Friday, January 9, 2009

The End of One Era, and On To the Next...

By 1946 Henry Ford had gathered nearly 90 historic and reproductions of historic structures depicting America's 17th, 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, as well as a massive museum building filled to the brim with the artifacts of everyday Americans.
On May 26, 1946, assisted by grandson Henry II and accompanied by his wife, Clara, Ford took one last spin through the Village in his Quadricycle, the vehicle that made everything possible. On April 7, 1947, Henry Ford died in his Fair Lane home. While his body lay in state at Lovett Hall, more than 100,000 people filed past in tribute.
It was also in 1947 that Ed Cutler, Ford's Chief Architect, retired.

Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum fell into a period of transition.

"For about three weeks I continually walked around and around the museum from one end to the other. Of course, I came in in February and there were no people in the museum.
So my first question that propounded itself was, what am I going to do? Where do I begin? Where do I start?" - - - Hayward S. Ablewhite, new Director of the museum appointed by the Edison Institute Board of Trustees in 1949.

In the two years between Ford's death and Ablewhite, very little happened to the institute. The staff operated as it always did, attempting to continue as they felt Mr. Ford would have wanted. Mrs. Ford became quite upset if she felt any changes made were contrary to her husband's ideas. Clara Ford passed away in September of 1950.

With the arrival of new staff and, thus, new methods, the old ways that lingered after Henry Ford's death gradually faded. An exciting period of new programs and collection refinement lay ahead.

To jump ahead a bit, in 1951, the Village opened to the public year round. Visitors could now enjoy the atmosphere of an old-time village during all four season. This practice was ended due to finances in the 1980's (as far as I've been told).

And in 1952, an eight foot high serpentine brick wall was built by the Ford Motor Company to separate the Ford test track from the Village road.

Finally, in 1953, the Ford Homestead opened to the public as part of the Ford Motor Company's 50th anniversary celebrations.

And Greenfield Village continued to expand - - - -


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