Greenfield Village
And the Henry Ford Museum

At 10:00 A.M. on rainy October 21, 1929, a locomotive of Civil War vintage pulled a baggage car and two mustard-colored coaches up to Smiths Creek Station in Greenfield Village, Michigan. At this same brick depot Thomas Edison had been ejected sixty-seven years earlier by an irate conductor for spilling phosphorus on the floor of his train and setting it on fire.
Aboard this special train were Mr. Edison, President Herbert Hoover, and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford who had come together in Dearborn to dedicate Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum. Among the assembled guests at the dedication ceremonies were such world notables as Orville Wright, Madame Curie, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Will Rogers, and Charles M. Schwab. They were driven on the muddy Village streets in horse-drawn closed carriages to inspect construction progress.
Greenfield Village, a preserved American village scene, today occupies a good part of 260 acres set aside by Henry Ford to house the more than one hundred structures moved there from original sites across the nation. Together these buildings preserve the physical surroundings of a typical American community whose roots date to the seventeenth century and illustrate the marriage of home life, manufacturing, and transportation in the development of this nation.
Greenfield Village is one great outdoor museum. Here is a broad panorama of life in America beginning with the early settlers’ cabins, moving forward through the small-town main street to the village green, and thence to the relatively modest birthplaces of some of our most famous Americans. Here is the feel, the look, the tangible evidence of how Americans built and decorated their houses, conducted their affairs, and educated their young. Here is evidenced the social revolution as America moved from the crafting products at home to becoming an industrial nation. Here special events such as the annual Country Fair, the Rug Hooking Bee, and the Muzzle Loaders Festival re-create aspects of bygone days.
Mr. Ford (1863-1947) began Greenfield Village by preserving his own birthplace. It was a simple two-story clapboard Midwestern farmhouse built by his father in 1860 at Dearborn, Michigan. He obtained every piece of original furniture and equipment that could be found. His goal was to have the house look exactly as he remembered it from his childhood years. He then preserved the homes and workshops of the captains of industry; Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931), Orville (1867-1912) and Wilbur (1871-1948) Wright, and Harvey Firestone (1868-1938).
The Henry Ford Museum is composed of three distinct areas under one roof. At the front, housed in an exact reproduction of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, Carpenter’s Hall and the Old City Hall, are the American Decorative Arts Galleries. Here, superb collections of furniture, ceramics, glass, pewter, silver, and textiles illustrate the development and use of the decorative arts in America from the Pilgrim period to the late nineteenth century. Behind is the great Mechanical Arts Hall containing the tools with which America’s artisans and farmers worked. Little or nothing is missing. Uniting these two units is the Street of Early American Shops, where twenty-two eighteenth- and nineteenth-century shops and stores are stocked with appropriate period collections. To visit the Henry Ford Museum and see how the early pioneer’s life has changed over the past three hundred years is a worthwhile experience. Here, one may also witness many of man’s inventions designed to lighten the work load of the farmer, the business man, and the housewife. It is a four hour drive from Poland Village to Greenfield Village. It is a drive I heartedly recommend for every student of history.