Ford House upgrades aimed to enhance visitor experience

Associated Press

Grosse Pointe Shores — The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House has begun a series of long-term upgrades to restore the estate’s historical elements and enhance the experience for visitors.

The changes will allow people to see the 1920s Grosse Pointe Shores mansion and the estate more in the way members of the Ford family did when they lived there. And officials are considering building a new administration building so the staff wing of the mansion that was converted for offices can be restored.

Major electrical upgrades and a new stormwater management system are among the first projects completed. A bridge has been built to connect Bird Island to the rest of the property after opening a channel between Lake St. Clair and Ford Cove.

“As we plan for the future, we are taking this opportunity to replace aging systems with state-of-the-art, more efficient, systems, and to restore the landscape to the period when Eleanor and Edsel called the estate home,” Kathleen Mullins, president and CEO of the Ford House, said in a statement.

Edsel Ford was the son of auto pioneer Henry Ford. The estate was designed by landscape architect Jens Jensen and architect Albert Kahn.

To improve the ecological health of Ford Cove, the new stormwater management system drains runoff into landscape elements that filter water before it enters Lake St. Clair. The changes to Bird Island, a peninsula created by the Fords and Jensen to attract migratory birds, allow water to circulate with the aim of curbing problems posed by stagnant water, such as algae blooms.

A free event on Wednesday evening is open to the public to mark the completion of the first improvements, including the reopening of Bird Island.

Electrical, sewer and irrigation systems were as old as the estate, so the Ford House has replaced more than 16,000 feet of underground electrical cabling. Officials also are adding more than 50,000 feet of underground piping and 1,000 sprinkler heads for an upgraded irrigation system.

More than 5,000 cubic yards of dirt from construction projects is being repurposed to expand a berm system to protect the estate from potential floodwaters.