Ford House set to open new visitor center, administration building in late May

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
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Two major new additions to the historic home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford in Grosse Pointe Shores — the largest changes to the estate of Henry Ford's only child in 90 years — will open later this month with the public able to tour the estate May 26-29.

A new 40,000-square-foot visitor center and 17,000-square-foot administration building have been under construction since 2017. The visitor center includes a new restaurant, four event spaces, exhibition areas, expanded program offerings and captivating views of Ford Cove. 

Both buildings were constructed sustainably to be net-zero energy efficient, meaning the total amount of energy they use annually is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy the estate generates.

“Our goal is to weave together the Ford family legacy with 21st century technology,” said Mark Heppner, the Ford House president and CEO. “This milestone expansion project was designed with the visitor experience top of mind. The brand-new, state of the art visitor center is our commitment that Ford House will always be an inclusive community destination.”

The buildings are the biggest changes to the 87-acre estate since the house was built in the late 1920s. The home of Edsel, his wife Eleanor and their four kids, it was named a National Historic Landmark in 2017.

The visitor center will feature three new exhibitions when it opens — a permanent exhibition and two rotating ones. The permanent exhibition, the "Ford Family Story," will introduce visitors to Edsel and Eleanor Ford’s estate, demonstrate how the Fords built a life and home that paid tribute to the property’s natural environment, the arts and interior design. 

The first rotating exhibitions will be "Driven by Design" and the "Future of Movement." "Driven by Design" will feature three rare vehicles that have never been showcased together — the world’s only 1939 Lincoln Continental prototype, the 1932 Ford Model 18 Speedster and 1934 Ford Model 40 Special Speedster — to tell the story of Edsel Ford’s role in bringing elegant automotive design to Ford Motor Company.

The new Visitor Center at the Ford House has space for a permanent exhibition and two rotating ones.

The "Future of Movement," meanwhile, will showcase the "next wave of ingenuity and mobility-forward automotive designs," according to a press release, from College for Creative Studies students. 

The new Visitor Center at Ford House, the historic estate of Edsel and Eleanor Ford in Grosse Pointe Shores, includes a new restaurant, the Continental. It has indoor and outdoor dining, along with floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of Ford Cove.

Lynn Ford Alandt, chairperson of the Ford House board of trustees, said her grandparents valued hospitality and making guests feel welcome. She said adding new amenities to the Ford House experience in the form of the visitor center "extends that hospitality to everyone who visits the estate today."

“And in the new exhibits, you can hear the family’s stories in a personal way. It’s a lovely celebration of who they were and their legacy," said Alandt.

The new visitor center and administration building have been under construction since 2017.

Starting May 26, visitors will get a chance to see the new buildings and tour the estate during an open house that runs through May 29. Admission is $5 for adults and includes access to the inaugural exhibitions, grounds and gardens. Ford House members will receive exclusive access the weekend before, May 21-23, with

free admission. Go to fordhouse.org.

mfeighan@detroitnews.com

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