Exploring Southeast Michigan’s Automotive History – Things to do & see

Exploring Southeast Michigan’s Automotive History 

TPlex photo courtesy of The Model T Automotive Heritage Complex, Inc.

 Automotive things to do & see

compiled by Ronda Stiffler

NOTE: All attempts are made to be accurate but changes occur. Please double check time of operation with the individual venues

SE Michigan Signature Auto Events

Grand mansions of the Detroit auto barons

Step into a bygone era with a visit to the grand estates of some of America’s greatest automotive pioneers.

The Henry Ford Estate-Fair Lane

4901 Evergreen Rd. Dearborn, MI
The 1300-acre Henry Ford Estate-Fair Lane consists of Henry and Clara Ford’s home, Mr. Ford’s powerhouse, garage, and research labs. Visitors can dine in the estate’s restaurant, located in the mansion’s original swimming pool room.

Temporarily closed to visitors, plans are underway for the estate  to reopen on Henry Ford’s 150th birthday in 2013. Read more on The Henry Ford Fairlane Estate Renovation here.

Edsel & Eleanor Ford House
Lake Shore Road, Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan 48236

Hours: Tuesdays through Fridays: tours begin at 12 noon and 1:30 pm; Saturdays and Sundays: tours every half hour from 12 noon – 4 pm.
Designed by famed architect Albert Kahn, this elegant stone cottage-inspired home sits on the shores of Lake St. Clair in Gross Pointe Shores. The home was built by Henry Ford‘s only son, Edsel Bryant Ford, and his wife, Eleanor, in 1926.

A tour of the home allows the visitor a look at the collections of art, antiques and furniture belonging to Edsel & Eleanor Ford as well as the splendid architecture of the home and grounds. Special upcoming events in 2011 include Bird Walks and a romantic candle-lit Valentine’s Day tour and dinner. Group Tours at times other than those listed above are available. See website for more information.

Lawrence Fisher Mansion (Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center)
383 Lenox, Detroit, Mi 48125
Hours: Weekdays 9 am – 5 pm

Situated on four acres in northeastern Detroit, this 22,000 square foot Mediterranean-style villa was built in 1927 by Cadillac president Lawrence Fisher.

The house was designed by architect C. Howard Crane, designer of the Fisher Theater. Eclectic in style, the home’s interior is graced with marble columns and rosewood parquet floors and was literally trimmed in silver and gold. The peacock inhabited gardens on the grounds of the mansion feature a waterfall and three fountains.

The mansion was purchased in 1975 by Alfred Brush Ford and donated to the Hare Krishna. It is maintained by them as a Cultural Center which is open to the public.

Call 313-331-6740 for more information.

Meadowbrook Hall
480 South Adams Rd. Rochester, Michigan 48309
Hours: Mondays – Fridays:  Tours begin at 1:30 pm; Saturdays & Sundays: Tours begin at 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm

Meadowbrook Hall is the historic home on the farm of one of the ill-fated co-founders of the Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company, John Dodge.

The house itself, an 88,000 square foot Tudor manor, was built between 1926 and 1929 by Dodge’s widow, Matilda Dodge Wilson. The manor is open for tours year round.

Automotive History Museums & Exhibits

Discover exhibits spotlighting southeast Michigan’s  automobile industry and the labor movement at one or more of southeast Michigan‘s excellent museums.

Detroit Historical Museum’s Motor City Exhibit
5401 Woodward Avenue, Detroit
Hours: Wednesdays-Fridays: 9:30 am – 3:00 pm; Saturdays: 10 am – 5 pm; Sundays: 12 noon – 5 pm

The Detroit Historical Museum’s Motor City Exhibit is regularly updated and tells the ongoing story of the automotive industry and labor movement and their impact on Detroit and auto workers.

Ford Rouge Factory Tour & Exhibits at the Henry Ford
20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, Mi
Hours: Mondays-Saturdays, 9:30 am-5:00 pm. The last tour leaves at 3:00 pm each day.

Explore the Ford Rouge factory in a self-guided five part tour that includes viewing rare footage in the Legacy Theater, a multi-sensory exhibit allowing visitors to experience the auto manufacturing process, a look at an assembly line in action, and more.
Ford Piquette Plant
461 Piquette Avenue, Detroit, Mi.
Hours: Wednesdays-Fridays: 10 am – 4 pm; Saturdays: 9 am – 4 pm; Sundays: 12 noon – 4 pm

Often referred to as “Ford‘s Forgotten Plant”, the Piquette Plant is the birthplace of the Model T and is open to visitors. Many cool cars and exhibits. Admission is $10.

Walter P. Chrysler Museum
One Chrysler Drive, Auburn Hills, Mi 48326
Hours: Tuesdays-Saturdays: 10 am to 5 pm; Sundays: 12 noon – 5 pm. Museum is closed on Mondays.

The Walter P. Chrysler Museum has more than 65 antique, concept and custom automobiles on display along with interactive and historical exhibits.

Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $6 for children ages 6-12, and free for children under age 5.

GM World at GM World Headquarters
100 Renaissance Center, Level A, Detroit

Hours: Mondays-Fridays: 9 am – 6 pm; Saturdays: 1-hour tour begins at 4:00 pm.

GM World is a spectacular 50,000 square foot showroom featuring GM automobiles and interactive audio and visual displays in Detroit’s magnificent Renaissance Center. Spend the day visiting the wintergarden, shopping boutiques, and dining. Admission is free.

Automotive Hall of Fame
21400 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, Mi.
Hours: Wednesdays-Sundays, 9 am-5 pm

The Automotive Hall of Fame is home to interactive exhibits, automobiles, and artifacts on display for auto buffs and for the education and encouragement of the next generation of industry leaders.

Admission is $8.00 for adults, $6.00 for students ages 13-18 and seniors, and $4.00 for youths ages 5-12.
Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum
100 East Cross Street, Ypsilanti, Mi
Hours: Mondays-Fridays: 1:30 pm – 5 pm; Saturdays: 10 am – 5 pm; Sundays: 12 noon – 5 pm

Featuring 30 vintage automobiles with a historic connection to Ypsilanti, the Automotive Heritage Museum includes the following exhibits: Apex Motors, Hudson, Tucker, Kaiser Frazer, Corvair, and Hydromatic. Also known as the “Automotive Orphan Museum.”

Admission is $4 per person. Children under 12 are admitted free.

Packard Proving Grounds
Shelby Township, Michigan

The million-dollar Packard Motor Car testing facility in Shelby Township was built in 1927 and served the United States as a testing ground for armored vehicles during WWII.  Maintained by the Packard Motor Car Foundation, the grounds are open to tours. The Foundation asks that you call ahead for directions at 586-739-4800.

Automotive Trivia

  • World’s First Concrete Mile – Woodward Avenue between 6 Mile and 7 Mile
    Nation’s First Modern Highway – Davison Freeway (M-8) between the Chrysler Freeway (I-75) and Lodge Freeway (M-10)
  • More trivia to come

Hometown History Tours offers a variety of public tours. Check out our schedule here. We also provide private walking and bus tours as well as step-on guide service. Contact us at: 734.642.5712 to discuss your needs.

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