Ever since I was young, and set foot in Greenfield Village for the first time, I’ve found historic places to be fascinating with stories they have to tell. I love how this has passed down to my girls, and for decades, Ford House, home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford has been a place on my “to visit” list. Summer of 2019, I finally made it happen.
Thank you to Ford House for hosting us on your Premium Tour. All thoughts and opinions are our own.
I going to be very honest, because this has probably been one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, posts I have yet to work on. Going into our visit, I set out to take as many photos as possible, and we sure did. Over 400 photos, plus video!! My thought was to share it all with you.
I took lots of notes during our tour, and Ford House graciously shared even more facts with me, so I’m in no way short of information I can share with you. However, after our tour, I was on information overload!! What would be my angle? How was I going to share this with you, my readers, and lovers of historic places like myself.
I decided a room by room tour with pictures and details would pretty much spoil it for you. Therefore, I decided to take the approach of picking out my favorite details, and things that surprised us the most, including some back history.
The Ford Family
Edsel and Eleanor raised their 4 children in this home. Henry II, Benson, Josephine, and William took after their parents, and grandparents, by embracing a love of philanthropy. Involved in many worthy causes, and also collectors of art, they did a lot of giving back.
The couple met at a dance, and enjoyed hosting elaborate parties in the grand room. They even had a pirate themed party for their son, which included at pirate ship! If only the walls could talk, there would be many stories to tell.
The Architect for Ford House: Home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford
Albert Kahn, considered the world’s foremost industrial architect, was most known for his design of American automobile factories. Although he was considered the “father of modern factory design” there is no shortage of his contribution to the city of Detroit, and the surrounding areas.
Prior to designing Edsel and Eleanor’s home, Kahn had done lots of work for the Fords, including the Ford Motor Company River Rouge Complex in 1917. This complex is still in use today, and tours are available through The Henry Ford.
If you’re a fan of architecture, you can find all, of the over 400 designs, in and around Detroit on the website I Love Detroit Michigan. I learned a lot about Kahn’s contribution to the Detroit area.
Some of our favorites are the Belle Isle Aquarium, which is the oldest aquarium in the United States, built in 1904.
Also, the neighboring Belle Isle Conservatory, built the same year. We visited both, so keep an eye out for posts about them.
A couple more, that have significance to our family, are the Dearborn Country Club Clubhouse, and caddy shack. Both built in 1923, Matt worked here while in college for several years.
Lastly, the Ford Motor Company Willow Run Bomber Plant, built during World War II. It holds a special place in my heart, because my grandmother worked there, building planes, during the war.
The Design of Ford House
Ford House was built between 1926-1928, and is mostly modeled after the Cotswold Cottage style, which includes limestone exterior, and roofing. The style was chosen after the Fords visited Cotswold, England.
I’ve always loved this style, and you can see the Cotswold Cottage is one of my favorites in Greenfield Village. We shared about our visit to experience history HERE.
The Interior and Furnishings
Filling the walls around the entire home, is artwork by many well known artists. But many pieces are replicas, because the originals have been given to the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Originally left the way the home was when Eleanor left, only minor changes have been made over the decades. I should mention, there really was little remodeling or additions to the home from the time it was built.
Therefore, several details stand out based on the time period. First was all the ice boxes, which were actually electric. Remember, Henry Ford was great friends with Thomas Edison, so they literally got the “hook up” with a kitchen like this! No wonder they were able to host the parties they did. Plenty of room to store food.
In Edsel’s office, the fireplace was from Herondon Hall, England. Dated 1585, Herondon Hall was taken down, and the fireplace mantel was bought by Edsel. The detail is quite amazing.
The stairway railings were also from England.
Several rooms, you would have thought were remodeled, due to the style of furniture and decor. Looking like something out of the 1960’s, the recreation room, and the bedrooms belonging to the boys, are filled with streamlined furniture. This shows how they were way before their time in setting trends, and being creative.
Another surprising site is the bathrooms. Most were the same tile, except for Henry’s.
But they look like designs people would even choose today.
Premium Tour Includes Attic and Basement of Ford House
Interestingly enough, this was NO typical attic, although there were a couple “real” attic rooms they used for storage. I really don’t want to spoil it, and I highly recommend the premium tour in order to see for yourself.
Both the attic and basement are worth seeing. Sadly we were unable to tour the power house, which has a tunnel to connect it to the main home. There was some flooding due to lots of recent rainfall before we were there.
The Grounds: Be Sure to Take a Walk
I could imagine just sitting our here to read a book, meditate, or pray.
Pool House and Pool
The pool was under refurbishment when we visited, but the pool house was neat to see.
A huge room to hang out, complete with fireplace. You can also find a racquet ball court.
Josephine’s Play House
For her 7th birthday, Josephine received this Tudor style play house from her grandmother, Clara Ford. With ceilings at only 6 feet, and doorways at just 5 feet, you may need to duck.
On your walk from the pool house to Josephine’s play house, you go through the rose garden. Best time to not miss the rose garden is during the summer, when all the roses are in bloom.
You will find the butterfly garden up by the guard house, which is the main entrance. Also where you check in, choose your tour, find the restrooms, and explore the gift shop.
The Legacy of Ford House: Home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford
Edsel passed at the young age of 49, and Eleanor remained in the home until she passed in 1976. Because all the children were successful, and had mansions of their own, the Ford House became a legacy they would leave behind.
Ford House opened to the public in 1978. With the money left behind to take care of the home, the trust has been able to pay for many repairs, including a new limestone roof, which boasted a price tag higher than the price of the entire home back in 1928.
Fun Facts About Ford House
30,000 square feet
English wood paneling from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries
Tours and Activities
Like I mentioned, we took the premium tour, but they also offer general tours. On top of tours, they also host activities and events throughout the year. Their most popular events are Detroit Symphony Orchestra at Ford House, EyesOnDesign car show, and Fairy Tale Festival. You can find all tour and event information at FordHouse.org
Final Thoughts on Ford House: Home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford
Feel free to bring a lunch, and picnic by Lake Sinclair. There are picnic tables and a beautiful view. Opening 2020, will be a new visitor center, including a restaurant. Therefore, you will have some dining choices.
Of all the historic houses I’ve toured, this has by far been my favorite. Maybe it’s the connection to the automobile industry growing up in the Detroit area. Or knowing the home was left just as it was when Eleanor passed. Also, it could be knowing the integrity that goes into the preservation of the Ford House.
Regardless of why I feel the way I do, the Ford House, home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford, is a Must Do if in the Detroit area. Are you a history lover? Which is your favorite historic home you’ve visited?
For more historic travel and homes, check out our visits to: