The Dahlinger Mansion in current condition

We received 2 lovely emails from Stephen Olson and he provided a lot more information on the Dahlingers and Henry Ford. Stephen read my first story on Evangeline Cote Dahlinger and was kind enough to share more info with my readers! This is one of the many joys I have being Retro: Kimmer. 

Thank You so much Steve...xRK

Hi Kim,

What a fascinating portion of your "blog" regarding Ray & Evangeline Dahlinger!  Ray Dahlinger died on June 8, 1969 & I was sent to the hospital to pick-up his body (I was an apprenticed embalmer at the time).

 The Dahlinger Mansion as it is today...

Upon my return to the funeral home & after washing the body, my boss instructed me to embalm him, as he was told that his family did not want to have an "open casket." Being young (18) & given this kind of responsibility, I worked my best to make Mr. Dahlinger look his best.

The funeral director was impressed with my work & tried to have Mrs. Dahlinger just look at his body, she firmly refused, using a string of profanity I don't believe I've ever heard before, nor seldom since!?! After the funeral, Mr. Dahlinger was cremated & as far as I know, his cremains are still in the attic of the funeral home!

 I enlisted in the Army two months later & never went back to that profession I grew up in Dearborn & knew many people who had some relationship to the Ford Family.

Lots of very interesting stories, but none quite so strange as this one! I remember while greeting the public the evening of Mr. Dahlinger's wake, observing his son John - a very handsome man who had a strikingly similar profile to Edsel Ford! I knew that because I had graduated from Edsel Ford High School & Mr. Ford's portrait hung prominently in the main hallway.

Raymond C. Dahlinger was almost 22 years younger than Henry Ford. He was born on July 3, 1885 & began working for Henry in the very early years after his company's founding in 1903, perhaps even earlier. As Henry's empire grew, Ray became more & more of a confidante & a lifelong bachelor, dedicating his life to his mentor & friend.

Of all his executives & managers, only Ray was with him when he launched his "Peace Ship" to Europe, just prior to WWI. In the 1920s Henry hired Harry Bennett to manage his "industrial businesses," but Ray maintained the operation & management of the "Ford Farms," which included the care of Fairlane Estate.

During his wake in 1969, I was told that Evangeline wanted to name her baby Henry (if a boy), & that was primarily why Henry decided that only his very close friend, Ray Dahlinger, could be trusted to help him out.

A contract was made, which gave Evangeline & the baby (John), each $10,000. per year from the Ford Motor Co., so that they would be provided for financially, aside & apart from Ray's income. That was a huge sum of money in 1927! In return, Ray would marry Evangeline & raise the child as his own. He agreed (& she did too).

You are right to say she was a liberated woman, as she was obviously the "glue" that held all of this "extended Ford family" together going forward. She compromised on the baby's name, but obviously wielded considerable influence, so that Henry accepted John like one of his grandchildren!

I remember hearing that Mrs. Ford had a pretty good idea of what was going on & accepted, or at least acquiesced to it, until one day Henry was wearing a tie she didn't recognize. When she asked Henry where he got it, he told her that Evangeline had picked it out for him, Mrs. Ford hit the roof!

Clara could accept his relationship with the other woman, but she would never abrogate her right to select his clothes!?!? Aside from that incident, it all worked out for the next 20 years & the families seemed to accept each other in their lives, until Henry's death in 1947.

When Mr. Diggs saw my paperwork on Mr. Dahlinger's funeral preparations, he signed them & said he would mail them to the "Licensing Board" in Lansing. As our meeting ended, he stood up & asked me for the honor to shake the hand of the man who had embalmed Mr. Dahlinger!

Since then, I have seldom run across anyone who is even familiar with the name of Ray Dahlinger! If you've never read John Dahlinger's book, "The Secret Life of Henry Ford," I strongly recommend it to "fill in the historical blanks" here.

The funeral home I worked at was the Howe-Peterson Funeral Home on Michigan Ave. & Joe Peterson was the boss I mentioned. By that time, I had assisted in numerous preparations, but until that day, had not worked on my own.

All of these people are long dead & seeing your "blog" brought back lots of memories from my growing up in Dearborn. After serving in Vietnam, I returned home & a week after my discharge, began working for the Ford Motor Co., in the Rouge Plant, where I remained for 31 years, until my retirement in 2002. Maybe I should finish up my mortuary studies at Wayne State, as I already have a "claim to fame" in that field!?!? Huh?

Yesterday, my daughter Libbey & I had gone down to the DIA & were looking at the Diego Rivera murals & talking about them with Alyssa, one of the very knowledgeable volunteers. I asked if Mr. Dahlinger was portrayed anywhere in the murals & she said he wasn't, but seemed interested in my story.

THAT'S why reading your "blog" was so timely in the retelling of my story to you now. One last thing, if you do decide to visit the Dahlinger place, be sure to have very good directions, as it sits at the back of a (subsequestly built) sub-division on the west-side of Evergreen, north of Ford Rd.

If you need more detailed directions, I can send them to you Kim. Again, thank you for your documentation of this fascinating personal interest story, that was almost lost in the past. I am,

Sincerely yours,

Stephen Olson





Photos from DetroitYes


Brad Schuster said...

Interesting stuff! I grew up in Fordville. My good friend's Grandpa, Rufus Wilson was Ford's chauffeur for many years, and had a lot of stories. Thanks, Kim.

Unknown said...

Amazing Story. I am in awe of you again-! my father and his siblings-and the wives and husbands of said family and even my 2 half brother's attended and graduated from Fordson High School. My father and family grew up in south end of Dearborn (Dix and Vernor) and all worked at fords at one time in their life-even me. that was the time Fords paid property taxes for all Dearborn home owners. i hope this story continues!!

Robyn said...

"Very interesting article. So sad to see a lovely house end up like this."

Jack Ashton said...


What a GREAT and Interesting Story.

Really enjoyed it!

Jack XO

Happy New Year!

Claire said...

THANKS --- I love these re that house. When I still lived in MICH a friend & I went and took photos all day when my son was a baby (he's 36 now) ... but I have NO IDEA how to find it... Wanted to go again when I was in MICH a couple of years ago --- but no idea WHERE it is. Do you have an ADDRESS ?? In case I ever go back some day ?

brian munce said...

henry fords' illegitimate son & the story were featured in a book that i read about 15 years ago. the boy was showered with miniature operating cars , and boats , expensive gifts, etc, but was never formally acknowledged as a blood relative. a strange and unusual story.

Richard said...

Very interesting! Good to read something like this from a different perspective. I have alot of Dahlinger information in my files, and am always seeking more. If I can help again, let me know!

Did you know the former Dahlinger estate in Lexington, MI is up for sale? Look on my site for the link.


Unknown said...

Does anyone know if the property is owned by the city or private owner? Its truely a remarkable house with great history.

Unknown said...

Does anyone know who owns the house, and if its for sale? Its a truely remarkabke house with great history.

Laura said...

I came upon this story after watching the Henry Ford special on a public television station...we have many relatives in Indiana and Michigan and visit every July. I hope to visit this place this year. I really enjoyed the historical background of the families, but, sad really.
Thanks!! Laura H. in Florida

jeff harrison said...

I recently came across a copy of FORD The men and the machine in a used book store and it was a great read. This prompted me to do some research on Harry Bennett which led me to your site. Love these articles and your site is now a daily stop for me on Face Book. Hope to read more.
Jeff Harrison

Retro Kimmer said...


kathy said...

That mansion would be either in Dearborn Heights r Dearborn not Detroit

Unknown said...

Absolutely and thoroughly astonishing capture!
I moved to Texas in '82 which ended, what would have been a fourth generation at Ford. I heard many stories from my dad, and my uncle reported to Mr. Ford as one of his facility superintendents. The part about HF having a girlfriend, never ever was even a hint! But with today's level of discussion...people haven't changed, just the times.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know if the house is occupied?
I know exactly where it is and have scouted out the way to get there the back way through the woods but I would rather not run into the business end of a shotgun if I get too close...

if it's abandoned, that's another story.

Retro Kimmer said...

it has a resident hoarder type guy...he doesn't like visitors much....

Anonymous said...

Great Article, Brings back the memories of growing up in that area and going to River Oaks Schoolback in the late early 70's. I remember the Auction they had at the Estate with a Steam Tractor that Henry Ford had made for is so called son.
I really can't believe the Building are falling apart and do remember the Boat House location along the river but I would believe it's coved in mud by now.

Anonymous said...

Remember as a Kid Playing in the woods around there that the Old Lady in the House would shoot at you with Rock Salt... LOL

Anonymous said...

I was at the house on an early Sunday morning in July 2011. It was somewhat humid early at 7 AM. I was able to get some pictures. But I couldn't get to the edge of the Rouge River as the growth was about 4 ft. tall. Growth around the house was tall and dense too. Symbolic of a cover-up, but the house (and it's history) are still there. A lot of old lawn tractors around. Also saw the former riding stable, now a community club house. It has the date 1938 on the top of the stable. A little run down but in very good shape. You can get a good view of the layout of the corner lot from google earth. I can send you my picts so you can post if you like. Along with my google earth views.

Retro Kimmer said...

that would be so exciting! plz email photos and photo credit info to retrokimmer@gmail.com..My readers would love to see more as would I! Thank you! and Merry Christmas! xK

H. Payne January 18, 2014 said...

I started at Ford Motor Company in 1955, and quickly delved into the company history and the Ford family history.. In 1956 my wife and I bought a home equidistant between the Dalinger estate, and John and Barbara Dalinger's home. In 1958 I was in a car wash in Dearborn and admired a lightt blue '58 Continental as at that time I was designing the 1961 Lincoln. The owner a vivacious blue eyed blond introduced her self as the owner, and although I was to naive to know better she came on to me. She was Barbara Dalinger, the car wash owner told me after she drove away, as he asked what she saw in me. Years past and I met John and he kindly autographed his book for me. Because there was a large portrate of Edsel in our building I immediately noted the similarity of John to Edsel.It was about then that I learned my son and buddies would play on the Dalinger. estate until Mrs. Dalinger would roar up in a Jeep with a shot gun on her lap and run them off. Dearborn was a small town, with a large percentage of Ford employees and it was common knowledge about Henry and Evangeline.
Working at Ford I soon learned that four co-workers all attended the Village schools in Greenfield Village with John Dalinger, one of whom is still alive, and they all knew that John Dalinger was Henry Ford I's illegitimate son...
It was about 1958, and on one Sunday morning a guard at Fairlane called me and said," if you come over in about 15 minutes I'll give you a tour of Fairlane" . I was on my way as it was only a mile away. What a tour that was, just the guard and myself. He even showed me Henry's boat house that housed Henry's electric skif.that he would use to go the half a mile up the Rouge River to see Evangeline. The Dalinger mansion had a ground level door on the South side, which opened to a stairway that led directly to Evangeline's bedroom. Interesting!

Retro Kimmer said...

Mr Payne, thank you so much for the history..it must have been an exciting time and designing the '61 Lincoln must have been a great story too. Please feel free to email me directly...retrokimmer@gmail.com

Roger S said...

I really enjoyed the story about John Cote being the son of Henry Ford. I remember the mansion
very well. I had been there many times. Ray and Mrs.D, (Evangeline) came to my wedding when my wife and I were married 50 Yrs. ago. I remember the Lincoln and the first enclosed car given to Edsel and then given to Ray in a old storage barn. Really loved that Lincoln. Power everything. Very special for that day and age. There was a green house on their property that had a living quarters in it to house John when he was in college. I was invited to fish in their small pond several times but never did. Mrs. (as she was called by everyone) gave me some bottles of tomato juice she said was hand squeezed by her husband Ray and Henry Ford beford going into the tomato juice business.
She told My dad and I about the affair between herself and Henry Ford. Said that Henry would come over very often to visit. I was asked not to mention this to anyone, but now I guess it does not matter anymore. I thought about calling John after his story on TV said his mother never told him. After Mrs. D passed away I thought he should know for sure and called the Detroit News to see if I could get in contact with him, unfortunately they told me John Cote Dahlinger had passed away earlier that year. They asked me for a comment but I wouldn't give one.I am sorry to hear the grandson had passed. So I feel it is just right to set the story straight.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have a photo of the casket in which Edsel Ford was buried. I have one where his pallbearers are carrying the casket to the hearse. But none like the many photos of Henry Ford when he died. Any suggestions? My email is alabamaindependent@charter.net Telephone is (601) 692- 5156.

prentz said...

Wow, stumbled across your page looking for information on Edward Gray, Henry Ford's chief engineer from 1909 to 1914. My grandfather worked for him from 1906 to 1919. He started with Gray in Oil City at Riverside Engine Company. He joined Gray around 1910, a short time after Gray joined Ford at Highland Park. When Gray left Highland Park in 1914 my grandfather went with him as apparently he never worked for Ford, he worked for Gray as a 'draughtsman' in the 1906 Oil City directory and then as it became known, a 'draftsman' for Gray. In Gray's bio in a 1920's City of Detroit directory it lists just one child, Mildred, and no wife. He had divorced first wife Nina Myer (or she left him, who knows). I discovered later that he married an Agnes McGuigan who was listed as a maid then an actress in separate RL Polk directories. Just today I got some links from the Henry Ford Museum about Edward Gray and read through them- and this is where it links into this story- one biographer who was quoted in the 1950s as a number of recordings were made of long time Ford employees that one of Evangeline's brothers married one of Edward Gray's daughters- now I only know of the one but...
here's the quote, with possible typos I'll try to correct-
"I already bought a speedboat and I kept it at his place (Edward Gray's Grayhaven) on Ray Dahlinger*s suggestion. (Later, I found out that one of the Gray girls and Mrs.Dahlinger's brother married. I didn't know that at the time but I found out later.)
It was been almost impossible to find out anything past Gray's death in 1939 of whatever became of his family so this link was VERY interesting- we'll see if it leads to anything.
I've posted much of what I have so far on Flickr, see the link after this. Grandpa left Detroit in 1919- apparently on good terms with Gray as in 1937 he arranged for tickets to fly to Detroit to discuss working with Gray again and Gar Wood. After Gray's death grandpa stayed on with Gar Wood until 1945 when he died- Gar's family paid all expenses, even nursing care for him before his death.

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