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Exploring the Ford House

A Legacy to Behold

In her Last Will & Testament of June 16, 1976, Eleanor Clay Ford, daughter-in-law of Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, and wife of his son Edsel, stated, "Elsewhere in our country, and in England and other parts of Europe, ways have been found to preserve such residences for some form of public use, and they remain as witnesses to the past, as part of the history of the area, and as an enrichment in the lives of future generations." The Ford House is a reflection of this philosophy. 

Opened to the public in 1978, the house and grounds on what is known as Gaukler Pointe in Grosse Pointe Shores have welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors. (The Ford House was named a National Historic Landmark in 2016.) Designed by renowned architect Albert Kahn, known for his work on several iconic structures in Detroit and industrial design in Ford Motor Co. factories, the home was fashioned to resemble Cotswold-style cottages in England. 

Edsel and Eleanor moved onto the estate in 1928 and later welcomed six children there. It was a true family home said to be full of life, laughter and affection. The home has always stayed in the family's leadership, either under private residential ownership or when they formed the board of trustees.  

"When you visit, you're seeing where the family enjoyed holidays as well as where the children played, and so it feels like you're a part of history," says Ford House communications coordinator, Malea Howard.

Home Features

"We have a Cotswold-style limestone roof on the main residence, recreation building, power house, and gate lodge," says Rebecca Torsell, the director of historic preservation. "This is likely the only one in the United States with the exception of a small cottage relocated from England to the Henry Ford estate. 

There are nine chimneys in the primary residence, and over 700 windows in the historic core buildings (465 in the main home alone), and most are leaded glass casement windows. "Our casement windows in the house and the recreation building have bronze frames, a unique feature as most homes have steel," she says. "Ours is stamped 1926 and were imported from England via Hope's Windows out of New Jersey."

Most wooden architecture features include timber-framed porches and window sills made from old-growth white oak. The house is reinforced concrete and steel clad in Briar Hill sandstone.  


Edsel and Eleanor Ford were great art enthusiasts. The house was adorned with paintings by Matisse, van Gogh, Degas, and Cezanne. The couple also purchased pieces by local artists and ceramics and sculptures from all over the world, some dating to as early as the 12th century. Their personal collection also included a rare bronze Ming Chinese Dynasty statue.

Edsel also commissioned famed Mexican artist Diego Rivera, a personal friend, to paint Detroit Industry, the grand mural at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). Their only daughter, Josephine "Dody" Clay Ford, donated van Gogh's Postman to the same institute. 

Today, some paintings hanging in the home are originals, while others are incredible reproductions. Many of the paintings were donated to the DIA upon Eleanor's death.


The current parking lot used to be the drying yard where laundry was hung. It was half grass and half Lannon (sedimentary Dolomite rock). 

"One of the biggest projects we worked on this past year was the lagoon and pool restoration," says Malea. "The pool was an extension of the house that the family enjoyed, and it holds over 180,000 gallons. We had a replica of the diving board at the house in 1936 sent from Belgium." Although visitors cannot swim in the pool, it's a beautiful site to see. 

Adds Rebecca, "Another huge project is a month-long restoration of the main gate arch. "The formal garden will also be undergoing a minor restoration/preservation effort with work being undertaken on the reflecting pool, terrace, landscape, and ornamental garden features made of wood and metal." Multiple other projects are being planned as well.


The estate's 87 acres overlooking the shores of Lake St. Clair have been kept intact. It was on these grounds that Eleanor Ford was known to pick blueberries with the staff's children. 

"If you're someone who just likes to be around nature, we have several beautiful areas, including the rose gardens," says Malea. 

Along with tours of the residence and gorgeous surroundings, ongoing exhibits, activities and lectures take place all year. "We have something for everybody, whether you're an art enthusiast or a car buff, or maybe a stay-at-home mom looking for something for your kids to do during the day," she says. 

This April, photos with the Easter Bunny are back. "This is a Ford House favorite amongst families," says Malea. "It's a blast and kids always have a great time with that." 

Tango classes will also be offered during April. All skill levels are welcome; attendees can come alone or bring a partner. All classes are taught by experienced instructors.

A Michigan bird walk will take place on April 23rd. Participants will hear from bird experts and can connect with other bird enthusiasts. Later in the year, look for its annual Harvest Day and Cookies with Santa. Plenty of events are listed on its calendar in between, including its popular summer concert series.  

Attending these events is a great way to support the Ford House; becoming a member is even better. Individual memberships, family memberships, and children's memberships provide many benefits. Volunteering one's time is also invaluable. 

To learn more about the Ford House and schedule a visit, go to 

"When you visit, you're seeing where the family enjoyed holidays as well as where the children played, and so it feels like you're a part of history," says Ford House communications coordinator, Malea Howard.