Cultural Glimpse

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Tag: Edsel & Eleanor Ford House

Winter Wonderland at the Ford House

Playhouse - A gift from her grandmother Clara, it was built in 1930 for Josephine's seventh birthday. The house contains miniature furnishings in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and sitting room.

Playhouse – A gift from her grandmother Clara, it was built in 1930 for Josephine’s seventh birthday. The house contains miniature furnishings in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and sitting room.

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.

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Making a Wish at the Ford House!

Peter Pan

The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House was transformed into Peter Pan’s Neverland Adventure on Saturday, June 28. Edsel Ford was the only child of Clara Bryant and Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company. Edsel became involved in his father’s company at an early age and by 25, he became president of his father’s company. This was in 1919. When his wife Eleanor died in 1976, at age 80, the Detroit Free Press wrote, “Mrs. Ford’s greatest gift to the public, indeed, her greatest legacy, is her home, which she had transferred to a trust with the request that it be used for the benefit of the public.”

Yesterday was my first time visiting this lovely home, and from the moment we entered its beautiful gates, it was magical. We were greeted by a pirate who held a little bell over each person’s head and said with a hearty smile, “Make a wish!”

He actually waited a few seconds for us to make that wish before we moved on into a vast garden filled with games, rides and Walt Disney characters such as Captain Hook, Aerial and Tinkerbell. There was a full-size playhouse that the Fords had built for their children, a pool, a breathtaking lake. There was a pool house and the main house, which we could have taken a tour of had we not had to oblige to the children wanting a face paint.

So I will be returning to this house, and surely writing a post about it. Until then, I will make an effort to remember to let my heart be as childlike as Peter Pan as every morning, I allow myself to “make a wish” and then, of course, believe!