a car is essential I think for getting around conveniently in the Detroit metro area to reach the sites that interest me.

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