Over a period of twenty-seven years, the Ford Rotunda hosted over 16.5 million visitors. In the 1950's, it was the fifth most popular tourist attraction in the United States.
The building was ten stories tall. Its steel and aluminum framework was covered with Indiana Limestone to match the Ford Motor Company's Administration Building across Schaefer Road. The building resembled four gear wheels stacked in decreasing size from the top to bottom.
The Ford Rotunda was reopened on June 16th, 1953 to celebrate Ford Motor Company's fiftieth year in business. It was used as an exhibition center displaying all the recent models of Ford automobiles. In addition to a Test Drive Track ride which circled the building, other exhibits were The City of Tomorrow, The Hall of Science, and something called The Drama of Transportation.
Fifty-one years ago on November 9, 1962, the roof was being waterproofed with hot tar in preparation for the annual Christmas Fantasy exhibition. The roof caught fire and within an hour, the building had burned down. The nine year long holiday tradition came to an end.
Those of us from the Detroit area who grew up when the Rotunda was in its heyday, namely we Baby Boomers, sadly remember the passing of this great Christmas tradition.
For a video presentation of the Ford Rotunda from the Dearborn Historical Society, view this link: http://vimeo.com/46364168
For more detailed history of the Ford Rotunda, consult this link: http://automotivemileposts.com/autobrevity/fordrotunda.html