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Fair Lane, the Ford Estate

Updated on November 18, 2010

Fair Lane, the Ford Estate

The guided Tour of Fair Lane, the Ford Estate, starts with a movie about the life of Henry Ford.

The Fair Lane estate is situated on the Ford Company's 1,980 acre property, but at that, the company had to make do with only 690 acres, while the remaining 1,290 acres belonged to the mansion...


In 1915, Henry Ford built this hyper-modern house.

During its construction he integrated every possible gadget and technical innovation, something that he was really fond of.

Which eventually forked up the total price far beyond the original budget of $ 250,000, and at the finish line, the register clocked in at no less than two million dollars...

Between 500 and 800 workers labored mightily for over a year on the house, and since the surface was flat farmland, all the trees and shrubs had to be planted. Just this took another six years...

Nevertheless, the result of this large-scale landscaping is simply beautiful.

There is a small river, that allows sailing, there is a lake that was specifically oriented to show a beautiful sunset on the estate's terrace, and extensive gardens where Clara Ford could enjoy her botanical hobby.


Henry Ford had his own power plant, with two hydroelectric generators and one steam generator. The concept came from Thomas Edison, his personal friend. 

The only blunder was perhaps that the entire powerhouse was built for DC (Direct current) instead of AC (Alternating current). Edison was convinced that this form of electric power was going to be the future.

Tesla, one of Edison's best engineers, quit after a severe row and joined rival Westinghouse, which subsequently gambled correctly on AC...

In the garage, a Model T proudly sits next to a Quadricycle and an electric car for Mrs. Ford.

The Mansion

The facades of the house were built in granite stone, brought in from Ohio and cut on the spot.

The entrance hall staircase is adorned with beautifully carved solid wood. The walls are finished in dark walnut or mahogany, which makes the rooms appear dark and heavy. But don't forget : dark was apparently posh in those days !

Ford's wife Clara later had one of the reception halls repainted in yellow, to cheer up the place, but what a waste of expensive walnut...

There are several bedrooms, including the almost permanent Edison room, but also Charles Lindbergh, the Duke of Windsor, President Herbert Hoover, and tire king Firestone were welcome guests.

The relaxation room in the back was decorated in the so-called rustic Adirondack-style, which mimics the interior of a log cabin.

There was also a large swimming pool, but unfortunately, after Fords' death this was converted into an archive room, and now it has become a restaurant...

The Interior

Equally unfortunate, Henry Ford's grandchildren sold practically all of the furniture, after Clara's death in 1950.

The previous furniture and decoration can only partially be seen in the very few pictures, that still adorn some rooms.

In 1952, the Ford Company bought the house. They used it as offices and storage, which certainly not benefitted the interior.

In 1957, the house and much of the land was donated to the University of Detroit. Unfortunately they do not seem to dispose of the necessary funds to return the Estate to its previous glory.


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    • vballkel profile image

      vballkel 6 years ago from Michigan

      Nice post. I just got to see the house in October and they said tours would be halted in December for a major rehaul and they aren't sure how long it is going to take before it is opened again.

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