Saturday, October 25, 2008

Robert Frost House (formerly known as Ann Arbor House, Robert Frost Home, and Frost Home)

This is a fine example of midwestern Greek Revival architecture. This six room house was built in the early 1830's in Ann Arbor, Michigan and was the home of local politician Thompson Sinclair. It is furnished with Classical Revival and Empire pieces, popular in the mid 19th century.
Robert Frost, noted American poet, discovered this home in the 1920's while on a walk around the University of Michigan during his tenure as an honorable fellowship - "poet-in-residence" - at the college and, charmed by the structure, moved in.

He wrote some of his best and most famous poems while living here. He would invite students over for tea and discuss their poetry.

Henry Ford had the home moved to Greenfield Village in 1937.

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Luther Burbank Birthplace (now known as the Burbank Store)

Luther Burbank, famed horticulturalist (see Luther Burbank Office, to read of his work) was born in this circa 1800 house originally located in Lancaster, Massachusetts in 1849. He was the son of a farmer and maker of brick and pottery. He attended the district school until he was 15 and then spent four winters at the Lancaster Academy. Most of his scientific education, however, was obtained from reading at the public library in Lancaster. According to his own account, his reading of Charles Darwin's Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication in 1868 proved the turning point in his career, causing him to take the production of new species and varieties of plants as his life's work.

In 1870, 2 years after the death of his father, Burbank used his inheritance to help purchase a tract of 17 acres near the small town of Lunenburg, where he took up the business of market gardening. Here he produced his first "creation," the Burbank potato, and began the work that was to make him famous.

Despite his success as a market gardener, in 1875 Burbank decided to sell his land and move to California, where his three older brothers had already moved. He settled in Santa Rosa, where he would carry on his work for the next 50 years.

He died in 1926.

Re-discovered in 1936, architect Ed Cutler and about 50 boys from the famed Wayside Inn schools dismantled Burbank's birthplace during that fall and winter. Interestingly, a later owner of the house split the frame structure in half and constructed a brick building in the middle. Ford bought only the two original wings.
By early summer of 1937, the Burbank House, now put back together as it once was, had found a new home in Greenfield Village.

For years, the seven room Burbank home was portrayed as it was during the time he lived there, and even included the original cradle that Luther's father made for him at his birth. Unfortunately, in recent years, the Village management decided to turn this historic home into a souvenir shop, selling knick-knacks and the like. Hopefully, one day they will return it to it's former glory. (I have no photos of the way it looked before the "store" changeover, I'm sad to say, and I will spare you photographs of the current inside look).
One need only to eye the Noah Webster Home directly across the street from Burbank's for historical presentation done well.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Noah Webster Home (formerly known as Noah Webster House and Webster House)

Huntington, NY July 29
 Edsel Ford
 Copy to Mr. Campsall Dearborn, Mich  
Noah Webster House at New Haven - an attractive plain house built about Eighteen Hundred - is in the hands of wreckers -*stop*- Believe it will fit in well with your father's scheme and can be purchased for a small sum -*stop*- Immediate action is required as it will be torn down Friday  
RTH Halsey 9:20 a.m.

 Huntington, NY July 29
Edsel Ford
Copy to Mr. Campsall
Dearborn, Mich.
Noah Webster House at New haven - an attractive plain house built about Eighteen Hundred -


The above written telegram shows just how close the world came to losing this wonderful piece of American History.
With demolition already begun (!) by Yale University, the house's plight was, luckily, brought to Ford's attention by way of his son through one of his dealers.
The Webster home was soon purchased and brought to Dearborn. The dismantling and restoration of this 1822 New Haven, Connecticut house in which Noah Webster wrote his dictionary provides us with a fine example of Ford chief architect Edward Cutler's technique.
When Cutler had first reached New Haven in September 1936, wreckers had already demolished parts of the house. The interior was also in a poor state of repair due to the home being used as a college dorm.
Once the men began the dismantling process, the house was down and packed up in two weeks. Quick but accurate. As Cutler put it, "Of course, you have to do these things right," and whenever possible, the crew removed building materials in large pieces, making reassembly easier.
The structure went up in Greenfield Village during the winter of 1936-37 and soon looked much the way it did when Mr. Webster lived there.
It was used as a girls home economics laboratory much through the 1940's and 1950's and was finally opened to the public in 1962.

Noah Webster, born in Connecticut in 1758, was a man who has been called "a forgotten Founding Father," for he helped define American culture in those infant years of our country. In 1783, he published the first edition of his legendary spelling book, which would teach five generations of Americans how to read.  A leading Federalist, who was a confidant of both George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, Webster was in Philadelphia during the Consitutional Convention where he  wrote a highly influential essay on behalf of the nation’s founding document.  During the greater part of the 1790s,  he edited American Minerva, New York City’s first daily newspaper.  A dedicated public servant, he served as a state rep in both Connecticut and Massachusetts.  “America’s pedagogue” was also a founder of Amherst College – he was an early president of the college’s Board of Trustees.
Later in his life he became noted for his 'An American Dictionary of the English Language,' first published in 1828. A manuscript page and a first edition of the 'Dictionary,' as well as numerous hand-written letters are on display inside the home. His 'Blue-Backed Speller,' is also on display.
Webster was a devout Christian, and thus his speller was very moralistic, and his 1828 American Dictionary contained the greatest number of biblical definitions given in any reference volume. Webster considered "education useless without the Bible."


Youngest daughter Louisa's bedroom

This Federal-style home was originally designed and built by David Hoardley. The Webster family watched the "progress of this building. A glad one was the day we moved into more commodious quarters. We sat on low chairs and sewed the parlor carpet ourselves."
The Webster's also realized the importance of describing everyday life and activities in their letters to each other. Noah especially treasured hearing of the minute details of domestic life that he missed while on far-away business travels.


Grandaughter Mary's bedroom

His wife, Rebecca, wrote about their lives in great detail to her husband: "I wish you could take a peek at us in the present moment," and proceeds to describe, for example, her granddaughter, Mary's, activities as she was "in the corner (of the parlor)...at her favorite amusement, sewing, because it keeps her quiet...and (grandson) William driving around with his stick." Rebecca, herself "enfeebled" but able to "engage in quilting bed quilts with only two or three to finish." Lucy Griffin, the free black servant had taken ill as family members "sit with her" until she can walk downstairs.Another example of life in this Webster home, this time from a letter to married daughter Eliza from her mother: "Papa longs to see you all. I heard someone conversing in the drawing room (parlor) the other day and found him standing before your portraits. We often talk together of our singular happiness in our sons-in-law and daughters and such a promising bunch of grandchildren."

The paintings of daughter Eliza and her husband that Mr. Webster was found speaking to - notice the horsehair sofa that Mrs. Webster was so fond of.

The original portraits of daughter Eliza and her husband, Henry Jones, hang still in the drawing room, above the Empire black horsehair sofa, one of Mrs. Webster's most treasured pieces of furniture. Other original pieces belonging to the Webster's acquired by descendants are also part of the home.


As one walks through this nearly 200 year old home, it is easy to imagine life as once lived by this notable American family; the parlor where the grandkids played, the dining area, the upstairs bedrooms...there is also a shrine to Noah that the historians of the Village put together, which holds his original Dictionary, Blue Back Speller, and other documents.

An addition to the back of the building gives a short documentary (through a power-point type media) of Mr. Webster, although I have not taken the time to watch it. The only change I would make would be to remove the shrine from the second floor and, instead, put it into the back addition on the first floor, allowing the whole second floor to become as it once was during Webster's time.

However, for the most part, this is another fine example of history presented as it should be.
(Hint to the powers-that-be at the Village: maybe you can get a male dressed in accurate clothing of Webster's time to be a presenter here at the house. What a great presentation that would be!)

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Farris Windmill (formerly known as Cape Cod Windmill)

Named after the Farris family, who ran this mill for three generations, this windmill, once the oldest windmill on Cape Cod (built in 1633), stood at the road to West Yarmouth, Massachusetts. It now stands at the southeast end of Greenfield Village.
It seems, however, that the acquisition of the Cape Cod/Farris Windmill in 1936 (a gift to Henry Ford from his Ford dealership employees nationwide) caused quite a stir.
The owner of the mill sold it to Ford's workers who moved it from the Cape to Greenfield Village, and that caused quite a few Cape Cod locals to voice their anger. Although protests came in fast and furious, the windmill was moved. The owner claimed that the town had ignored his offer to make the windmill a historic spot, so, (according to a Cape Cod web site) this truly Cape Cod giant is gone where it will be appreciated for its historical value. It is said to be the oldest windmill in the United States.This mill was built like those the early pilgrim settlers had seen during their exile in Holland. Young men were induced to become millers by being exempted from taxes and military duty. Winds off the Atlantic and Cape Cod Bay turned the mammoth fifty four foot sails, grinding corn into meal in ten minutes or in three hours, depending on the wind force. The long lever between the roof and the ground is used to turn both the roof and the sails in the most favorable positions.
This mill was moved several times, that being easier than finding a millwright to build a new one. The initials "T.G." and "1782" were carved in one of the beams during a move.
The interior has a winding stairway which leads upward three stories from the ground level to the revolving roof area. On the second floor above the foundation are the millstones, which are turned by wooden gears, and below are the hoppers and bins which hold the grain and meal.
Unfortunately, the inside of this majestic structure is closed to the public.

A New England colonial scene at Greenfield Village:
Farris Windmill and the Plympton House

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Swiss Chalet (formerly known as Swiss Watchmaker's Chalet and Watchmaker's Chalet)

Built inside the Village in 1935, this building, according to the early guidebooks from the 1930's, '40's, and '50's, represents the type of watchmaker's home in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland. Most of the doorways, windows, and iron works are from an original Swiss structure.
Ford was fond of watches, especially Swiss made watches, hence, the reason for the building.
There is little else I have about this structure, which is now used as a break and changing area for the employees of the Village.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cohen Millinery Shop (previously known as Mrs. D. Cohen's Millinery Shop, Magill Jewelry Store, and Baker Street Jewelry Store)

With the classic architecture of the mid-to-late 19th century, this building has been though a number of businesses before Mr. Ford became its owner. Originally I wrote of this structure as being a mistake that Henry Ford had made when he purchased and relocated it inside of Greenfield Village in 1935. He claimed it once housed the jewelry store run by Mr. Magill in the 1870's and early 1880's at which he himself worked part time repairing clocks and watches.
But as I researched this shop I had heard that during the 1990's the Village historians felt Henry Ford actually bought the building from which a Mrs. Cohen conducted her Millinery business and not the Magill building as he assumed.
And word got out that Ford made another historical blunder (see Susquehanna Plantation and the Stephen Foster Memorial).
That's when I decided to investigate this 'mistake.' I mean, Ford worked at the building - wouldn't he had known what it looked like?
What I found showed a wonderful piece of history that has added a new light and life to this old building in my eyes.
According to the book 'Young Henry Ford' by Sidney Olson (c1963):
"(In 1879/1880) Henry went to the jewelry shop of his friend Robert Magill where (he) had often bought watch parts. He got a job at 50 cents per night, $3 per week for six nights of six hours each.
Henry was slight and looked even younger than his sixteen years. In order not to scare away trade, as customers would only trust their time-pieces with bearded veterans. Magill had Henry slip in the side door, to work out of sight in a little back room.
Note the side door where young Henry Ford would slip in unnoticed to work on customer's watches and clocks
 After his ten-hour day in the shop (the James Flower & Brothers Machine Shop, which made iron and brass castings), Henry ate hurriedly and went to Magill's back room. On a night when Magill was out, Henry finished all the clocks on hand. He then started in on the watches and quickly mended a half dozen. Magill scrutinized the work and was pleased; here merely cautioned Henry to be sure to stay in the back room.
By March, 1882, Henry was living in a Mrs. Simms' boarding house on Jefferson Avenue. He no longer worked on watches for Magill, who had moved across Baker Street to work alone in his own home, after selling his shop to a milliner, a Mrs. Cohen."

I believe that this answers the question on Mr. Ford's 'mistake.' It wasn't a mistake at all; just showing this building after Magill had sold it. And since there was already another jewelry store inside Greenfield Village, management felt - and rightly so - they should show another building and occupation of the time.
I am sorry, however, that I have no photographs of this building as Magill's Jewelry Shop.

This millinery shop, located at 444 Baker Street in Detroit, represents the new wave of specialized stores in the larger cities in the late 19th century. It was here that Mrs. Elizabeth Cohen made her living decorating women's hats from 1892 to 1903, catering to mainly the middle class genre.

Mrs. Cohen purchased ready-made hat bodies from manufacturers, then trimmed them to the tastes of her customers with ribbons, artificial flowers, feathers, and buttons. She also sold various fabrics, notions, and gentlemen's accessories such as ties, cuff links, and shirt collars.

As the shop now sits in Greenfield Village, presenters dressed in period clothing continue to trim hats in this building.

Records show that the building was originally built around 1879/1880 in Detroit.


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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

William Ford Barn

This barn was built in 1863 - the same year as Henry's birth - by Henry's father, William, at Springwells Township, Michigan. It was originally located across the road from the family homestead and stored grain and hay and, at times, tools and livestock.

In 1933, it was moved to the Chicago World's Fair where it formed part of the Ford exhibit housing soybeans in the Century of Progress Exposition. When the exposition closed, the barn was brought to Greenfield Village and re-erected in 1935.
This barn continues to house the horses that pull the carriages filled with the visitors to the Village. The horses are groomed and harnessed here as well.



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Hermitage Slave Quarters (previously known as Slave Huts, Slave Houses, and Hermitage Slave Houses)

The relocation from a Savannah, Georgia plantation to Greenfield Village of two small slave houses in 1934 was the beginning of Ford's showing of the progress of the American blacks from bondage through their emancipation. The small quarters are typical in size and furnishings of slave houses of the Old South. They are among the few that have been preserved anywhere in the United States.

Most slave houses were made of wood. However, these were made from brick due to the fact that brick making was one of the industries of the Heritage Plantation from which they came.
The exhibit in the Village shows the daily home life of the typical African slave family in this area of the south.



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McGuffey Smokehouse

According to the 1930's Edison Institute Guidebook, this smokehouse was the original smokehouse located on the property of the McGuffey's in Pennsylvania.
Most rural families had a smokehouse on their land like this one to help preserve their meat. Without refrigeration, meat would become inedible quickly and thus, preservation was necessary.

After rubbing ham or bacon with a salt mixture and letting them set for a few weeks, the meat would then be hung from the rafters in the smokehouse.

The smoke, created by a fire in the floor of the structure that was made from aromatic woods such as hickory or apple, flavored the meat and created a crust that prevented its ruin by flies or other pests.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

William Holmes McGuffey School (Formerly known as McGuffey School and McGuffey Log School)

The same year that Ford re-erected McGuffey's Birth Place in Greenfield Village - 1934 - he used original logs from an 18th century barn on the Holmes property in Washington County, Pennsylvania to build a one room McGuffey School inside the Village as well.

Henry Ford replicated what many pioneer country schools looked like during the time of William Holmes McGuffey, and, due to the fact that the McGuffey Readers of the 19th century influenced so many of the era that Ford built this school in full honor of McGuffey.



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