Thursday, August 15, 2013

Henry Ford Museum

The week after we got back from camping, we headed down to Detroit.  Detroit isn't really your popular destination, and perhaps you've read in the news of the city attempting to claim bankruptcy, but we had a place in mind that we wanted to take the kids.

My husband's family is from the Windsor area, and many of his uncles moved into the Detroit area when they married.  While driving along the highway, we witnessed many large old-fashioned homes that have simply been abandoned, at times you would see a whole street of vacant houses.  My in-laws tell me it was once in an influential neighbourhood.  There's nothing more forlorn than an abandoned house.

But we were headed just a little outside downtown Detroit to see the amazing Henry Ford Museum, created by Henry Ford himself.  The museum is in two parts, one is your typical museum indoors with all kinds of implements and inventions gone by the wayside that Henry Ford collected throughout his lifetime.  But outdoors is an entire village made up of the actual buildings of famous people from all walks of life. 

Henry Ford's home

Henry Ford's home
Greenfield Village is full of homes and shops that Henry Ford had brought to this one location and you can wander through everything from the Wright brothers' workshop, to Robert Frost's home.   There's a small working farm, and the lovely farmhouse (below) is complete with furnished rooms and a couple of women were making the midday meal in the kitchen. 

The village is complete with the workers in period clothing, and when they walk past you, they're carrying on conversations of the day (farm talk and politics).

These percherons are being harnessed to actually work in the fields ...
Off they go ....
Don't you just love being inside an old dusty barn ... the lighting inside is soft golden, and it smells of straw and hay and old-worldliness ...

There were a few sheep which they sheared for the wool and prepared for weaving.  The museum has lots of working shops too, including the weaving shop where the women were weaving everything from rag carpets (which I'll show later), to woolen bed spreads.  

Everything in the village was working ... even this small steam engine which ran continuously all day long taking visitors around the park.

The tin-smith shop with its many tin lanterns hung ready "for sale" ...

I've always loved the look of tin, and there was a woman in the shop demonstrating how they made candle holders.

The glass blowing is always interesting to watch.  We watched this same process on the island of Murano in Venice, Italy last summer!  The glass blowing here in Detroit was a lot slower going, but perhaps the ovens weren't as hot.  In Murano, the audience could feel the intense heat from the enourmous furnace, and they hurried the demonstration along so that we weren't suffering any effects!

This is an antique carousel horse being repaired.  The carousel was also working, and had some beautiful animals that we rode ;)

Here a couple of workers are cycling around on their turn of the century penny-farthing and two-wheeler.  This couple cycled around all day with big smiles on their faces!   I had to laugh when we saw them hours later, just before the park closed, and the smiles were gone, and they were both rather stoney faced.  I guess even riding a bicycle all day long for a job has it's limits.

There were working Model T Fords that you could get a ride in (which of course we did ... my husband is a huge  car enthusiast).  Our own Ford pickup was actually built in Dearborn, Michigan, and we could see the truck plant across the road.  Oddly enough, the lady who drove 'our' little Ford was married to a guy who came from the city beside where we live!  Small world.

Below is the Wright brother's bicycle shop where they built their first airplane "Kitty Hawk" in the back of the shop.

The building below was full of boilers built by Edison.

And who isn't fascinated by steam locomotives?!  This is inside the working roundhouse.  There was a demonstration each day showing how the roundhouse worked.

Outside the roundhouse with its pleasing arched doorways ...

This shot is from the train as we approached the water tower used to fill the engine with water ...

A wonderful blacksmith's shop ...

Below is Cotswold Cottage, which was brought over from England.  Unfortunately, there was nothing inside this little cottage, and it was used as a tea room ... I was disappointed with that as all the other buildings were furnished.

Below is Robert Frost's home. Isn't it sweet?

Below are photos from a boarding house where workers of Menlo Park lived.  Menlo Park was Edison's laboratory, and that was in the village as well.  Most of the laboratory had to be rebuilt as it was in fairly rough shape when Ford purchased it. 
But first the boarding house ...
This was the first house in America to have electric light!  I guess it paid to house all those scientists ;)
The house was owned and run by a young mother, her daughter and one maid.  I loved all the antique quilts adorning the beds, and in the third photo below, you can see the woven rag rugs which were stitched together to make a full carpet  ...

This is Menlo Park Laboratory inside.

This is a clock-maker's shop, but the village used it as a candy shop and we stopped in for a 2-lb cookie and lemonaide!

Another clock repair or jewelry (they were closing up by this time) ....

And that was our day in the village.  The next day we spent in the Ford Museum where there were so many interesting things to see.  I think I was quite worn out from the outdoor village the day before, however, and didn't enjoy it quite as much as it deserved. 
Here is the limo in which President John F. Kennedy was shot.  It's a bit strange and eerie standing beside this car when you think on the events surrounding the car.

Below is the chair in which President Lincoln was assassinated ...
On a lighter note, this is an unusual vehicle for selling Oscar Meyer Wieners ....
And for all those fellow campers, or hippies, or vintage lovers, here's the ultimate camping van by VW ...

We saw tons more in the museum, all of it interesting and much of it mind provoking.  It was lots of fun and lots of the items were (depressingly) from my own childhood!  I spied this interesting display of American license plates in one of the gift shops ...

We don't get to the States very often, but whenever we do go, I'm always impressed by the thoroughness of the museums and tourist areas.  Everything is well maintained and the little details are all in place.
Thanks for stopping by!
Thanks Henry :)


  1. I've never been to Detroit, though I do have a relative who came from there. It was really interesting to see the places you visited. Henry Ford was a fascinating person and I enjoy reading about his inventions and ideas for business. Thank you for sharing.

    1. This is the third time I've been in that area, although I've never actually visited the city itself. I found the museum & village really interesting ... I love historical places :)

  2. Henry Ford was ahead of his time and how wonderful he had the foresight to preserve these historical buildings and a way of life. I'll put this on my place to visit if I ever make it out to Michigan. We might head out there in December.

    Did I just read that you were in Venice last summer?? I hope you will do a post on that visit one day!!

    1. It's really worthwhile seeing Stacy ... especially the village. Not sure if the village runs all year, so maybe check that first. Yes, our family took a Mediterranean cruise last summer! 12 days of amazing adventures :)

  3. What an interesting place to visit, and so much to see there. I love the village with all those charming houses, the English cottage is stunning. Thanks for sharing :)

    1. It was great to see all the homes so well preserved and (mostly) furnished. Our only disappointment was we couldn't go to upstairs in a lot of the two-storey buildings (not sure why), but those little staircases were so inviting! The English cottage looked great from the outside with a wonderful garden surrounding it ... only two sad little Tudor-style stools stood in the main room.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing what an amazing place to visit. What fascinating buildings and so interesting to learn more about them. It's a shame that Detroit has so many empty buildings now I guess like here the car industry is not as affluent as it was. Not so sure about Kennedy's car and Lincoln's chair it's a little macabre for me. Living not to far from the Cotswold the cottage is a perfect representation of the ones there such a shame it didn't have any furniture in it. It would make a perfect English Tearoom. Wonderful post ~ Sarah x

    1. There were plenty of macabre items in the museum. A very large section dedicated to slavery which was painful to read about, and a couple of actors did a wonderful depiction of those days in front of a plantation house. The Cotswold cottage was meticulously taken apart with each stone marked, and then rebuilt in the village. You'd think it had always been situated there!

  5. What a great trip! Looks like so much fun. Not sure Colin would take us to Detroit with the way things are?? Boy I wish my farm house looked like that one :)


    1. The museum and village are side by side, and outside of downtown Detroit. You only have to drive past the city along the highway. That farmhouse was really nice inside and out!

  6. What a great trip! I love going to restoration villages but I've not yet been to this one. Looks like you had a ball...
    Thanks for sharing all the great photos!
    Beth P

  7. Wow! So much to see! Looks like a wonderful trip!


Thanks so much for leaving a comment, it's nice to know when you've stopped by! :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...