On February 28, 1832, the U.S. Congress established the Detroit Arsenal in Dearbornville. The actual site was selected in July and construction of 11 buildings started the next year. One of those buildings, the Commandant’s Quarters, still stands at 21950 Michigan Avenue in Dearborn. It is the oldest building in Dearborn still located on its original site, and is considered to be one of the seven most significant buildings in Michigan. It was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1956 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
The Arsenal was not a defensive fortification, nor was it a small installation. It was comprised of eleven buildings and a large parade ground which was surrounded by a brick wall and gates. To the east of the Arsenal, stood the powder magazine. This one story building, with walls four feet thick, was used as a storehouse for gunpowder and explosive ammunition. The magazine was located away from the Arsenal complex on what is now known as Brady Street. The location was chosen to prevent an explosion within the magazine from destroying the entire Arsenal. Below the magazine, on the Rouge River, there was a dock (Thompson’s), which was used during high water to bring heavy loads to the magazine and Arsenal.
Surrounding the Arsenal Installation was the United States Military Reserve. This was comprised of vast amounts of land, containing lumber, grasslands and water. The trees were very important as they were used for the building of the Arsenal, for gun carriages, ships, and any other needs of the military. To the north of the Arsenal on the flood plain of the Rouge River were the stables, barns and pasture. This northern area covered Ford Field and a little beyond.
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The Detroit Arsenal in Dearborn, Dearborn Historical Museum.