On one of my recent “Detroit Drives” I found a very inspirational bit of architecture, one of those bits that had me slamming on the breaks and pulling the most illegal of u-turns in the middle of a 6 lane road (thankfully it was day-break on a Sunday morning and an empty road). As I swung the truck around there stood Fordson High School a with its gleaming neo-Tudor style tower looking over Ford road in Dearborn, MI. Gleaming in the morning sun was a granite and sandstone school that harkened back to the days in which Detroit and its suburbs were enjoying the wealth of the world.
Originally located in the village of Fordson (now part of Dearborn), Fordson High School was dedicated in 1928 and was hailed as “one of the finest school buildings in the United States”. Designed by architect Everett Lane Williams (of the Detroit based firm of Van Leyen, Schilling, Keough & Reynolds) which stated that the tower and grounds were inspired by the Lawyers Club at the University of Michigan and the Yale University quad. Though I didn’t have a chance to go into the school (I save my photo snapping adventures for the wee hours of Sunday mornings, schools tend to be closed then) it is said that the main entrance has ten busts that include philosophers, playwrights, and mathematicians like Plato, Socrates and the like and that the library has carved oak paneling, I’ll have to check out the movie “The Rosary Murders” where the tower and library are featured.
Beyond the architecture the Fordson tower has served as a beacon of protest and protection. During WWII and the Korean War the tower was a watch tower for potential bombing raids to the Ford Rouge River plant. During the Korean War is was speculated that soviet bombing raids would come over the arctic circle heading for the plant, therefore to do their part all the faculty at Fordson were enlisted to do sky watch duty and would take shifts in the tower watching the night sky.
For me, as one who currently specializes mainly in educational architecture, I can’t help but stand and stare in envy of such an amazing and inspirational school building.