The Dearborn Inn, Dearborn, Michigan – Review

By Jonathan Spira on 1 August 2011
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The prospect of staying at an airport hotel, with minor exceptions (such as the Kempinski Airport Hotel München), ranks about even with having a tooth pulled for many business travelers. Fortunately, that isn’t always the case.

The Dearborn Inn is the world’s first airport hotel, having opened in 1931. It was the brainchild of Henry Ford, whose airport was located across the street. While Ford Airport closed in 1933, the Inn remained and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, undergoing a complete renovation in 2008.

Given the Inn’s proximity to the Henry Ford Museum as well as the Ford Motor Company’s campus, it’s not surprising that many hotel guests are there to visit one or the other. As it happened, a series of presentations on the future of automotive technology was the reason for my visit.


My room was on the second floor of McGuffey House, one of the many buildings on the Inn’s 23 acres (93,000 m2). In keeping with the overall Colonial theme (Ford was a big fan of Colonial Revival architecture), my room was unabashedly so. There was no elevator in my building and guests have to carry their luggage up the stairs. At check-in, no one offered to help with luggage.

The room was generously sized with two queen-sized beds and a period chair. Nonetheless, the room had a few peculiarities. There was no table except for the desk, which made the placement of my room service order upon arrival a bit tricky (my ThinkPad and iPad, among other devices, were already on the desk). In one corner, there was a half-height bookshelf that held a coffee maker and water bottles but it looked a bit out of place.

The overall quality of the fixtures in the bathroom was so-so at best. In particular, I have to mention the cheap and somewhat uncomfortable seat on the commode. There was no bathrobe in my room and, despite the front desk’s promise that it would be there quickly so I could wash before a dinner meeting, it took almost an hour to arrive.


The Dearborn Inn was one of the first hotels designed for the modern business traveler. In addition to being the world’s first airport hotel, it was also the first hotel to have air conditioning (1937) and the first in Michigan to have a direct-dial telephone system for guests (1961).

Unfortunately, it seemed as if the hotel’s Wi-Fi was installed in the 1960s as well. Over the course of many hours, I made multiple attempts to test the network’s speed but it was so slow that refused to make the attempt. A call to technical support promised resolution in 30 minutes but nothing had changed hours later.

My subsequent call to the front desk resulted in a prompt return phone call from the affable general manager, Bob Pierce, who promised to look into the situation and sent his chief engineer to my room to investigate. After an hour of phone calls and trouble-shooting with the chief engineer and his assistant in my room, I had access to a faster network in the hotel (I was able to hit 3 Mbps in a speed test) but the chief engineer was visibly upset at the ISP for not having configured the network properly.

While still in my room and after deciding that the hotel’s guestroom Wi-Fi network could not be made to work, he phoned the front desk manager and told him that all Internet access would be free until further notice (normally, it is $12.95 per day) and further instructed him to give out instructions for guests to access a different network (namely the one I was using).

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