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A Family
that Changed
America, &
the World

Henry Ford was an innovator, a legend, and an icon. He developed and improved ideas that would change the world and inspire countless others to realize their own potential.

Henry nicknamed Clara Ford his "great believer." At every point in the remarkable trajectory of Henry's career, Clara was his indispensable partner - a confidant in business matters and a true companion sharing personal interests, including music, dance and nature.

Together, Clara and Henry built an entire industry and opened the door for countless others to dream and to tap into their potential. They believed that the best way to make a lasting impact on society was by giving people the tools to do more. To better themselves.

The Fords were people of action, passionate about making things happen.

"If I had asked people what they
wanted, they would have said faster horses."

- Henry Ford

“The greatest day in my life was the day
I married Mrs. Ford.”

– Henry Ford

History of
The Estate

Henry and Clara Ford built the 31,000-square-foot Fair Lane as their dream home on 1,300 acres, just a couple miles from where they both were born. At a time when Henry was skyrocketing to global fame after the success of Ford Motor Company and the Model T, Fair Lane was their sanctuary.

It was their 15th and final home - where they enjoyed entertaining their grandchildren and many friends, including frequent visitor Thomas Edison, for whom they reserved a suite of rooms.

The house is a unique blend of Midwestern Prairie School and English country manor styles.

The estate along the Rouge River included a hydro-electric powerhouse and dam, a greenhouse, a working farm built to scale for their grandchildren, an indoor pool, skating house, staff cottages, bowling alley, and a pony barn, as well as a private garage and laboratory for Henry. The vast gardens and landscape were designed by famed architect Jens Jensen.

1863

July 30 - Henry Ford is born on a farm to William and Mary Ford in Springwells Township, Mich., located 9 miles outside of Detroit.

1866

April 11 - Clara Jane Bryant born in Greenfield Township, what is now Dearborn, Mich., a few miles northeast of the Ford homestead.

1879

December - Henry Ford leaves his family farm, with a sixth grade education, to pursue his interest in machinery in Detroit.

1885

Henry Ford meets Clara at local dance.

1888

April 11 - On her 22nd birthday, Clara and Henry marry.

1891

November 6 - Clara gives birth to a son, Edsel Bryant Ford . The family is living in a rented house on East Forest Avenue in Detroit.

1895

June 4 - Henry completes his first automobile, the "Quadricycle."

1903

Ford Motor Company is incorporated and sells its first car, a 2-cylinder Model A.

1908 October 1 - Ford introduces the Model T, or "Tin Lizzie," as it came to be known.

1913

Spring – Contracts made for construction and landscaping of Fair Lane

May: The Chicago architectural firm of von Holst & Fyfe are engaged to design and built Fair Lane, with Marion Mahony Griffin, a prairie school architect, as lead designer. . October 7 – The first moving automobile assembly line in the world is in full operation at Ford's Highland Park factory.

December 10 - concrete poured and construction starts on Fair Lane.

1914

January 5 - Ford Motor announces the $5 per day wage for an eight-hour work day.

February: Clara contracts Mr. W.H. Van Tine to alter and finish the design for Fair Lane in the style of the English manor houses she had visited in Europe. Von Holst & Fyfe are dismissed from the project.

June 2 – Henry lays the cornerstone of Fair Lane Main Residence laid by Henry Ford. Currently no evidence of location or marker.


October 28 – Thomas A. Edison lays the cornerstone of the Fair Lane Power House.

1915

August 13 – Clara Ford becomes a founder and the first president of the Garden Club of Dearborn .

December - Work on Fair Lane is complete. This is Henry and Clara’s 15 th and final home.

1916

August 28 – Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and naturalist John Burroughs join Henry Ford for an extended camping trip. This is the first of many trips “The Vagabonds” will take together over the next decade.


November 1 - Edsel Ford, age 22, marries Eleanor Clay, age 20, niece of the founder of Hudson's, Detroit's preeminent department store.

1917

April 1 – Construction of the Rouge Plant begins.


September 4 – Henry and Clara’s first grandchild, Henry II, is born to Edsel and Eleanor.
1918

December 31 - Henry Ford suddenly resigns from the presidency of the Ford Motor Company. Edsel, 25, is elected to the role the next day, and assumes the presidency on New Year's Day, 1919.

1919

July 20 – A second Ford grandchild, Benson, is born to Edsel and Eleanor.

1923


The Fords begin to revive traditional music and dance of their youth. They hire an instructor ( Benjamin Lovett) to teach traditional dance in Dearborn.


July 7 – Edsel and Eleanor have their third child, Josephine.

1925

March 14 – Edsel and Eleanor’s fourth child, William Clay, is born.

1927

Clara Ford became president of Women’s National Farm and Garden Association and Garden Club of America.

May 31 - The 15 millionth Model T ceremoniously rolls off the assembly line at Highland Park as Henry and Edsel pose for the cameras.

1943
June 1 - Henry Ford is re-elected president of Ford Motor Co. at age 79. Eleanor is elected to the board. Henry Ford II is released from the Navy to help run the company.


1945

Early 1945 - Ford suffers a debilitating stroke while on a trip to Richmond Hill, his estate in Georgia.


September 21 – Henry Ford II is named president of Ford Motor Company.

1947

April 7 - Henry Ford dies at Fair Lane at age 83 due to a cerebral hemorrhage.

1950

September 29 – Clara Bryant Ford dies of heart failure at Henry Ford Hospital at age 84.

1951

March 5 – Ford Motor Company buys Fair Lane from the Ford heirs.

1953

May 7 – Ford Motor Company Archives dedicated at Fair Lane by Eleanor Ford and her sons.

1956

December– Ford Motor Company donates 210 acres of Fair Lane and $6.5 million to the University of Michigan to be developed as a Dearborn campus. The home becomes a conference center and historic site open for tours.

1958

February 18 – Fair Lane listed on the State of Michigan’s Historic Register.

1966

November 13 - Fair Lane listed on the National Register of Historic Places and also recognized as a National Historic Landmark .

2013

June 29 – The Main Residence, Power House, Potting Shed and Greenhouse, Boathouse, collections and related items as well as 17.1 acres are transferred to the newly formed Henry Ford Estate, Inc.

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