Dearborn Historical Museum reopens the city’s oldest home for tours

Photo Courtesy of the City of Dearborn

Photo Courtesy of the City of Dearborn

The Dearborn Historical Museum recently reopened the 178-year-old Gardner House for tours following a two-month closure for renovations. The project was funded with $11,000 in contributions from community groups and individuals, including those pictured from left (standing): Mary Ray, Campbell’s Paint & Wall Paper; Isamay Osborne, president, Museum Guild of Dearborn; Rosemary Jefferson; Renee Mitchell, Mid-States Ceramic Study Group; David Fecker, Total Interiors Painting & Wallcoverings; Fred Levantrosser, Dearborn Stamp Club, Dearborn Historical Commission; Kirt Gross, curator of the Dearborn Historical Museum; Virginia Horton, Cherry Hill Questers; and Margaret “Marge” Montrief, Dearborn Historical Society. Seated: Rick Danes, Sons of the Union Veterans, and chair of the Dearborn Historical Commission.

DEARBORN, Mich. – The oldest existing house originally built in Dearborn Township just got a facelift and recently reopened for tours as one of the most important exhibits on the campus of the Dearborn Historical Museum.

The renovation was possible because of generous donations from the Dearborn Historical Society, the Cherry Hill Questers, Sons of the Union Veterans, Rosemary Jefferson, the Dearborn Stamp Club and the Mid-State Ceramic Study Group.

The 178-year-old, two-room Gardner House was closed for the renovations June-August, 2009. The porches and plaster walls were repaired and, along with the floor, received a fresh coat of paint to match the colors that graced the walls more than a century ago.
“The Gardner House is an important artifact from 1832, nearly a century before the heyday of the Model T,” said Kirt D. Gross, chief curator of the Dearborn Historical Museum. The inventor of the Model T, however, played a significant role in securing the future of the little cabin.

Henry Ford was a distant relative of the home’s original owners, Richard and Elizabeth Gardner. As a child, Ford played at their home, which stood on an 80-acre parcel of property in the Scotch Settlement section of old Dearborn Township near what today is the area of Warren Ave. and the Southfield Fwy.

Ford later purchased the Gardner House to add to the collection of historic homes in Greenfield Village, in part because it was constructed with dowel pins and hand-cut beams for rafters. He had it restored with furnishings from the 1830s to look as he recalled from his childhood.

In 1996, the home was moved from Greenfield Village to the campus of the Dearborn Historical Museum and a heating unit was installed.
Today the Gardner House offers important lessons in history for guests including hundreds of Dearborn Public School students who visit during field trips.

“We were able to preserve the Gardner House for future generations thanks to $11,000 in donations from local organizations and individuals,” Gross said. “The Museum staff and the Dearborn Historical Commission are very grateful for the continued stewardship of our community’s treasured resources.”

Gross also acknowledged Campbell Wallpaper & Paint and David Fecker’s Total Interiors for donating materials for the completion of the Gardner House renovations.

There is no charge to tour the Dearborn Historical Museum, including the Gardner House.

The Dearborn Historical Museum has two locations: the Commandant’s Quarters, 21950 Michigan Avenue, and open Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; and the McFadden-Ross House campus, which features the Museum Annex and the Gardner House, which is open Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The Museum Archives, located in the McFadden-Ross House, are open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. All facilities are available on weekends by appointment.

For more information, call 313-565-3000.