Post Number: 4883
|Posted on Thursday, November 09, 2006 - 9:48 am: || |
Who remembers? Once the 5th leading tourist destination in the USA. Post your memories here.
http://info.detnews.com/histor y/story/index.cfm?id=188&categ ory=locations
Post Number: 1636
|Posted on Thursday, November 09, 2006 - 10:03 am: || |
From the article:
Described as "ultra-modern,", the Rotunda reopened as part of Ford's 50th anniversary celebration on June 16, 1953. A radioactive wand (the tip contained a small amount of radium), said to be symbolic of the arrival of industry at the threshold of the atomic age, turned on golden floodlights and lighted 50 huge birthday candles around the rim of the Rotunda. The wand bombarded a Geiger tube with 44,890,832 gamma ray impulses in 15 seconds. The final impulse (the number signified the number of vehicles produced by Ford since 1903) was said to trigger the electrical system.
With the Rotunda's new design came a new lure for visitors: an annual Christmas display called the Christmas Fantasy, which first opened on Dec. 15, 1953. That first year, Donner, Blitzen, Prancer and Dancer were there, along with a 37 foot, 6 ton Christmas tree. Santa's Workshop formed the centerpiece, with Santa's elves building transportation toys on a miniature assembly line. Three-dimensional portrayals of the Nativity and 'The Night Before Christmas' were inside the Rotunda and Santa was on hand taking requests. Nearly 500,000 visitors saw the Christmas show that first year.
Post Number: 1703
|Posted on Thursday, November 09, 2006 - 10:14 am: || |
It's incredible that Ford would allow the building to be destroyed by incompetent laborers who used no safety measures for fire while working with tar near a heat source. The "engineer" mentioned in the article was largely responsible. He or his deputy should have been on the roof.
Was the term "engineer" then used as loosely as today: Schools' janitors are now all referred to as "engineers." Somehow, this brings to mind "Willie" in The Simpsons.
Post Number: 158
|Posted on Thursday, November 09, 2006 - 11:21 am: || |
I was at the 1958 Xmas deal. That was one long line to see Santa Claus.
Post Number: 112
|Posted on Thursday, November 09, 2006 - 10:49 pm: || |
I was 10 years old at the time and I remember crying upon hearing about the fire when I got home from school that day. I was far more upset about that than I remember being the following year when I heard the news of the assassination of J.F.K.
Post Number: 907
|Posted on Thursday, November 09, 2006 - 11:59 pm: || |
As I recall, the Ford Archives were in the wings of the building, and most of their valuable papers and photographs were saved.
Post Number: 5
|Posted on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 4:33 am: || |
Ford's karma would improve if they rebuilt the Rotunda. Remember the comic book they put out every Christmas? Enough camp to send a thousand children to Upstate New York for the summer, but it was one of the things we looked forward to. They dressed that place up for Christmas like a pig going to Sunday school!
Post Number: 1844
|Posted on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 4:38 am: || |
I wonder if the workers were union?
Post Number: 10
|Posted on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 7:28 am: || |
The lore of our family has long maintained that it was the company of one of my distant relatives who was responsible for the Ford Rotunda fire. I've never really believed it because it just seems like a good skeleton in closet story. Does anyone have more specific information on the "workers" who set the blaze, or what company had been contracted to do the roof work?
Post Number: 259
|Posted on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 10:40 am: || |
The dome of the Rotunda was the first commercial application of Bucky Fuller’s Geodesic dome. It was aluminum and acrylic. It leaked like a sieve from the git-go. It was roofed over with a built up coal tar roof. The repairs were being made in anticipation of the Christmas presentations. They were using gas fired infrared heaters, up on the roof, to soften the coal tar prior to application. Once the fire started it was all over very quickly. Coal tar, Aluminum, and acrylic will make a pretty hellish fire.
Very lucky there was no loss of life, and also lucky that the part of the building containing Ford motor records was the only part of the building saved.
Post Number: 1291
|Posted on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 12:20 pm: || |
Our family was driving from Chicago to Detroit that weekend, I remember hearing about it on WJR. I think I asked my dad to drive by the Rotunda to find out if it was really true.
Post Number: 1292
|Posted on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 12:27 pm: || |
Post Number: 729
|Posted on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 12:59 pm: || |
Livernoisyard-- You're quick to blame the laborers, but how do you know that they weren't simply following the instructions of a foreman, and if they had objected they would have been reprimanded or fired? I don't know all the facts, you don't, and you shouldn't judge when you don't know all the facts.
Post Number: 492
|Posted on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 1:08 pm: || |
Another article from here:
TODAY IN FORD HISTORY -- APRIL 7
The Ford Rotunda was the centerpiece of the 1933 Chicago world fair.
April 7, 1952: Ford to Re-Open Rotunda Showcase
On April 7, 1952, Ford Motor Company announced plans to mark its 50th anniversary by restoring a local landmark to its pre-war role as an automotive showcase. The Ford Rotunda, converted to office space in 1942, would be refurbished as a showcase for current and future cars, with new murals, dioramas, animated displays and movies to portray advances in Ford products and global technology. The towering gear-shaped structure first served as Ford’s showcase and the virtual centerpiece at the 1933 Chicago world’s fair. It was dismantled and rebuilt in 1936 at Ford’s Dearborn, Mich., headquarters, where it drew an estimated million visitors a year. Reopened June 18, 1953, the Rotunda flourished as Ford’s showcase hospitality center and a global icon for Detroit and the auto industry until it was destroyed by an accidental fire in 1962.
On April 7, 1952, Ford Motor Company announced plans to reopen a national automotive landmark in time to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary in 1953.
From 1936 to 1942, the towering, gear-shaped, limestone Ford Rotunda had hosted million of visitors to the company’s Dearborn, Mich., headquarters before its conversion to office use in World War II. Earlier, as the visual centerpiece of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, it had drawn tens of thousands to its displays of Ford milestones and transportation history.
Dismantled after the fair and rebuilt in Dearborn as a permanent structure, the Rotunda was a hollow cylinder 110 feet high and 212 feet in diameter. Its roof was the first commercial application of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome.
Before its 1953 reopening, the Rotunda’s exhibits—dioramas, movies, animated displays and a 20 by 600 foot photographic mural—were updated to portray the historic post-war changes in Ford products and global technology. With world traveler Lowell Thomas hosting the ceremonial reopening the night of June 18, 1953, a radioactive wand was used to turn on the Rotunda’s 9,000 signature floodlights and 50 large birthday candles circling its rim.
A local landmark and global icon for Detroit and the auto industry, the Rotunda flourished in its role as Ford’s showcase and hospitality center until Nov. 9, 1962. As staffers unpacked holiday decorations for the Rotunda’s annual Christmas Fantasy, workers above began to waterproof the roof with a spray of hot tar
A propane heater apparently ignited flammable vapors and the flames spread quickly as workers inside and out scrambled to safety. No one was hurt but firemen could do little amid dark billowing smoke, as the steel structure twisted like pretzels and huge blocks of limestone tumbled inward, reducing the unique and stately landmark to a heap of burning rubble.
Post Number: 493
|Posted on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 1:33 pm: || |
Post Number: 1711
|Posted on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 3:49 pm: || |
"You're quick to blame the laborers, but how do you know that they weren't simply following the instructions of a foreman, and if they had objected they would have been reprimanded or fired?"
Any simpleton making a simple reading of my post should be able to ascertain that I heaped the primary blame upon the (apparent lack of) appropriate supervision at the job site. The fumes off of hot tar are not difficult to ignite with an open (propane) flame. And once burning, the flames from burning tar are extremely difficult to quench.
Somehow, you seem to be an apologist for shoddy, dangerous working practices. OSHA was probably in force back then, or probably should have been. In any event, no uncommonly common sense was in play that day on that roof.
Post Number: 909
|Posted on Friday, November 10, 2006 - 6:50 pm: || |
I often wonder if roofers or welders start more fires.
Post Number: 4886
|Posted on Saturday, November 11, 2006 - 7:26 pm: || |
As a child I remember being fascinated with the Christmas tree - the ornaments were all hung from a star-shaped framework above, suspended by fishline and suspended so that they all appeared to be perfectly positioned on the tree. The picture in the article preserves this memory - you can see the framework above the tree, and if you look closely, you can see the fishline. As my elementary school choir sang Christmas carols for visitors several times during the holiday, I stared at that tree.
Post Number: 164
|Posted on Sunday, November 12, 2006 - 6:40 am: || |
On a related topic, Ford seemed to have more than it's share of problems with fires. They almost lost the Sterling Gear and Axle plant in the mid 60's. A heat treat quench tank, in ground swimming pool with 5,000 gallons of oil, caught fire. EVERY axle in EVERY Ford car and truck under 3/4 ton, was built there.
It would have put Ford out of business for a couple of years. The specialized machinery would have taken at least that long to make and install.
Lowell wouldn't have been breaking piston rings in '67, had it gone up. (DY content)
Post Number: 32
|Posted on Sunday, November 12, 2006 - 8:22 pm: || |
karl, your observation of that frame work above the tree brought back a memory to me. Once while waiting to see Santa with my brother, one of the ornaments fell to the floor and shattered. It was glass, not plastic! The rotunda guys cleaned up quickly and replaced it while we were still in line.
Post Number: 4896
|Posted on Sunday, November 12, 2006 - 8:46 pm: || |
D2dyeah, those ornaments seemed huge at the time, I'd never seen large ones like that, and seldom since. Being glass, they must have cost a fortune. One learns on their own what happens after a week or so when you hang heavy ornaments on a live tree - the branches sink. So perhaps that was the reason for the frame - but one wonders - why didn't anyone else do it? Why did they care so much, and why did it have to be so perfect?
The picture doesn't show the hundreds of lights on the tree - I think they were clear?
Not sure they ran it during Christmas, but there was a "test track" in the rear where they kept a lineup of the latest models from Ford, complete with drivers, and you could take a ride in anything from a Falcon to a Lincoln, over a variety of roadways.
Regardless of the season, a visit to the Rotunda was always a treat.
Post Number: 22
|Posted on Monday, November 13, 2006 - 2:36 pm: || |
Wow....sounds like it was a cool place! I'd love to go back in time and see the Rotunda. Hudson's downtown. Have a chocolate soda at Sander's.
Detroit in the 50's and early 60's must have been something. I always hear how great it was when my mother was a teenager...riding the bus to see my grandfather at work...going shopping at Hudson's. Lunch at Sander's with her friends. Sounds so innocent and fun. Very "Leave it to Beaver". Wish i could have seen it.
Post Number: 500
|Posted on Monday, November 13, 2006 - 2:49 pm: || |
In this picture, again from http://www.tvhistory.tv/, you can see the fishing lines Karl spoke of.
Post Number: 4908
|Posted on Monday, November 13, 2006 - 4:27 pm: || |
That's a great pic, Thnk - wonder what year that was - I might be one of those choirboys! Can't quite make out the car in the background, I'll have to watch the link.
Post Number: 4909
|Posted on Monday, November 13, 2006 - 4:35 pm: || |
The link says "1961" so this was the last Christmas for the Rotunda in this pic. It was gone by Christmas 1962.
That 1958 Edsel display is sure a step back in time.