Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Edison Illuminating Company

The Edison Illuminating Company Station "A" was one of the first establishment to provide electricity to the homes and businesses of the City of Detroit, from its opening in 1886 until 1900. Coal burning boilers drove steam engines which were connected to dynamos on the second floor.

It was in this power plant that Henry Ford, who worked here from 1891 to 1899, made $40 a month as an engineer.
While working here, Ford spent his spare time working on his idea for a gasoline-powered car - the eventual 'Quadricycle'.
When a Beck engine broke down, Ford repaired it by rebuilding the cross-head and putting on additional supports to keep it from twisting and breaking.

Because of this successful job, he was made machinist for the company and, on November 16, 1893, he was made Chief Engineer.
While acting in that capacity, he was chosen to attend the company's annual convention in 1896 in New York, where he first met Thomas Edison.

Built as a one quarter scale replica in Greenfield Village in 1944, some of the original equipment to be found from the original building are two Armington and Sims engines, the original Jumbo Dynamo from the New York building, and the Beck engine which Henry Ford repaired.
According to a reader of this blog, RP Mayer, this building was originally known as the Substation when placed in this Village in 1944. "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."

For more information on Edison at Greenfield Village, please click the links below:
Edison Fort Meyers Laboratory
Edison Homestead
Edison Illuminating Company
Edison Menlo Park Laboratory
Edison Menlo Park Glass House
Edison Menlo Park Machine Shop
Edison Menlo Park Woodworking Shop
Edison Menlo Park Office and Library


Miller School

This wood frame building is a replica of the Miller School, of which Henry Ford attended from 1872 to 1874. The original stood in Springwells Township on Chicago Road (now Michigan Avenue or US 12) - more than two miles from his home - where Ford's instructor at the Scotch Settlement School, John Brainard Chapman, was transferred. Mr. Ford changed schools at the same time to remain with his favorite teacher.
It was here that Ford and his classmates constructed a steam turbine, a waterwheel, and a forge to make castings.
And the time period this school represents were of the days of paddles, dunce caps, and wood stoves.
This replica is actually a copy of the second Miller School. The first was a log cabin built in the 1830's. I am not sure when the building that Ford attended was built, but all accounts say it was torn down around the turn of the 20th century.
This replica was built inside of Greenfield Village in 1943.
Unfortunately, the school is not open to the general public, but teachers can request its usage for field trips to teach to their students in the old fashioned way - without the paddling, I'm sure!


Mattox Family Home (formerly known as Mattox House)

The Mattox house was originally thought to have been constructed during the pre-Civil War days on the Cottenham Plantation near Ways, Georgia, but was found to have been built in the late re-construction era of the 1880's. It was the home of several generations of the Mattoxes, an African-American family.

Unfortunately, most of the information I have of this home is no longer correct since the discovery of its true age. What I do have shows how this family lived during the early part of the 20th century:
Amos Mattox worked many jobs during the Great Depression to take care of his family. He was a farmer, a barber, a shoemaker, and a preacher. It was this type of resourcefulness and hard work that made it possible for the family to own and maintain this house and the land it set upon.
Amos' wife, Grace, also worked, but her work helped to provide for the less fortunate in her neighborhood.
The Mattoxes were not a well-to-do family, and this home is typical of the many southern rural families of the era. The interior of this structure shows that very well. The walls, for instance, are lined with newspapers for insulation against the cool Georgia nights and winters. The furnishings are just as children of Amos and Grace remembered and reflects reflects their parent's tastes and interests.
The home was brought to Greenfield Village in 1943.

The Mattox home is a fine representation of how a poorer southern black family lived in the earlier part of the 20th century, and shows how any obstacle can be overcome, no matter the situation.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cider Mill (formerly known as Martinsville Cider Mill)

This cider mill is a replicated 19th century mill that was constructed inside of Greenfield Village in 1942 to conform with the 19th century cider making machinery Henry Ford had in his collection. Demonstrations of pressing apples into cider took place here every fall for many years up until recently.

Sweet and hard cider, as well as cider vinegar, were important orchard byproducts essential to the economy of rural communities. In the 1800's, farmers could haul their apples to cider mills like this one to have them ground and pressed into cider. The cider making equipment in this building came from a mill in Martinsville, Michigan.
Cider was the most popular drink of the 19th century.

A country scene: The train and the cider mill


Sunday, December 14, 2008

George Washington Carver Cabin (formerly known as George Washington Carver Memorial and Carver Memorial)

In the spring of 1942, workers completed a memorial to another man for whom Henry Ford had tremendous respect and admiration - agricultural chemist George Washington Carver. The small log structure the workers built was based on Carver's own memories of his Diamond Grove, Missouri plantation birthplace. Carver, who was born into slavery around 1860, visited Ford in July of 1942 and spent a few days in the cabin.
It would only be six months later that Carver would pass away.
Dr. Carver was well-known for his experiments with the peanut, sweet potatoes, soybeans. and pecans, and he advocated and taught crop rotation which helped the poor farmers, who previously farmed only cotton, to grow a variety of crops. In doing this, Carver vastly improved the economy of the southern states.
The Carver Memorial was a part of the group of buildings that recognized the progress of black Americans from slavery through world recognition.

Once again, I apologize for the lack of inside photos. I will have some posted as soon as I take them.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Susquehanna Plantation (formerly known as Susquehanna House)

(The pictures herein reflect the home as it is presented now, showing life here in the 1850's and 1860's)

Welcome to the Carroll Home!

The Susquehanna Plantation from Maryland has a long and interesting history to it - not just in itself but while inside of Greenfield Village as well.

The house was tagged to be razed by the U.S. Navy. As quoted from a 2005 Baltimore Sun newspaper article: The Navy was taking over what had been the crossroads of Cedar Point; eviction notices were tacked to front doors, with some owners given 30 days to leave.
Samuel Young, who lived in Michigan, had bought Susquehanna at the behest of his late wife, a St. Mary's County native, King said. When they were told to leave, Young offered the home to Henry Ford.
Young apparently told Ford of the property's connection to Christopher Rousby (an affluent colonial tax collector of the 17th century) and life in Maryland a century before the American Revolution. The house could be Ford's for free. All he had to do was come and get it.
Included in the package, by the way, was a tombstone belonging to Christopher Rousby as well as his bones buried beneath!

When Ford's architect Ed Cutler arrived to inspect it, the building was intact but run down. Inside he had to wade through 18 inches of grain to take measurements. After viewing the drawings and photographs that Cutler brought back, Ford decided to acquire the home. The building was moved in March 1942 and erected by that following August. An interesting fact here is that it is situated exactly in the same position and direction in Greenfield Village as it had been in Maryland.

Originally built on the bluffs of the Patuxent River in the Tidewater region of Maryland, initially it was thought that the house was constructed around 1650. So, for years, presenters in colonial clothing at the Village told the story of the house, Rousby, and of Rousby's death at the hands of a cousin of Lord Baltimore, and showed off the tombstone/grave situated behind the home.
This was how the presentation of this house had been told up until the late 1980's when historians realized that this was not Christopher Rousby's house.
As the Sun article explains: ...historians became suspicious of claims that the house dated from the late 1600s. In the 1980s, a group from St. Mary's County told museum officials that there were only two buildings from before 1700 standing in Maryland -- one in Anne Arundel County and one on the Eastern Shore.

This alerted the staff at Greenfield Village that something was amiss.

Again, from the Sun: Soon the staff realized there were major flaws in the story of Susquehanna. After doing tree-ring dating on the beams of the house and doing archaeological work on the home's Maryland site, it was determined the house wasn't so old. It likely dates to the 1830s. That meant it couldn't be Rousby's house. He had been dead more than 150 years when it was built.The Village staff knew they had to make changes.

Two photos of the kitchen / warming room in the Susquehanna House

The tombstone was removed and put into storage and the bones were exhumed to be examined by a mortuary scientist, who found that the collection of bones were from three different people! And none were even Caucasian males! The museum received permission from the local court to have the bones cremated. They did and held a funeral as well, with the ashes reburied at Susquehanna.
In 2002, a Rousby historian from Maryland named Joan Kocen was able to have the tombstone returned to its home state where she has it packed carefully away until she decides what she can do with it. No one has any idea of what became of Rousby's body.

Now, how did this mix up originally occur? The Sun article states that: The tombstone, clearly dating to the 1680s, was automatically linked to the house. Oral histories perpetuated the error. The Carroll family (Henry and Elizabeth), who built the house in the 19th century, knew how old it was, but their descendants either had died or moved, leaving no link to the past. Meanwhile, a prominent historical architect of the early 20th century, Henry Chandlee Forman, helped solidify the myth when he dated the house to 1654.

Instead, the historians of Greenfield Village un-earthed the true history of the Susquehanna House.

The following two photos are of the middle dining room

Henry and Elizabeth Carroll and their family built this house in the mid-1830's, where it sat upon 700 acres, and enjoyed a prosperous life, including hosting extravagant parties. They had five children.
Their 75 slaves, however, did not enjoy the same good life; they slept in 13 small, wood shacks with dirt floors and were made to work brutal hours in the fields, especially during harvest time.
The Carroll family was one of the wealthiest in St. Mary's County - the slaves alone, according to the 1860 census, were valued at $49,000. Among the slaves were skilled craftsmen, including blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers, shoemakers, and seamstresses.

The front parlor

The Carrolls fed themselves and their slaves from the abundant crops grown on their land: wheat, corn, oats, as well as hay and tobacco.
Farm animals, including pigs, sheep, chickens, oxen, horses, and mules were also part of the plantation.
Inside of Greenfield Village, the Susquehanna House is always open for visitors where period dressed presenters show cooking and crafts as they might have done in the mid-19th century. At Christmas, preparations for a New Year's Day wedding take place.

"Slaves" tell of their lives at the Susquehanna Plantation - an excellent presentation detailing the horrors of slavery.

This structure has quite the colorful history, one that may never had happened had Henry Ford known the real truth behind the home. It just might have been torn down and lost to history, like so many others. And the way the folks at Greenfield Village utilize this house in the many different presentations gives a wonderful history lesson of plantation life in the mid-19th century.
I believe Mr. Ford would be proud.