Structure Type: built works - dwellings - houses - apartment houses; built works - dwellings - housing - affordable housing; built works - dwellings - housing - industrial housing

Designers: Maynard Lyndon (architect); Oscar Stonorov

Dates: constructed 1942-1943

Ypsilanti, MI

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Willow Run Housing consisted mostly of dormitories run to accommodate workers in Henry Ford's Ypsilanti, MI, B-24 "Liberator" bomber plant. This facility, designed by Maynard Lyndon's old boss, Albert Kahn (1869-1942), had mammoth proportions, 3.5 million square feet, and cost $47 million. Located nearby the existing Willow Run Airport, this manufacturing site was the largest in the US at the time. As it was run by executives and workers familiar with building cars, the Willow Run facility ran into early problems producing many planes. The needs of airplane design required production methods that allowed for frequent design alterations, differing from the simpler processes for building automobiles. A B-24 contained approximately 100,000 components, while a car had only 15,000. Problems also occurred in attracting enough workers and then, once hired, housing them. To make up for labor shortfalls, women were hired en masse, and African American workers from the US South were enticed to come North with the promise of high wages. Transportation of parts and people also was an issue, which became ironed out by 1943. In all, the Willow Run plant produced 8,685 B-24s during its production run, which ended in 1945. Serious housing shortages caused by the rapid hiring of labor necessitated government intervention. Land values had skyrocketed, pricing many out of the market. The Federal Public Housing Administration first commissioned PA-based architect Oskar G. Stonorov (1905-1970) to produce plans for war housing; Stonorov had worked previously on housing projects in the Philadelphia area with architects George Howe (1886–1955) and Louis I. Kahn (1901-1974), and became good friends with the United Auto Worker's President, Walter Reuther (1907-1970). (Stonorov actually died in a plane crash with Reuther in 1970.) He came up with a communal housing proposal disliked by the conservative auto magnate Henry Ford (1863-1947). In its place, Willow Run Village, erected on a 2,641-acre property bounded by Michigan Avenue (on the south), Geddes Road (north), Ridge Road (east), Prospect Road/Clark Road/Harris Road (west). Seven housing areas comprised "Willow Run Village," two dormitory projects, two trailer parks, two low-rise apartment buildings and one single-family residential tract. Dormitories were erected for single workers. The first dormitory in the "Willow Lodge" project housed workers by 02/1943; in all, 15 dorm buildings were completed, capable of housing 3,000. The "Village," a cluster of modest, one-story, flat-roofed townhouses (containing between 1-3 bedrooms), opened three months later in 06/1943 with construction continuing to the end of the year. Two apartment areas, "West Court" (1,000 units) and "West Lodge" (1,960 units) were ready for habitation by 08/1943. In total, 15,000 people were accommodated in the Willow Run Village public housing. Commercial buildings were also produced to serve as markets, laundries and theatres. Lyndon probably worked on multiple sites within Willow Run Village.

PCAD id: 17925