history of the Original Village

History of the original Willow Run Village


digging around, this is what i have found out about the history of the "old village")
if you know of something that should be included,  please tell me about it here

part one

"Give me shelter"

flat-top village home
flat-top village home being built
                 construction of the flat-top village homes

click for map of Village

On April 18,1941, the first ground was broken to start construction of the Bomber Plant. As soon as a section of the plant was completed, the manufacture of parts for the bombers was started. The first workers to be employed at the plant were Ford employees who were transferred from other Ford plants, but by the first of December,1941, just seven days before Pearl Harbor, the plant had begun to hire outside workers.

There were not a great number of people living  within a few miles of the new plant who were looking for jobs. Many of the workers came to Willow Run from farms and from little towns and crossroads. They came to Willow Run from Main and from California-from all of the forty-eight states in the Union, and from Canada, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. A few migrated from as far as our neighboring Latin-American countries.

People came to Willow Run on trains, buses, and driving their own cars. They came to get jobs. Although some people came merely to make money, others came because they wanted to contribute their efforts to help win the war. Some came for adventure. Workers by the thousand continued to make their way to Willow Run.

What happened to these people when they reached Willow Run? Where did they live? There were certainly not enough vacant houses, apartments, or rooms to rent to provide shelter for all this new population. What did these people do? Some of them slept in their cars. Some of them brought trailers and some pitched tents. Some built little shacks with scraps of wood and tin which they bought or scrounged. A few workers did find rooms and apartments in Ypsilanti. There was such a demand for housing that some landlords rented the same room to two different people.

Because of the crying need for shelter, the Federal Public Housing Administration went to work. After several months of considering and arguing the value of various plans, a compromise was reached.  It was agreed that the Federal Public Housing Administration would build temporary housing, dormitories for single people and dwellings for  family groups. This housing could be built on the land north of Michigan Avenue and south of Geddes Road, with the eastern boundary Ridge Road and the western, Prospect Road to Clark to Harris Road. This site was made up of ninety parcels of land with a total of  2,641 acres.

click for map of Village

flat-top willow village home complete
 photo of newly completed flat-top village home

In February, 1943, the first dormitory was opened. It was in the dormitory project called Willow Lodge, which consisted of fifteen buildings containing 1,900 rooms-some single and some double-with a capacity for 3,000 people.

Trucks, carpenters, plumbers and electricians worked until there were temporary buildings that would provide homes for 2,500 families. Some of these houses were ready for tenants in June,1943 and the project was finished later that year. This "flat-top" part of Willow Run was always called "the Village." These flat-tops contained four, six, or eight apartments with one, two, or three bedrooms.

The buildings with the peaked roof tops were in a section known  as West Court and were built for couples or for thee adults. Of the 1,000 apartments in West Court, some had no bedrooms and were  called "zero bedroom" apartments, and the rest had one bedroom. The first of these apartments was ready for occupancy in August, 1943.  Another large dormitory project, containing 1,960 rooms and known as West Lodge, was also ready for tenants in August 1943.

By the end of 1943 there were six different temporary projects in Willow Run" two of these were dormitory projects; one was a trailer project; and the other was a site for privately owned trailers with community laundry, shower, and toilet facilities; two of the projects, West Court and the Village, were apartments for couples or families. All in all, there was shelter for more than 15,000 people, as many or more  people than lived in the nearby city of Ypsilanti.

taken from the book , The Story of Willow Run - by Marion F. Wilson - 1956

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