Last night we went with friends and family on a Winter Wonderland tour and stroll of the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House grounds. It was a lovely night, filled with the magical feeling I always experience when I enter this beautiful 87 acre estate that was built in 1929.
Edsel was the son of Henry Ford and an executive at Henry Ford Company. He was married to Eleanor and they had four children – three sons and one daughter, all of whom are now deceased. His grandchildren are still alive, and every so often they come to visit the estate, during which time it becomes closed to the public.
Edsel Ford died in this house in 1943 and his wife Eleanor lived there until her death in 1976. It was her wish that the property be used for “the benefit of the public.” So today this house is not only open to the public for guided tours, but also has wonderful programs that the whole family could enjoy, such as the Winter Wonderland, where we strolled under a canopy of twinkling lights, listened to carolers and folktale storytelling while sipping hot chocolate around a fire, and visited with Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause who are still working although Christmas Day has passed.
Inside, we saw how the house got decorated during the holiday season. Original ornaments that the Fords used from the 1930s were hung on trees. One tree had elongated purple ornaments which Eleanor wanted but could not find anywhere, so she had the Ford Company make them for her. We wandered from room to room, listening to the sound of live musicians play soft Christmas music while tour guides filled us in with stories of the family.
One story I particularly enjoyed was the one about the painting hung on the dining room wall.
“Who is this painting of?” I asked the tour guide.
“This was Edsel’s favorite painting, because it reminded him so much of Eleanor,” the woman said. “Sometimes, when the two of them were dining alone, they would sit right here – ” she pointed to two 18th Century Queen Anne-style chairs. “So he could see that painting every time he looked up.”
My friend and I were in awe, my friend complaining under her breath that they don’t make men like this anymore.
Seeing our expressions, the woman smiled and added, “They had a very good relationship. A very good one.”
This would explain why Eleanor, after Edsel’s death, remained single for the next 33 years, until she joined her husband once again, and why this house today is still full of life.