Sitting almost in the shadow of Detroit at the far western edge of Wayne County is Cherry Hill, one of Canton Township’s historic villages. This is where you will find Henry Ford’s last village industry and a large industrial warehouse on 14 acres of property that sat vacant for over 10 years. The Cherry Hill Ford Factory Complex consisted of two buildings: the Veterans’ Dormitory and the Ford Factory.  In 2003, this village industry was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Cherry Hill Historic District.

In May 1943 Ford purchased 175.12 acres in the area and dedicated 14.5 acres to the plant and its grounds. Ford spent roughly 2 years preparing the site, including extensive landscaping. His goal was to create a space where disabled WWII veterans could peacefully rehabilitate until they were ready to re-enter society as fully productive members.

The Veterans’ Dormitory:

Originally built in the early 1900’s as a creamery in the village of Cherry Hill, Henry Ford purchased the Wilson Dairy building in 1943 and had it moved to its current location next to the factory he was constructing.  Ford then transformed the creamery into a residence hall for the disabled WWII veterans that worked at his Cherry Hill plant. The 2600 square foot dormitory housed between 18 and 22 men, as well as the staff, which consisted of the cook and his assistant.

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The Ford Factory:

The Cherry Hill Ford Plant began operations in July 1944; it served two main purposes: to provide training and rehabilitation to returning veterans and to supplement work at the Willow Run Bomber Plant.  The two-story, concrete-block building, covered with stucco, originally had 3,100 square feet of workspace on the first floor and over 2,000 square feet of workspace on the lower level. The veterans manufactured automobile parts, including radiator parts, ignition locks and keys until the factory ceased production in 1945, which coincided with the end of the war and Henry Ford’s retirement as president.

The Life of the Property After Henry Ford

In the decades following Henry Ford senior’s death on April 7, 1947 the properties sold to other manufacturing companies:

  • October 1950 – Sold to Extruded Hinge Company
  • April 1963 – Sold to Young Spring and Wire Corporation who immediately sold it to Lus-Trus Corporation
  • November 1969 – Sold to William E Hennells and Company. The property served as their main air and hydraulic equipment plant and added a 59,000 square foot warehouse. Operations remained largely the same until the mid 2000s, but ownership and company names changed a few times.
    • 1976 – Sold to Cherry Hill Associates but operated under the Hennells name until 1980.
    • 1980s – The Hennells reacquired the property under new entity, RanTom and operated until 1994.
    • 1994 – Aquired by DE-STA-CO (Originally know as the Detroit Stamping Company) to expand its product line. DE-STA-CO moved out in the mid-2000s and the property remained vacant until 2012.
    • 2012 – The Partnership for the Arts and Humanities purchases the property at auction.
    • 2020 –  The Village Arts Factory cautiously opens our doors during the largest pandemic since 1918. We are 100% occupied, open and following all of the MDHHS COVID-19 regulations.
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Partnership’s Purchase:

In August 2012, the Partnership for the Arts & Humanities acquired this site in a local auction. This fate enabled the Partnership to begin developing a strategic plan that incorporates these historical Canton landmarks along with a master community revitalization plan for Cherry Hill Village. The Village Arts Factory contributes to Michigan’s new economy by providing affordable workshop space as well as a common gallery space and retail outlet for a unique assortment of locally produced goods.

In addition, our desire through this property is to continue Henry Ford’s mission in supporting veterans. We have restored the Veterans’ Dormitory back to its original purpose and created a place that serves as an Urban Retreat/Residence for veterans struggling with housing and those who need a supportive environment in the Detroit Metro area. Also, all businesses located in the complex support veterans by offering discounts on services, employment opportunities, or veteran-focused programs, when applicable.

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