Since human history began, man has developed a tradition of naming places and objects after individuals who have made a major impact in the community. Metro- Detroit is no exception to this, with everything from cities to street names to buildings named after those who made a significant contribution to the area. One such person is Henry Ford, who has been honored with countless places named for him. Many of these are located in the heart of his industrial empire, Dearborn, and one of special significance is the Henry Ford Centennial Library.
This library has its roots in 1963. On April 19 of that year, the Ford Foundation provided a three million dollar grant to the city of Dearborn for construction (It later provided an additional five hundred thousand dollars for equipment and other items necessary for the a state-of-the-art library).This was followed on July 30th, the one hundredth anniversary of Henry Ford's birth, with the donation of about fifteen acres of land on Michigan Avenue west of Greenfield by the Ford Motor Company. This donation was presided over by Ford's Chairman of the Board, Henry Ford II, grandson of the buildings namesake, Henry Ford.
The building was designed in a mixture of classical and modern styles. It is three stories tall, and its exterior is composed of multiple types of white marble, with a green marble, called Verde Antique, used in sheets between multiple banks of windows. Interior decoration is comprised of that same green marble and teak panels. The front of the library is made even more attractive by the presence of a large fountain, also of marble (with blue mosaic tiles), which is capable of spraying water over thirty feet high.
The library's cornerstone was layed on Ford's 104th birthday, in 1967, and was attended by Representative John Dingell. It was completed in 1969, and dedicated on November 25th of that year. Following this, for the next week an open house was held, with tours and special events available to the public.
Prior to the opening of the library, a committee was formed to raise money, through donations, to erect a statue of Henry Ford on the grounds of the facility. This group hired Marshall M. Fredericks, sculptor of "The Spirit of Detroit," to create this memorial to Ford. This marble and bronze sculpture was officially unveiled in 1975. In 2007 the Statue was restored for fifty thousand dollars; twenty- eight thousand from the Henry Ford II fund, and eight hundred dollars donated by the Friends of the Library for a plaque.
While the building was originally intended to be occupied solely by the library; this, however, changed in 1979. Since then the building's western end has been occupied by the Dearborn Health Department.
Despite this, the building's primary mission remains that of educating the public. Several quotes from Henry Ford grace the back of the statue dedicated to him, and the topmost is "Education is the greatest gift to civilization." The library named after him puts this belief of his into practice by bringing education to the masses. The Henry Ford Centennial Library is thus a fitting tribute to this man, the most famous individual Dearborn has ever produced.
The Henry Ford Centennial Library is located at 16301 Michigan Avenue. It is open Monday through Wednesday 9:30 to 8:30, and Thursday to Saturday 9:30 to 5:30. (All Dearborn libraries are closed on Saturday's in July and August.)
Source: Eaton, Eleanor. Dearborn: A Pictorial History. The Donning Company, 1984. p. 162