The Southern Border of Dearborn

Dartmouth Street looking east at Gulley Road.

Before the 1920s, the southern border of Dearborn was the portion of Monroe Street heading southwest from the Downtown West Dearborn area. In 1925, the border extended south to Carlysle Street. This was extended further south again to Dartmouth Street in 1929 as part of the whole consolidation of Dearborn and Fordson. Presumably the floodplain of Ecorse Creek is why the border wasn’t extended even further south..

1941 aerial photo of southwestern Dearborn border area. The diagonal street near the top is Grindley Park.

Dearborn’s southern border continues east along Dartmouth until it reaches a line 110 ft from the southern limit of what is now Outer Drive. It continues southeast along a line south of Outer Drive until it reaches the old Dearborn / Ecorse Township line. From there, the city line continues northeast along the old Dearborn Township line to the River Rouge.

In 1956, Dearborn attempted to annex the portion of Ecorse Township where the Fairlane Green (The Hill) shopping center is now. The area known at the time as the “Ford’s Woods” was eventually annexed by Allen Park because that community submitted paperwork 12 hours before Dearborn

February 4th 1956 Detroit Free Press

An interesting area of the Dearborn / Allen Park border is the Detroit Lions training facility which opened in the early 2000s. While much of the parking lot and most neighboring buildings are in Allen Park, over 80% of the training structure is in Dearborn. Thanks to an agreement between Allen Park and Dearborn, both cities split tax money from the Lions and Allen Park is considered their home.

Photo of Republic Drive by the Detroit Lions facility. The sign in the picture marks the border even though most of the nearby Lions building is in Dearborn.
June 24th 2001 Detroit News

From the old Dearborn Township southern border, the Dearborn border continues eastward along the River Rouge. When modern Dearborn was established in 1929, the border followed the middle of the River Rouge channel at the time. When the River Rouge was straightened in the 1970s, the border with Allen Park was adjusted in 1979 to match the new channel. However the Dearborn border with Melvindale was not adjusted. As a result, pockets of Dearborn lie south of the Rouge connected to Melvindale and bits of Melvindale are north of the river.

July 13th 1978 Dearborn Press and Guide article about the eventual land trade between Dearborn and Allen Park.
Several small exclaves of Dearborn and Melvindale exist along the River Rouge. This image shows a Dearborn exclave at the intersection of Schaefer and Greenfield on the south side of the Rouge.

The most unusual portion of Dearborn’s border along the River Rouge is the segment next to Fordson Island. The Rouge was initially improved for shipping in 1917 when Ford had the river dredged. However, a project orchestrated in the early 1920s by the Army Corps of Engineers created a straighter Rouge shipping channel. This new channel formed what is now Fordson Island. Even after the project, the border of Springwells Township and later Dearborn remained in the middle of the original Rouge channel. For decades, Fordson island was inhabited with residents but is now vacant and closed to the public.

1941 aerial photo of Fordson Island and the neighboring area of Oakwood Heights in Detroit to the south.
Looking toward Fordson Island across the original River Rouge channel from the Oakwood Heights area of Detroit.
This image is taken looking north from the intersection of Heidt and Denmark in Detroit. The yellow tugboat in the pictured is docked at least partly in Dearborn in the original channel of the Rouge where it meets the main channel. The edge of Fordson Island would be just behind the boat.
September 25th 1921 Detroit Free Press