A couple of years ago, Michigan in Pictures featured the Ford Rotunda, and a lot of people search for it every year in the holiday season. The Ford Rotunda page at Automotive Mileposts explains that the Rotunda was commissioned by Ford and designed by legendary Detroit architect Albert Kahn for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. After the fair closed, Ford had the Rotunda disassembled and moved to Dearborn, Michigan (read more about the relocation from @ Ford). The Rotunda was closed and remodeled in 1952:
…at which time the center courtyard section was enclosed by the addition of a geodesic dome roof section weighing 18,000 pounds. The Rotunda reopened to the public on June 16, 1953, as part of Ford’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. A highlight of this celebration included 50 huge Birthday candles, mounted and lit along the rim of the Rotunda.
The ultra-modern Rotunda was a huge attraction, becoming the fifth most popular United States tourist destination during the 1950s. In fact, only Niagara Falls, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, The Smithsonian Institution, and the Lincoln Memorial were more popular. Yellowstone, Mount Vernon, the Washington Monument, and the Statue of Liberty all received less visitors.
The annual Christmas Fantasy held during the Holiday season was partially responsible for the Rotunda’s popularity, with nearly a half million people visiting during 1953, the very first year it was held. A giant Christmas tree was always a spectacular thing to see, and the Christmas Fantasy became more spectacular each year. Highlights from various years included animated characters from children’s stories, a 1/2″ per foot scale 15,000-piece miniature circus with 800 animals, 30 tents, and 435 toy figurines of circus performers and customers. In all, nearly 6 million people visited the Christmas Fantasy during the nine years it was held at the Rotunda.
When flames consumed a Christmas fantasy from the Detroit News Rearview Mirror relates that over 6 million people visited the Christmas Fantasy over the 9 years it was held and tells the sad tale of how it burned to the ground on November 9, 1962. You can see some more photos from Ford and see a Ford Rotunda slideshow from Karen Breen-Bondie. Many of the photos below also appear on Television History – The First 75 Years. They also have a nice aerial of how the Ford Rotunda was located in relation to the Rouge Plant.