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Whales of History: Mapping Some Magnificent Ford Estates

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This post was authored by Nicole Wrona


The Ford name is synonymous with the rise of the automobile, but there's another legacy that shouldn't be overlooked. All that auto wealth allowed the Fords to build some magnificent homes throughout the Detroit area. Like the cars they produced, the Ford dwellings started out modest, and we mean hand-built, basic wooden box modest. But as a business became an empire, basic bungalows gave way to increasingly opulent estates, many designed by some of the most renowned architects in the world. In honor of Whale Week, we have for you a sampling of Ford homes throughout history.

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1. William and Mary Homestead

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20900 Oakwood Boulevard
Dearborn, MI 48124

William Ford built a home for his family located in Springwells Township, on the corner of Greenfield and Ford Road, in 1861. It was a working farm, standard for rural residences at the time. Henry was born there in 1863. He lived at this location in Dearborn, until he turned 16. Henry had the home restored in 1919. In 1944 it was carefully transported- moved piece by piece- from its original location to its current site. This was one of the first structures that Henry Ford painstakingly recreated and preserved at his historical theme park, Greenfield Village. The public was invited to tour the home starting in 1953.

2. John Banks House

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8281 Clinton Macon Road
Clinton, MI 49236

In Lenawee County sits the John Pennington-Henry Ford House. The Greek Revival farmhouse is located at 8281 Clinton Macon Road in Macon, Michigan. It was constructed in 1845 by a pioneer farming duo, John and Hannah Pennington. Henry Ford bought the two-story home in the 1930s and restored it. He also bought the surrounding land and cultivated soy to study. He later sold it and it is still a private residence. It was listed on the US National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

3. Henry and Clara Ford Honeymoon Cottage

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29835 Beechwood Avenue
Garden City, MI 48135

The Square House was built around 1888 in Dearborn. Henry built the home himself, following specific instructions from Clara, and cutting wood for the dwelling at the sawmill he owned. The newlyweds moved in after April 11 of that year. They resided there until their move to Detroit. The Fords used this home as a summer cottage until 1937. Henry eventually gave it to his friend, Robert Smith, who moved it to its current location at 29835 Beechwood Avenue in Garden City. In 1952, Smith relocated the home from Dearborn so Ford Motor Company World Headquarters could be constructed without demolishing the structure. It is currently a private residence, sitting between a strip mall and industrial structures.

4. Henry Ford and Clara Ford Home

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140 Edison Street
Detroit, MI 48202

Henry and Clara built their home in Detroit's Boston-Edison neighborhood at a cost of $500,000. They lived at 140 Edison Avenue from 1907 to 1915, while waiting for construction of Fair Lane estate to be finished. This Italian Renaissance Revival private residence was designed by architectural firm Malcomson, Higginbottom, and Clement. T. Glenn Phillips created the garden. Special features included a machine shop built above the garage for Edsel to tinker around in. This property was located within close proximity to Piquette Avenue Plant, the Highland Park Factory, and was a mile away from Henry Ford Hospital. This building was given historical status as of July 17, 1986.

5. Fair Lane: Henry Ford Estate

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4901 Evergreen Road
Dearborn, MI 48128

The last home Henry Ford lived in was built two miles from the farm where he was born. Construction of this 56 room, 31,000 square foot home was between 1914 and 1915. The final estimated cost of construction was $2.5 million. An evolving cast of architects contributed to this early English style home. The first was an associate from Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural firm, Marion Mahony Griffin. She began the initial design in Prairie Style. The Fords then asked William H. Van Tine to revise the design, requesting that he incorporate English Manor house details. Joseph Nathaniel French later finalized details on the home. Fair Lane is set on 1300 acres of meticulous landscaping, designed by Jens Jensen. The formal gardens, reflecting pools, lily pond, and grotto took over six years to create. A bronze ram sculpture by Frederick Meiijer as a water feature next to the rose garden. Included on the property was a hydro-electric power plant powered by a man-made waterfall, a boathouse, a laboratory used by Edison, a green house, playhouse, and staff cottages. There was also a bowling alley, indoor pool, stables, a giant tree house, and formal gardens. This property and 72 acres of land was designated a National Historical Landmark in 1966.

6. Haven Hill Estate Retreat

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4200 Highland Road
White Lake Township, MI 48383

Edsel and Eleanor purchsed land in White Lake Township beginning in 1923. The family was looking for a retreat to get away from their everyday lives. Haven Hill provided that sanctuary for them. It was close enough for a quick getaway, and easy to get to. It was secluded and was designed to be self-sustaining. Robert O. Derrick was the architect for this project, while Ford family favorite, Jens Jensen, was in charge of landscaping. Construction began in 1924, and was finished in 1931. There were five main buildings, including a lodge, carriage house, gate house, stables, and a barn. The lodge was the main unit where they lived on the 2,422 acre expanse. Additional features included a swimming pool, tennis court, and a toboggan run, and vegetable gardens. Edsel stayed here until his death, and in 1946, Eleanor sold the parcel to that state park system, now located in the Highland State Recreation Area. The buildings have since fallen into desrepair and some were destroyed by a fire. These structures are currently under renovation. Upon completeion, they will serve as a historical resource to visitors.

7. Edsel and Eleanor Ford House

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1100 Lakeshore Drive
Grosse Pointe Shores, MI 48236

Built on the shores of Lake St. Clair is the home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford. Construction of the 20,000 square foot house started in 1926, and the Fords began living there in December of 1929. Situated at 1100 Lake Shore Road, the architect behind this estate was heavy-weight Albert Kahn. Kahn had previously worked with Ford Motor Company on various industrial buildings. The style of architecture chosen for this home was inspired by the Cotswold Cottages the Fords had seen while in England. The property in Grosse Point Shores is constructed of sandstone, had slate roofs, and leaded glass windows. Many of the rooms were the work of Walter Dorwin Teague, an industrial designer. Famed landscape architect Jens Jensen created sweeping fields complemented by a lagoon, swimming pool, and squash court. A gate house, playhouse, and power house were placed strategically on the 87 acres of land.

8. The Hebard-Ford House

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Ford Drive
L'Anse, MI 49946

Overlooking Lake Superior, surrounded by woodland, is Henry Ford's summer house, the Hebard-Ford House. In September of 1923, Henry Ford purchased the peninsula of Pequaming. He wanted to conduct a sociological experiment, attempting to create a model town. Basically remodled the entire village in the process. The Ford Bungalow is located in the resort town of L'Anse Michigan at 13730 Ford Drive Pequaming. During the summer, Ford used this as an art camp for the local kids. This 5,000 square foot vacation home has 14 rooms, which are presently available as a rental for overnight guests.

9. William Clay Ford, Jr Home

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Provencal Road
Grosse Pointe Farms, MI 48236

Bill Ford, Jr. put his riverfront property in Ann Arbor on the market in January of 2007 for $3.95 million. Built in 1980, this home was designed by native Ann Arbor architect David Osler. It's a 5,900 square feet, five bedroom home that sits on 17 acres. It includes a tennis court and pool. It seems that this listing has stayed on market for a few years. It was also rumored that he built a new home down the street from this one.

10. Home of Paul and Lynn Ford Alandt

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Lake Shore Road & Lakeshore Drive
Grosse Pointe Shores, MI 48236

This Lakefront Property in Grosse Pointe Shores is owned by Paul & Lynn Ford Alandt. The residence is off of Lake Shore Road.

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1. William and Mary Homestead

20900 Oakwood Boulevard, Dearborn, MI 48124

William Ford built a home for his family located in Springwells Township, on the corner of Greenfield and Ford Road, in 1861. It was a working farm, standard for rural residences at the time. Henry was born there in 1863. He lived at this location in Dearborn, until he turned 16. Henry had the home restored in 1919. In 1944 it was carefully transported- moved piece by piece- from its original location to its current site. This was one of the first structures that Henry Ford painstakingly recreated and preserved at his historical theme park, Greenfield Village. The public was invited to tour the home starting in 1953.

20900 Oakwood Boulevard
Dearborn, MI 48124

2. John Banks House

8281 Clinton Macon Road, Clinton, MI 49236

In Lenawee County sits the John Pennington-Henry Ford House. The Greek Revival farmhouse is located at 8281 Clinton Macon Road in Macon, Michigan. It was constructed in 1845 by a pioneer farming duo, John and Hannah Pennington. Henry Ford bought the two-story home in the 1930s and restored it. He also bought the surrounding land and cultivated soy to study. He later sold it and it is still a private residence. It was listed on the US National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

8281 Clinton Macon Road
Clinton, MI 49236

3. Henry and Clara Ford Honeymoon Cottage

29835 Beechwood Avenue, Garden City, MI 48135

The Square House was built around 1888 in Dearborn. Henry built the home himself, following specific instructions from Clara, and cutting wood for the dwelling at the sawmill he owned. The newlyweds moved in after April 11 of that year. They resided there until their move to Detroit. The Fords used this home as a summer cottage until 1937. Henry eventually gave it to his friend, Robert Smith, who moved it to its current location at 29835 Beechwood Avenue in Garden City. In 1952, Smith relocated the home from Dearborn so Ford Motor Company World Headquarters could be constructed without demolishing the structure. It is currently a private residence, sitting between a strip mall and industrial structures.

29835 Beechwood Avenue
Garden City, MI 48135

4. Henry Ford and Clara Ford Home

140 Edison Street, Detroit, MI 48202

Henry and Clara built their home in Detroit's Boston-Edison neighborhood at a cost of $500,000. They lived at 140 Edison Avenue from 1907 to 1915, while waiting for construction of Fair Lane estate to be finished. This Italian Renaissance Revival private residence was designed by architectural firm Malcomson, Higginbottom, and Clement. T. Glenn Phillips created the garden. Special features included a machine shop built above the garage for Edsel to tinker around in. This property was located within close proximity to Piquette Avenue Plant, the Highland Park Factory, and was a mile away from Henry Ford Hospital. This building was given historical status as of July 17, 1986.

140 Edison Street
Detroit, MI 48202

5. Fair Lane: Henry Ford Estate

4901 Evergreen Road, Dearborn, MI 48128

The last home Henry Ford lived in was built two miles from the farm where he was born. Construction of this 56 room, 31,000 square foot home was between 1914 and 1915. The final estimated cost of construction was $2.5 million. An evolving cast of architects contributed to this early English style home. The first was an associate from Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural firm, Marion Mahony Griffin. She began the initial design in Prairie Style. The Fords then asked William H. Van Tine to revise the design, requesting that he incorporate English Manor house details. Joseph Nathaniel French later finalized details on the home. Fair Lane is set on 1300 acres of meticulous landscaping, designed by Jens Jensen. The formal gardens, reflecting pools, lily pond, and grotto took over six years to create. A bronze ram sculpture by Frederick Meiijer as a water feature next to the rose garden. Included on the property was a hydro-electric power plant powered by a man-made waterfall, a boathouse, a laboratory used by Edison, a green house, playhouse, and staff cottages. There was also a bowling alley, indoor pool, stables, a giant tree house, and formal gardens. This property and 72 acres of land was designated a National Historical Landmark in 1966.

4901 Evergreen Road
Dearborn, MI 48128

6. Haven Hill Estate Retreat

4200 Highland Road, White Lake Township, MI 48383

Edsel and Eleanor purchsed land in White Lake Township beginning in 1923. The family was looking for a retreat to get away from their everyday lives. Haven Hill provided that sanctuary for them. It was close enough for a quick getaway, and easy to get to. It was secluded and was designed to be self-sustaining. Robert O. Derrick was the architect for this project, while Ford family favorite, Jens Jensen, was in charge of landscaping. Construction began in 1924, and was finished in 1931. There were five main buildings, including a lodge, carriage house, gate house, stables, and a barn. The lodge was the main unit where they lived on the 2,422 acre expanse. Additional features included a swimming pool, tennis court, and a toboggan run, and vegetable gardens. Edsel stayed here until his death, and in 1946, Eleanor sold the parcel to that state park system, now located in the Highland State Recreation Area. The buildings have since fallen into desrepair and some were destroyed by a fire. These structures are currently under renovation. Upon completeion, they will serve as a historical resource to visitors.

4200 Highland Road
White Lake Township, MI 48383

7. Edsel and Eleanor Ford House

1100 Lakeshore Drive, Grosse Pointe Shores, MI 48236

Built on the shores of Lake St. Clair is the home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford. Construction of the 20,000 square foot house started in 1926, and the Fords began living there in December of 1929. Situated at 1100 Lake Shore Road, the architect behind this estate was heavy-weight Albert Kahn. Kahn had previously worked with Ford Motor Company on various industrial buildings. The style of architecture chosen for this home was inspired by the Cotswold Cottages the Fords had seen while in England. The property in Grosse Point Shores is constructed of sandstone, had slate roofs, and leaded glass windows. Many of the rooms were the work of Walter Dorwin Teague, an industrial designer. Famed landscape architect Jens Jensen created sweeping fields complemented by a lagoon, swimming pool, and squash court. A gate house, playhouse, and power house were placed strategically on the 87 acres of land.

1100 Lakeshore Drive
Grosse Pointe Shores, MI 48236

8. The Hebard-Ford House

Ford Drive, L'Anse, MI 49946

Overlooking Lake Superior, surrounded by woodland, is Henry Ford's summer house, the Hebard-Ford House. In September of 1923, Henry Ford purchased the peninsula of Pequaming. He wanted to conduct a sociological experiment, attempting to create a model town. Basically remodled the entire village in the process. The Ford Bungalow is located in the resort town of L'Anse Michigan at 13730 Ford Drive Pequaming. During the summer, Ford used this as an art camp for the local kids. This 5,000 square foot vacation home has 14 rooms, which are presently available as a rental for overnight guests.

Ford Drive
L'Anse, MI 49946

9. William Clay Ford, Jr Home

Provencal Road, Grosse Pointe Farms, MI 48236

Bill Ford, Jr. put his riverfront property in Ann Arbor on the market in January of 2007 for $3.95 million. Built in 1980, this home was designed by native Ann Arbor architect David Osler. It's a 5,900 square feet, five bedroom home that sits on 17 acres. It includes a tennis court and pool. It seems that this listing has stayed on market for a few years. It was also rumored that he built a new home down the street from this one.

Provencal Road
Grosse Pointe Farms, MI 48236

10. Home of Paul and Lynn Ford Alandt

Lake Shore Road & Lakeshore Drive, Grosse Pointe Shores, MI 48236

This Lakefront Property in Grosse Pointe Shores is owned by Paul & Lynn Ford Alandt. The residence is off of Lake Shore Road.

Lake Shore Road & Lakeshore Drive
Grosse Pointe Shores, MI 48236