Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sir John Bennett Sweet Shop (formerly known as Sir John Bennett Jewelry Store)

Another English building that caught Henry Ford's eye was the Sir John Bennett Jewelry Store in Cheapside, located in the heart of London. When Bennett moved into the original building in 1846, he had replicas of the mythical giants Gog and Magog installed in the third floor clock mechanism. But, Sir John did not need to depend on the animated figures for fame - he made and repaired watches for royalty and others in government offices.
For shipment from London to Dearborn, architect Edward Cutler scaled the building down from its original five-stories to two stories to fit the old New England custom of no structure being higher than the church steeple. There was quite a buzz with the press in the winter of 1930-31 when the movable Gog and Magog were removed and prepared for shipment to Michigan.
Besides the two mythical figures, just the facade and the clock mechanism are what is from the original building. The figures continue to delight patrons every quarter hour in their new location as they strike upon different toned bells with hammers held tightly in their hands to charm everyone with the Westminster chimes.

When originally constructed in the Village, many of Bennett's original clocks and watches were proudly displayed.
It now sells sweets and cakes.


Cotswold Forge

Built around the same time (1620) as the Cotswold Cottage and Dovecote, the Cotswold Forge, from Snowhill, Worcestershire, in southwestern England, was reconstructed in the Village in 1931. The forge was operated by members of the Stanley family for nearly 300 years, until Charles Stanley's death in 1909.

Before and during the early part of the industrial era, blacksmiths were essential to the survival of communities in Europe and America, making wrought iron tools and appliances for everyday use in the home and on the farm.
One can just imagine...Children passing by on their way to and from school, stopping to pause to watch the blacksmith work his craft. The smell of the fire and of singeing hooves pervade the center of the village, while the sound of the hammer on the anvil could be heard all around.

After its relocation, this building, just like the other blacksmith shop in the Village
was used to demonstrate the long lost trade of the 'smithy.'

And, just like the other blacksmith shop, in recent years it has not been in use except for displaying the tools of the trade.
This is a shame, I feel, as another opportunity to teach is gone.

(The blacksmith shop in Crossroads Village in Flint still has demonstrations certain weekends in the summer).This is the second and final blacksmith shop in Greenfield Village.

~The back of the forge~


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

1930 - Original Building No Longer in Greenfield Village

The Clark House
The following is taken directly from the book, "A Home For Our Heritage" by Geoffrey C. Upward:
"In June 1930, a small, rather nondescript frame house was erected on South Dearborn Road. Located in the area presently occupied by the Swiss Watchmaker's Chalet, the 1868 Clark House from rural Wayne County, Michigan, suffered the unusual fate of being torn down in later years. Evidently Ford felt the house contributed little to the Village."

I have no photographs of the Clark House, but the 1935/36 guidebook does give us a sketch, as well as more information on the reason why Mr. Ford chose this particular structure to be placed in the Village:
"Originally owned by Nelson Clark, whose brother, John P. Clark, was donor of Clark Park in Detroit. The building typifies the style used and developed extensively west of the Alleghenies, particularly in Michigan. This building was erected in 1868 by Sophira Litogot, an uncle of Mr. Ford's living in Ecorse, who was both a carpenter by trade and a trader by profession.
The house originally stood on Taylor Center Townline Road between Flat Rock and Brownstown (not yet completed)."

By the time of the 1941 guidebook, the house was gone.


Soybean Experimental Laboratory (formerly known as Soybean Laboratory and Experimental Laboratory)

(This post is about a building located inside the open-air museum of Greenfield Village. If you are looking for a posting on old farm tools and equipment, please click HERE)

Built in 1930 in the Village, the original intention of this building was for the students who went to school in the Village to experiment in agricultural chemistry.
Henry Ford also believed that his workers could find a way for farmers to use their crops in the industrial world. For instance, Ford designed Model A parts, made an experimental car body, and even a suit of clothes using soybeans!

It now houses many various old-time farming implements and tools such as scythes, hayloaders, spiketooth harrows, handcorn planters, sulky cultivators, and so much more. Besides displaying the actual antique instruments, this building also holds a wealth of information about 19th century farming and the tools used according to the season of the year.


Cotswold Cottage Dovecote

This very interesting conversation piece was brought over and put up in Greenfield Village from the same part of England as the Cotswold Cottage and the Cotswold Forge - Chedworth, Gloucestershire - and was built the same year as the cottage itself - about 1620.

Dovecotes, such as the one in the picture, were built to house doves or pigeons. In the 17th century, birds from dovecotes provided relief from smoked and salted meats during the harsh winters.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cotswold Cottage (previously known as Rose Cottage)

Henry Ford desired to show America's ancestral European life and sent his agent, Herbert Morton, to find a typical Cotswold stone house for Greenfield Village. Morton eventually located this circa 1620 Rose Cottage in Chedworth, Gloucestershire, England, and found that it was for sale. Once purchased, a builder and expert on Cotswold architecture was hired to restore the house while still in England. Along with the local British builders, they worked to attain an appearance more reflective of the 17th century, which required some major alterations to the house and barn. And, once completed, the workers dismantled the structures stone by stone - numbering each one individually - and packed them in gravel sacks. Soon the Cotswold collection was on its way to Dearborn, Michigan (via boat and then train), as were a number of the English builders, eager to help with the reconstruction.

By September of 1930, the Cotswold Cottage was rebuilt on Michigan soil, ready to teach American visitors of European life lived more than three hundred (and now, closer to 4oo) years before.

To complete the picture, Ford initially included a stone fence with Cotswold sheep and a sheep dog. This made sense as the family that originally lived in this limestone building were sheepherders.

Today, inside the fence, an Edwardian flower garden surrounds the structures in this group.As beautiful as the outside garden and grounds are, the powers-that-be at the Village have, unfortunately, removed the furnishings from inside that showed visitors life in 17th century England, and, instead, created displays for pewter (!?!). To top it off they turned the patio into a...ahem...tea room.

This wonderful learning opportunity has been relegated as background for a beverage. This is not what Henry Ford meant for this beautiful old English cottage.
Hopefully, it will return to its former glory. I have faith that it will.

And now for a little historical fun fact: Inside the Cotswold Cottage there is a window in the main room where someone by the name of William (I can't quite make out the last name), who, in September of 1806, literally signed his name by etching it into the window.
Another mystery I will try to uncover.
I took the photo at left by covering the outside of the window with a dark jacket to enhance the etching.

Click HERE to read about the Cotswold Forge

Click HERE to read about the Cotswold Dovecote


Glass Shop (formerly known as the Sandwich Glass Plant)

Using surviving bricks and the wooden framework from the original 1825 Boston and Sandwich Glass Company located in Sandwich, Massachusetts, Ford rebuilt the structure in his Village in 1930.
In this building, skilled craftsmen blow glass using the techniques of 19th century gaffers.
These original gaffers of the mid-19th century and earlier made the glass necessities needed such as drinking glasses, ornaments, bowls, and cups. During the 2003 renovation, the inside of this building was also renovated and has become a "modern" interpretation of glass blowing, allowing patrons of the Village to, for a price, make their own glass souvenir.


Charles Steinmetz Cabin

One of the next structures put up in the Village contrasted sharply with the stately Giddings House: the cabin of Charles Steinmetz. Steinmetz (born 1865 in a Province of Prussia) built his summer cabin on the banks of Viele Creek, off the Mohawk River near Schenectady, New York in 1896. The noted electrical engineer enjoyed the seclusion of this little summer home until his death in 1923, where he read books and worked out many problems he had.According to Wikipedia, Steinmetz "fostered the development of alternating current that made possible the expansion of the electric power industry in the United States, formulating mathematical theories for engineers. He made ground-breaking discoveries that enabled engineers to better design electric motors for use in industry."
He is credited with more than one hundred electrical inventions.The cabin was presented to Henry Ford in 1930 and was in place that same year.
I find it interesting that such a genius preferred such simpleness.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Giddings Family Home (formely John Giddings House, Secretary House, and Secretary Pearson House)

Once the grand opening ceremony to dedicate Greenfield Village on October 21, 1929 was over, architect Ed Cutler set up his office in the Plymouth House and immediately began work on the next project for the Village. Although several projects proceeded simultaneously, undoubtedly the first one to be completed was the reconstruction of the beautiful Secretary Pearson House, originally standing on Meeting House Hill in Exeter, New Hampshire in 1750.

The visiting parlor

This wonderful example of a New England colonial home was originally built by John Giddings, a prosperous merchant and shipbuilder, who lived there with his wife, Mehetable, and their five children. After 1790, it became the home of New Hampshire's first Secretary of State, Joseph Pearson.

Cutler found the house having numerous additions added years after its original construction, and, by studying its layout, restored it to what he believed to be its earliest condition., which included a secret staircase leading to the attic (this was also included in its Greenfield Village restoration).

Period-dressed docents speak to patrons about everyday life during the colonial times.

The house, brought to the Village in carefully numbered pieces in 1929, lay in a pile in the Village during the dedication ceremony, but was up by the summer of 1930. The dining room is furnished with Queen Anne furniture pieces.

It seems, though, that the home was not opened until 1933, as they were using a portion of the Edison Institute Museum (as the Henry Ford Museum was then known) to mix and match furniture for the different room arrangements. It's nice to know that Ford took the time to give this home the historical accuracy it deserved.

The Giddings kitchen, which, to my knowledge, has never been open to the general public, was finally able to be viewed during the Christmas season of 2010 when they had a 'chocolateer,' - one who makes chocolate - working his craft as it would have been done 250 years ago.

The kitchen inside the Giddings home, very typical of the colonial kitchen, is located in the back of the house. This room in which the cooking took place was also called the 'hall' rather than the kitchen.

Of course, the hearth was the focal point, deep and wide, and many a time having pots and kettles hung on swinging iron cranes attached to the side wall.

Upstairs bedroom

An inventory taken at the time of Pearson's death in 1823 made it possible to furnish the home as it was during his lifetime. However, the Secretary House today is geared toward the Giddings era of the mid-to-late 18th century, replicating the lifestyle of the upper middle class of that time.

The Queen Anne chest of drawers pictured above originally belonged to the family of Josiah Bartlett (1729-1795), a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the first governor of New Hampshire

Many evenings were spent knitting, crocheting, and writing letters - all by candlelight.

The Giddings House is truly one of the finest of all the homes in Greenfield Village. A wonderful example of a strong middle class colonial living.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Greenfield: The Early American Village

 "This is the only reason Greenfield Village exists - to give us a sense of unity with our people through the generations, and to convey the inspiration of American genius to our youth. As a nation we have not depended so much on rare or occasional genius as on the general resourcefulness of our people. That is our true genius, and I am hoping that Greenfield Village will serve that."
Henry Ford

The Grand Opening of Greenfield Village took place on October 21, 1929, a date purposely chosen by Henry Ford to celebrate the electric light's golden jubilee (50 years!). A reason to honor his friend, Thomas Edison.
The visiting dignitaries on that rainy October 21 morning saw a muddy, virtually treeless village of about 30 buildings. Besides Mr. Edison, guests included President Hoover, Madam Curie, Orville Wright, Will Rogers, and John D. Rockefeller - among many others. They arrived at Smith's Creek Depot on the locomotive known as the Sam Hill (now located inside the Henry Ford Museum). Despite the rain a crowd had gathered to get a glimpse of the honored guests. Because of the wet and muddy conditions, Ford provided horse-drawn covered carriages for his guests, and they were soon transported to various locations around the Village. Ford had his employees dressed in "period costume" to help provide atmosphere and had others riding along the dirt roads on the high wheel bikes so prominent in the late 19th century.
The map that was handed out at the 
Grand Opening on October 21, 1929

Evening came and the honored guests were taken to the replica Independence Hall that Ford had built as the entrance to his indoor museum for a banquet to honor Edison and his many accomplishments, but especially the electric light. As there were plans to have Edison reenact the lighting of his first incandescent bulb 50 years earlier, Ford allowed no electric lighting until after the reenactment was over, so the entire banquet hall was lit with candles dipped in the Village.
Ford, Edison, and President Hoover left after dinner for the reconstructed Menlo Park by way of carriage through kerosene-lit streets. NBC radio described the events in a live broadcast that was heard across the entire nation. It was asked of the listeners to turn off their electric lights until the reenactment of the momentous occasion occurred, then everyone was to turn on their light switches to mark the anniversary.
Here is part of NBC's description of what happened as was heard nationwide:
"Will it light? Will it burn? Or will it flicker and die, as so many previous lamps had died? Now the group (Hoover, Edison, and Ford) is about the old vacuum pump. Mr. Edison has two wires in his hand; now he is reaching up to the old lamp; now he is making the connection...It Lights!"
The museum's replica of the Liberty Bell pealed for the first time. Electric lights blinked on across the nation; car horns sounded. The world showed it's gratitude - none more deeply than Ford. More important than dedicating his beloved Village and museum was the opportunity to honor the man who not only encouraged his first car, but had made possible great advances in industrial technology for the benefit of the entire world. Ford's new institution, formally named The Edison Institute, had been properly christened. (From Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village: An Illustrated History with revised text by Harold Skramstad Jr. 1993.)

Ford instructed a worker to nail the chair that Edison sat upon during the lighting reenactment to the floor to permanently - it's there still.

The very spot Edison sat while recreating his historic incandescent lamp lighting on October 21, 1029. The chair is still nailed to the floor.

After the grand opening, Ford continued collecting buildings and the whole Village was always in a state of change. Structures were moved and removed, ideas were initiated and, in many cases, terminated. Having a Seminole Indian Village was one such idea, as was having a bird sanctuary. Another plan was to have people live and work in Greenfield Village, performing traditional tasks and crafts. Although the Humberstone family lived in the Sarah Jordan Boarding House and a man named W.W. Taylor lived at the Smiths Creek Depot, serving as "living exhibits," the idea proved impractical and Ford discontinued it.
He did, however, continue to have craftsmen during the day.

The original purpose for Greenfield Village, from Henry Ford's point of view, was for educational purposes. He felt the best way for the country's youth to learn was by doing - by experiencing things first-hand. With this in mind, he turned numerous structures into classrooms, where school children studied daily in an "inventive atmosphere," and hoped the inspiration of those who came before would continue to inspire the children in a very positive way.
The Village ran this way until 1969.

Interest from the general public grew, from 400 inquiries a day in 1929 to over 1000 a day in 1933.
Finally, Ford relented, and on June 22, 1933, Greenfield Village opened its gates to the public for the very first time. The cost was 25 cents to enter.
What I have in the other postings in this blog are the structures that were erected after 1929.

To learn about each individual structure placed inside the village (and much much more), please click HERE.
To see actual black and white movies (silent, of course) taken during this momentous occasion on October 21, 1929, click HERE


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Original Buildings in the Village for the October 1929 Grand Opening But Are There No Longer

At this point, the buildings I have written about so far in each chapter of this blog, barring a few exceptions, are what Henry Ford had erected in the Village at the time of the grand opening that took place on October 21, 1929. I say "barring a few exceptions" because there were a number of other structures that were originally placed in the Village for the 1929 Jubilee that have since been removed. The above map - a copy of the original handed out on that very first rain-filled evening - will show the reader Henry Ford's original plan for Greenfield Village.
Some of the buildings listed below I have information on while others are seemingly lost to history (at least until I can make it back to the Benson Ford Research Center).
I also plan to add more photos as I am able to acquire them.
Please check the above map and compare with the structures below as well as what I have previously written about.
And stay tuned to see how Greenfield Village grew over the years.
The relocated buildings are as follows:
The Livery Stable / Riding Stable (located behind the Eagle Tavern):
Although there are plenty of barns in the Village, this particular one seems to have been removed sometime between 1983 and 1995. From what a former employee told me, it is believed that the move took place in 1994 or early 1995, the same year that the Pioneer Log Cabin/Salter House was also removed.
Where the livery/riding stable once stood is now a parking lot.

The Plymouth House:
Originally built in a Greek Revival style in 1845 in Plymouth, Michigan, it served as the home of Christian Fisher, a local cobbler who made and sold shoes from this dwelling. It was relocated to Greenfield Village in August of '29. Ford's right hand man, Ed Cutler, set up his office in this building once it was reconstructed.
It was removed from the Village during their "restoration" in 2003.
As often as I had been to the Village, for the life of me I do not remember seeing this house! Maybe because it was used more often as a store or as an office rather than a historic home.
Either way, I believe that it should not have been removed and, if the pieces are in storage somewhere I would love to see it returned where Mr. Ford intended.

The Gardner House:
Located in the Scotch Settlement area of Dearborn Township, the Gardner House was built in 1832 by Richard Gardner, one of the original settlers of the area, and he and his wife - with their ten children - lived in the relatively small house for many years. It was similar to the Pioneer Log Cabin, except that it has the additional refinement of clapboard siding.
Henry Ford recounted his own personal memories of the Gardner House: "This morning I was by a home called the Gardner Home, where, as a boy, I used to frequently stop when I was coming back from Detroit at a late hour.
Rather than go on to the house and disturb my father, I would sleep with the Gardner boys. This morning I was by that house because we plan on removing it to the historic village we are about to build."The structure was in place by June of 1929 and remained there until 1996 when it was removed to the premises of the Dearborn Historical Museum (
where it can visited according to the hours of the society.
Again, I do not understand why this building, which meant so much to Henry Ford, was 'cast out' of Greenfield Village. A plus is at least we can still visit this historic structure.

The Pioneer Log Cabin / Salter House:
Similar in basic design as the Gardner House, this 1820's (or 1840's, if the information at Crossroads Village is correct) log cabin met the same fate as its clapboard counterpart - in 1995 it was moved to Crossroads Village in Flint, Michigan (the Gardner Home removed to the Dearborn Museum grounds). The cabin was originally located about a quarter of a mile from the Ford Farm and had been occupied by John Salter, a German immigrant, of which Ford would visit.
Ed Cutler remembered that the whole structure was carted over in one piece on a large truck.All the photos here were taken at Crossroads Village. You can see the treasure that Greenfield Village removed from their grounds.

The Substation and the The Locomotive Shed:
These two structures are listed on the original 1929 map of the Village for the Grand Opening, but I could not find anything about either of them. That is, until someone by the name of RP Mayer left a comment on this posting (see below). This is what he wrote: "The substation is actually another name for the Edison Illuminating Company’s Station A, which still exists in the village. If you look at the old map, this is the same location as the present building."
As for the locomotive shed he went on to say, "The locomotive shed on the old map is located across the street from the Menlo Park Complex. When the village originally opened, Thomas Edison’s electric train locomotive was displayed and demonstrated at this location in the shed. The train and shed were later removed. I’m not sure of the exact date, but I think it was in the 1930s."
Rp, I certainly appreciate your information! Thank you!