The Henry Ford
Today, Dearborn is best known to tourists as the location of The Henry Ford (20900 Oakwood Blvd., 313/982-6001, www.hfmgv.org, 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, museum $14 adults, $10 children 5–12), a favorite field trip for local schoolchildren and one of the state’s big tourism draws.
In the Greenfield Village (9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Apr. 15–Nov. 2, 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Fri.–Sun. Nov. 3–Dec. 28, $20 adults, $14 children 5–12), Henry gathered buildings and other structures in an attempt to show how America grew from an agrarian to an industrial society.
It’s a charming—if disconcerting—time machine, a patchwork quilt of unrelated people and places, where a 16th-century English Cotswold cottage sits a few hundred yards from an 18th-century New England saltbox. Other features include Ford’s childhood home and Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory.
Ford sent his pickers across the Midwest and New England to assemble enough artifacts to fill the 12-acre museum next to the village. Inside is one vast collection after another, including several presidential limousines, the world’s greatest holdings of 19th-century farm and kitchen tools (the old washing machines are a stitch), a fine grouping of American furniture, and many artifacts that trace the evolution of the electric light bulb (Edison was a great friend of Ford’s; the complex was originally called the Edison Institute).
Worth the price of admission alone is the excellent exhibit known as “The Automobile in American Life,” which nostalgically shows the car’s effect on the American landscape. There’s a 1950s McDonald’s sign, complete with oversized golden arches; a 1946 diner from Marlboro, Massachusetts, where an egg salad sandwich cost 15 cents; and a Holiday Inn guest room, circa 1960. The evolution of the auto industry is explained using TV monitors and restored automobiles from each period (to see the cars in chronological order, start at the ramp in front of the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile).
Also worth a peek is the permanent “Made in America” exhibit, which traces the evolution of American manufacturing. Far from dull, it explains technology in an entertaining manner, accented by film clips, including one from the I Love Lucy show in which Lucy joins a candy-making assembly line with disastrous results.
With thousands of items and the adjacent village, the entire complex is more than a bit overwhelming. A good idea is to split a visit into two days, with one day earmarked to explore each half. You might need even more time if you plan to visit other on-site features like the IMAX movie theater and the Benson Ford Research Center.
In addition, tour buses regularly leave for the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, a five-part excursion that culminates with a stroll through the Ford F-150 truck assembly plant.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel