Greenfield Village

June 2007


If you have never been to Dearborn, Michigan, you have not seen the spectacular Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum. Ford wanted both—a museum to house the objects of our past and a village where one could step into historic buildings and instantly become immersed in the lives of the famous former inhabitants.


The museum proper features an eclectic collection of artifacts of the many individuals who made important contributions to the growth of our country. Walk through Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House, designed to be the strongest, lightest, and most cost-effective house ever built. See the fully-restored Rosa Parks bus. Look over the John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan limousines. And without fail, see the rocking chair Lincoln sat in at Ford’s Theater when he was shot. (How did the chair end up in Dearborn, Michigan? It was purchased for $2,400 at an auction after being held by the U.S. government for more than 60 years. Interestingly, there is no connection between the two Ford families. Do-do-do-do.)


What makes the museum complete is its everyday objects. A fully equipped 1930’s kitchen gives us a glimpse into the daily lives of our parents or grandparents. Ford knew that ordinary objects—clocks, silver and pewter serving pieces, jewelry, clothing, agricultural equipment, furniture, and of course cars—were just as important to preserve as the one-of-a-kind showcase pieces. One object in particular seems to embody both the ordinary and the extraordinary; the 15 millionth and final Model T touring car. Surprisingly, it is painted a nice shade of green. 


The 90-acre village preserves many historic buildings that otherwise may have been lost to us. Seven buildings associated with Thomas Edison recreate “Edison at work.”  My favorite is Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory. This building is actually a replica, but absolutely fascinating none the less. Just imagining Edison and his workers changing the world up on the second floor is mind-boggling. The Sarah Jordan boarding house, where Edison’s workers lived, was one of the first homes to be wired for electric light, and the only one still standing today.


The Harvey Firestone childhood home was dedicated by Gerald Ford (another Ford?) in 1985. When the house was moved to the village in 1984, a note was found in the ceiling that was written over 100 years earlier by a 13-year-old Harvey when his parents were renovating the home.


More highlights include the Wright Brothers home and bicycle shop, the H.J. Heinz house where horseradish sauce became the first variety, and the Logan County Courthouse from Postville (now Lincoln), Illinois, where Lincoln tried cases while on the circuit.


To learn a great deal more about this fascinating place, go to