20900 Oakwood Blvd, at The Henry Ford, Dearborn, MI 48124-4088
I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used…. When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived, and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition…
The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village is a large indoor and outdoor history museum complex and a National Historic Landmark in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan. The Henry Ford Museum opened in 1929. It is based on Henry Ford’s efforts to preserve items of historical interest and portray the Industrial Revolution with the property, homes, machinery, exhibits, and Americana of historically significant items as well as common memorabilia. It is the largest indoor-outdoor museum complex in the United States and is visited by over 1.7 million people each year.
The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation began as Henry Ford’s personal collection of historic objects, which he began collecting as far back as 1906. Today, the 12 acre (49,000 m) site is primarily a collection of antique machinery, pop culture items, automobiles, locomotives, aircraft, and other items such as Abraham Lincoln’s chair from Ford’s Theatre. Tickets for the Henry Ford Museum are $24, $22 for seniors, and $18 for youth age 5 to 11. Tickets for Greenfield Village are $28, $25.25 for seniors, and $21 for youth age 5 to 11. Back several decades ago, I lived in Michigan and was a member of the Museum. I visited the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village often.
Today we’ll visit the Greenfield Village complex of buildings and get the feel of past times, a perfect place for a family day. During the summer, Greenfield Village is an outdoor museum of homes and buildings including Noah Webster’s Connecticut home, Henry Ford’s birthplace, Harvey Firestone’s family farm from Columbiana, Ohio, Thomas Edison’s N. J. laboratory, the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop, and many other historical exhibits. Greenfield Village is open seven days a week from April 13 – November 3 and Friday – Sunday from November 4 – December 1. The Village is open select nights during December for Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village. There are special events throughout the summer like vintage baseball games, militia re-enactments, and battles on the green.
Opened to the public in 1933, Greenfield Village was the first outdoor museum complex. Nearly one hundred historical buildings were moved to the property from their original locations and arranged in a “village” setting. The museum’s intent is to show how Americans have lived and worked since the founding of the country. The Village includes buildings from the 17th century to the present, many of which are staffed by costumed interpreters who conduct period tasks like farming, sewing and cooking. A collection of craft buildings such as pottery, glass-blowing, and tin shops provide demonstrations while producing materials used in the Village and offered for sale.
Greenfield Village has 240 acres (970,000 m) of land of which only 90 acres (360,000 m) are used for the attraction, the rest being forest, river and extra pasture for the sheep and horses. There are various modes of historic transportation in the Village providing rides for visitors, which utilize authentic Ford Model Ts, a 1931 Ford Model AA bus (one of about 15 known to exist), horse-drawn omnibuses, and trains pulled by steam locomotives.
There are 7 districts in Greenfield Village:
- Working Farms (including The Firestone Farm, a carriage barn, a cider mill, and more)
- Liberty Craftworks (including a machine shop, glass making, a grist mill, sawmill, weaving, and more)
- Henry Ford Model T (Henry Ford’s childhood home, The Henry Ford Company Mack Avenue Plant, Henry Ford Theatre, and more)
- Railroad Junction (including a roundhouse, the Edison Illuminating Company’s Station A, a water tower, depot, and more)
- Main Street (including the Wright House, the Wright Brothers’ Cycle Shop, a millinery store, courthouse, chapel, post office, Scotch Settlement School and more)
- Edison at Work (including Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park complex, the boarding house where his workers lived, and Thomas Edison’s Ft. Myers lab)
- Porches & Parlors (including Ackley covered bridge, bandstand, Cotswold forge and stable, Edison homestead, George Washington Carver’s cabin, Noah Webster home, Robert Frost home, and so much more)
Let’s start with Henry Ford’s childhood home. Henry made sure it was decorated as it was during his mother’s life.
No visit to Greenfield Village is complete without visiting the Ford Motor Company and driving an antique car.
Let’s go visit the working farms district. Horses, sheep, fields, chopping wood, and all the things that made a farm work.
Explore the first Research & Development lab ever invented – The Edison Complex at Menlo Park, New Jersey. When Henry Ford decided to bring Edison’s historic Menlo Park laboratory to Greenfield Village, he faced a daunting task. In fact, he would have to salvage the remains of the estate—after Edison moved his operations to a larger facility in West Orange, New Jersey, in 1887, several of the buildings were destroyed by fire.
In 1928, to honor the life and work of his close friend Thomas Edison, Henry Ford began constructing a replica of the Menlo Park laboratory in Greenfield Village. Because there wasn’t much left of the original structure, Ford had to rely on the memory of now-elderly Edison and his associates to recreate the laboratory. Great attention to detail was needed to portray the lab and its components even though some things are not to scale. Mr. Ford even brought dirt from Menlo Park for the spot where the lab was constructed in Michigan. It was oriented in a similar manner to the original structures in New Jersey and incorporated as much original material as could be found in the late 1920’s. The original Glass House and Sarah Boarding House were moved and added to the district as well as Edison’s Florida lab.
Main Street is a fun collection of antique Americana. The chapel is lovely.
Stroll the street and visit the court house.
Perhaps the millinery shop will interest you.
Visit the Wright Brothers’ Home.
See where they worked on early plane designs when not working in their Cycle Shop.
Ride the train with an old Edison steam locomotive.
In the Craftworks see the Tin Shop.
Weaving, grist mill, and so much more.
Last but not least is probably one of my favorite parts of Greenfield – the old homes. I love the Cotswold Cottage from the U.K. and its cottage garden.
I hope you enjoyed our visit to Greenfield Village. The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village are a great place to take a vacation and experience history while having fun.
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