(From left to right: Nick Speth, Horticulturist; Jody Ford, Facilities; Annie Rubel, Director of Preservation and Operations; Robert Bury, President; Tamsen Brown, Head of Conservation; Karen Marzonie, Director of Landscapes; and Austin Eighmey, Restoration Project Manager.)
Fair Lane Awarded the Governor's Award for Historic Preservation
We are honored to announce the restoration of Fair Lane: Home of Clara and Henry Ford has won the 2021 Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation! With Governor Whitmer’s support and that of the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office, Fair Lane’s award is “For the exacting restoration of Fair Lane Estate: Home of Clara and Henry Ford. The attention to detail at this National Historic Landmark site carefully restored the late 1910s appearance of the property--both inside and out--and intentionally focused on hands-on training for emerging preservationists, artisans, and tradespeople.” Our work not only celebrates the iconic home of this internationally significant couple, but also preserves the historic trades and crafts through this once in a lifetime project.
We are delighted to accept this award in partnership with Quinn Evans Architects, The Christman Company, SmithGroup Inc., National Restoration Inc, and Historic Surfaces LLC. There have been countless artisans, tradespeople, and craftspeople who have passionately and skillfully participated in this exciting project, but with the partnership of these firms, we have ensured the continued preservation of this National Historic Landmark.
We thank all those who have committed themselves to this great work, including past leadership and staff including, but not limited to the late Dr. Kathleen Mullins, previous President and CEO of Historic Ford Estates; the late David Miller, VP of Special Projects; Mark Heppner, past VP of Historic Resources at Historic Ford Estates and current President and CEO of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House; Lisa Worley, Director of Material Culture at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House; Julie Cook, Collections Manager at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House; Patti Timmins, Administrative Manager; Charles Jones, former Senior Security Officer; Mark Gervasi, former Head Conservator; Caroline Thibodeau, Conservator; Gisvi Pardo, Conservator; Andrea Robin, Research Specialist; Ashlee Beever, Research Specialist; John Kinglsey, Research and Furnishing Specialist; Mose Nowland, Restoration Engineer; Pamela Morrison, Volunteer Coordinator and Horticulturist; Ronnie Francek, Horticulturist.
We wish to thank all those who have contributed to our project and made this great honor possible. Our donors, board of trustees, stakeholders, and community members who support our great project deserve our gratitude, as well as those at the State Historic Preservation Office and the Governor’s Office who have recognized our work.
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2020 Fair Lane Tribute Garden
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this year's Tribute Garden! While our gardens and grounds currently remain closed, we look forward to welcoming you and your loved ones back soon to see the work that you have helped to make possible.
Mary Jo Alspach
Elinor LeBlanc Bruhn
Mary Ann Bury
Evelyn Rose Craig
Maryellen T. Cusick
Louise J. Dixon
Cynthia N. Ford
Edith McNaughton Ford
Helen E. Gallagher
Francis Bryant ImOberstag
Melissa Rubel Jacobson
Ruth Ann Johnson
Elizabeth Winchell McGraw
Helen T. Neskow
Carrie Bolk Shrader
Tired of being stuck inside? Do you feel like you’re missing out on the blooms and blossoms of spring?
A new book may help you to ease your cabin fever. Passion for Peonies is written by staff at the University of Michigan with contributions from other landscape professionals. The book paints a fascinating picture of the history of U of M’s storied Nichols Arboretum, as well as the broader history of peony gardening.
The peonies at Fair Lane also get a feature, compliments of our Director of Landscapes Karen Marzonie. In the early 20th century, Fair Lane’s Peony Garden was designed and planted by the estate’s gardeners on behalf of Clara Ford. Once consisting of over twelve hundred plants, of approximately forty varieties, the peony garden is one of the landscape features that Fair Lane envisions restoring to its former glory someday. Make sure to pick up a copy for a glimpse of what the future may hold for our beautiful gardens.
Passion for Peonies is sure to scratch your itch to go outside, and to see a glimpse of the beautiful peonies of Fair Lane. Order a copy directly from the University of Michigan here.
All about the Bowling Alley
The preservation and conservation team at Fair Lane is pleased to share that work has begun to restore and stabilize the original Brunswick Bowling alley, one of the many highlights of the estate’s extensive restoration. This remarkable space once boasted a classic Brunswick ball return, ball rack, and score board. We will be recreating those features so the alley is fully functional and a beautiful reflection of its original appearance. As always at Fair Lane, our team does extensive research on the original room and its contents before restoration begins. Our restoration and reproduction work will be based upon period receipts, construction orders, and trade catalogs.
When Fair Lane was being built in the 1910s, having a bowling alley in a private residence would have been a rare recreational feature. Expensive and difficult to build, only the wealthiest of families would have even considered installing one. Ten laborers would have been required to build the lane itself onsite. The structure of the lane would be assembled on its side, with men hammering long, thin strips of wood together one piece at a time, allowing the lane to grow in width. When the lane was constructed, it would be laid out on the ground and gutters installed on either side to complete the installation.
The bowling alley here at Fair Lane also came with a few additional features:
Pin Spotter- Pins would be lined up using metal rods that would emerge from the lane when a lever was pushed. Called a Pin Spotter, this was a relatively new mechanism in the 1910s. Clara and Henry Ford likely would have seen this feature in one of the trade catalogs published by Brunswick Bowling and other vendors. The pin spotter still works and will be fully restored for use.
Ball Pit- Balls and pins would land in the ball pit at the back of the lane, consisting of a maple floor topped by a rubber mat and a leatherback cushion to provide both cushion and sound suppression.
Ball Return- Used to bring the ball back to the head of the lane, the Brunswick ball return that was originally installed at Fair Lane was removed in the 1950s. We will be replicating this feature in order to return the entire lane to full functionality.
Wall Mounted Water Fountain- Made of recessed white marble, this fountain would have provided refreshment to bowlers during games.
Today, the Bowling Alley is not in the best shape. The space is afflicted by moisture issues and much of the original bowling equipment is missing, leaving the room mostly bare. Work in the Bowling Alley is currently focused on addressing the moisture and related preservation problems, to stabilize the area for years to come. When these pressing issues are resolved, we will turn our attention to recreating the room and its contents, as close to the original as possible.
We invite you to stay tuned in the coming months to watch as this space is returned to its original glory.
Become a Member and Explore Fair Lane!
Clara and Henry Ford loved music, and had an organ custom-made for their living room. Recently, Fair Lane worked with Schantz Organ Company in Ohio to recreate the Fords’ original Estey Organ based on photographs and correspondence. The original organ was an Estey (made in Brattleboro, Vermont), which is no longer in business.The organ is playable and fully functional. The pipes also will be installed in the Organ Pipe Chamber off of the Main Hall and in the Celeste Chamber over the main stairs.
We obtained pipes from the same era and company as the originals from a church in Detroit. Those pipes will be refurbished and installed later this year.
Fair Lane Volunteer Profile: Mose Nowland
Mose Nowland is one of Fair Lane’s dedicated volunteers, a talented and resourceful craftsman who channels his years of experience working on Ford engines into (amongst other things) the fabrication of replica fixtures for the estate. Mose took his first Ford job in 1955 and quickly began assembling and repairing experimental engines, becoming very skilled at fabricating the parts the engines needed ton function.
Mose’s experience with the mechanics of Ford vehicles made him the perfect candidate to be the company’s man on the ground at the 1966 Le Mans race. He stayed on the track for the duration of the race to make adjustments, fix problems, and make sure that the Ford cars returned to the track as soon as possible. At this race, Ford’s racing prototype the GT-40 took first, second and third place in a shocking upset over European favorite Ferrari. This event was recently dramatized in the film “Ford Vs. Ferrari, and Mose has recently been in the public eye due to his involvement. Click here to read more.
Although he retired from Ford in 2012, Mose has kept busy as a volunteer at both the Henry Ford Museum and at Fair Lane. Nearly 6 decades of experience crafting engine parts have made him adept at creating mechanical and architectural elements from a variety of materials, including metal, rubber, and glass. In a restoration like Fair Lane, which relies on making new objects that look identical to their historic counterparts, this skill is invaluable.
Sometimes he’ll only need to re-create a single piece of a chandelier, sometimes an entire light fixture. Mose is adept at making a replica so detailed that a casual viewer will not notice the difference between the copy and the original. When the conservation team needed to make several duplicates of an original basswood wall torchiere, Mose took the piece and dismantled it into eleven parts. He then used the parts to create silicon molds that were filled with a liquid mixture consisting of 1/3 polyurethane, 1/3 micro wood fiber, and 1/3 curing agent. After 40 minutes, the mixture had hardened into a perfect replica of the original fixture, needing only to be finished, antiqued, wrapped with ribbon, and wired for installation.
We are fortunate to have such a gifted and enthusiastic volunteer on our team here at Fair Lane. The next time you see the brass sconces on the entry portico, or see the glow of the torchieres through the front door, be sure to thank Mose Nowland!
We are pleased to announce that Fair Lane has just acquired a very special piece to add to our collection.
In 1924, Henry Ford commissioned a one of a kind 5/8th scale Fordson tractor for his grandchildren to use on the miniature farm they developed at Fair Lane. This novelty piece features a Model T engine and the title “Fordsons” on the grill, plural to include his grandchildren.
This miniature Fordson has finally come home and will bunk with our full scale 1920 Model N!
The original Fordson tractor was a lesser known contribution Henry and Edsel Ford made to industrial history. Their tractor became known as the Model T of the Soil, leading to enormous changes in the agricultural landscape around the world. The first Fordson rolled off the line here in Dearborn, Michigan just over 100 years ago.
You can find more information on the innovative Fordson tractor—including a short documentary—here.
New Organ in Living Room
Clara and Henry Ford loved music, and had an organ custom-made for their living room. Recently, Fair Lane worked with Schantz Organ Company in Ohio to recreate the Fords’ original Estey Organ based on photographs and correspondence. The original organ was an Estey (made in Brattleboro, Vermont), which is no longer in business.
The organ is playable and fully functional. The pipes also will be installed in the Organ Pipe Chamber off of the Main Hall and in the Celeste Chamber over the main stairs.
We obtained pipes from the same era and company as the originals from a church in Detroit. Those pipes will be refurbished and installed later this year.
Fair Lane Receives $10M from Ford Foundation
Grant nearly completes first phase of Estate’s fundraising campaign.
The Board of Trustees of announced that it has received a commitment for a $10 million grant from the to support its to restore, reinterpret and reopen the former home of Clara and Henry Ford in Dearborn, Mich.
The announcement was made April 21, 2017, by Ford Foundation President Darren Walker to a sold-out room of supporters at the 29th annual Henry Ford Estate Dinner Dance at the Dearborn Inn.
The Ford Foundation grant is the single largest contribution to the campaign to date, and nearly completes the first phase of the $25 million fundraising goal. The Ford Foundation joins Ford Motor Company Fund, the Ford Family, Ford and Lincoln dealers and many individual contributors in supporting this initiative.
“We are thrilled to support the campaign to restore the Estate so that future generations can learn about and discover the history of the Ford family," said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. "Even as we address issues of inequality in the 21st century as a global organization, it is important to honor the Ford family's foresight and generosity 80 years ago to seed the origins of our capital in Michigan."
“This generous commitment from the Ford Foundation is meaningful for so many reasons,” said Edsel B. Ford II, chairman of Henry Ford Estate, Inc. “Not only will this help in restoring, reinterpreting and reopening Fair Lane to the public; this gesture reinforces the Ford Foundation’s exceptional commitment to Detroit and the surrounding region. We are honored that so many members of the extended Ford ‘family’ have graciously stepped up to support our shared legacy. We look forward to inviting the public back to Fair Lane to experience this inspiring place that my great grandparents called home.”
After Clara Ford’s death in 1950, Ford Motor Company acquired the estate from Ford heirs and used it as an archival center and office space. In 1956 the company donated the home and 210 acres of land to the University of Michigan for the development of the Dearborn campus. The home was used for meetings, events, a restaurant and tours until the University closed it in 2010. In 2013, the Estate became an independent nonprofit when the University transferred ownership of the home and 17 acres of land to the newly established Henry Ford Estate Inc. Plans began immediately for a capital campaign and new vision for the future.v
“Our goal with this restoration has been to really understand the home that Clara and Henry Ford built. And then to take it back so if they were to walk in the door, they’d say ‘We’re home," said Kathleen Mullins, president and CEO, Henry Ford Estate, Inc. “We have fixed leaky roofs and collapsing foundations, and shored up the riverbank to make the estate secure. We are now investing in restoring the rooms inside the estate to how they looked and felt in 1919. We will then create a visitor experience like no other historic estate has done before; one that provides fertile ground for creativity, experimentation, dialog and action.”
With the Ford Foundation grant, the first phase of the campaign has raised more than $24 million of the $25 million goal. The first 10 percent of all funds raised will be placed into an endowment to help ensure Fair Lane is operated in a sound and sustainable manner. The remaining funds are supporting repair of structural and life-safety issues and restoration, furnishing and interpretation of all of the rooms on the main floor of the home. Funds are also going toward development of the future visitor experience, which will not only provide a look at the history of the Ford family home, it will also allow visitors to become participants in discussions that explore how Henry and Clara’s visionary thinking transformed and empowered a nation.
The Estate will be open for a special Preservation Day Open House on May 13 for the public to view the restoration progress and learn more about future plans. Admission is by prepurchased ticket; number of tickets are limited. For more information visit www.henryfordestate.org/news.
(Pictured: Above, the historical photo shows Henry and Clara Ford walking along the river at their Fair Lane home in Dearborn, Mich. Below, Michael Purser of the Rosebud Company works on restoring the Main Hall staircase at the Henry Ford Estate - Fair Lane in Dearborn, Mich. Credit: John F. Martin Photography for Henry Ford Estate.)
About Henry Ford 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. 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.
After Clara Ford’s death in 1950, Ford Motor Company acquired the estate from Ford heirs and used it as an archival center and office space. In 1956, the company donated the home and 210 acres of land to the University of Michigan for the development of the Dearborn campus. The home was used for meetings, events, a restaurant and tours until the University closed it in 2010. In 2013, the Estate became an independent nonprofit when the University transferred ownership of the home and 17 acres of land to the newly established Henry Ford Estate Inc. For more information on this Henry Ford Estate – Fair Lane, visit www.henryfordestate.org.
Honoring Clara Ford's 150th Anniversary
This year marks the 150th Anniversary of Clara Ford's birth, and we are celebrating her life and legacy, along with many other historic sites and organizations around the country. Clara was the matriarch of a family that changed the world, and she left behind an important footprint all of her own. Learn more about Clara and the events in her honor at www.claraford150.com