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Remembering the Rotunda

Remembering the Rotunda
When car manufacturers and the world of theme parks and entertainment collide, you can get some strange things. We told you about FerrariLand before, where overindulged people can make a ride in a plastic Ferrari 250 California Spider lookalikish bumpercar (no joke). But did you know of the Ford Rotunda? This was the project of a young Edsel Ford, which - for a change - became a grand success. The Ford Rotunda was a showroom-turned-theme park, with things to see and do for the whole family.

Originally Ford's Rotunda was located in South Side Chicago, Illinois, but later it was relocated to Dearborn, Michigan on a site directly across from the Ford Motor Company Central Office Building. At one point it became ‘the fifth most popular tourist destination in the United States in the mid-twentieth century’. In the 1950s this attraction saw more visitors than the Statue of Liberty, totalling 40 million. Yep, to come and see Ford cars. Ford made glitzy new model introductions, and used it as a backdrop to photograph its latest offerings. The Rotunda saw the introductions of the Lincoln Continental, Ford Thunderbird and of course the Edsel (above).

Highlight of the year (in visitor numbers, at least) was the annual Christmas Fantasy show held during the season's Holidays, which drew nearly half a million people to Dearborn each year. But this show also spelled the end for the Rotunda. While working on the 1962 Christmas Fantasy display on 9 November 1962 (yep, folks, that’s 55 years ago today), an employee inside noticed smoke and flames from the roof. Roof repairmen were weatherproofing the dome panels with a transparent waterproof sealer that was being heated to make it easier to spray. But when the highly flammable vapours ignited from a propane heater, within minutes the entire roof structure was on fire. The roof of the impressive building collapsed before the firemen arrived and in less than an hour, the Rotunda burned to the ground and only the foundation remained...

(Words editor, pictures FoMoCo)


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#2 2017-11-09 16:31
The Ford pavilion at the New York World's Fair in 1964 was called the Rotunda. You rode in a new Ford or Mercury convertible of various models to see the exhibit which was about dinosaurs for some strange reason. I did ride in a new Mustang convertible in the driver's seat and my big brother was not happy about that!
#1 2017-11-09 01:26
Oops !You've got to watch the Workmen !

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