There is a long and illustrious history of aviation in the Detroit area, but many of the early airports and airport buildings have all but disappeared, being replaced by new buildings completely redeveloped.
The Ford Airport in Dearborn was built in 1924 and operated until 1947. The buildings were designed by Albert Kahn and featured the first passenger terminal, first concrete runways, and the first scheduled passenger service in the county. It was also the site of production for the Ford Tri-Motor aircraft. Although the land is now used for the Ford Motor Co.’s Dearborn Development Center, the adjacent Dearborn Inn, the country’s first airport hotel, is still open for business.
Also built in the 1920s, the Robert H. Anderson Co.’s John R. Airport in Troy Township was far more rustic. On the southwest corner of Big Beaver and John R Roads, the airport had two short, unmarked grass runways with no lighting, no hangar, no radio, no repair facilities, and perilous telephone wires obstructing two sides of the property. It was later the site of the larger and more developed Big Beaver Airport which operated from 1946 to 1997.
Though Grosse Ile Municipal Airport still operates on the southern tip of the island, Hanger No. 1 lost its tower and was highly modified when converted to the Township Hall in 2000. The site opened as Naval Air Station Grosse Ile in 1927, and was transferred to public use in 1971. It served as an important naval aviation training facility, with the likes of George H.W. Bush and Bob Barker stationed there during World War II.