University to transfer ownership of the Henry Ford Estate to Ford House

The University of Michigan-Dearborn and the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., have reached an agreement to unite the Henry Ford Estate and Ford House.

At its April 15 meeting, the University of Michigan Board of Regents approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which over the next 15 months will lead to the formal transfer of ownership of the Henry Ford Estate (Estate) to Edsel & Eleanor Ford House (Ford House) on July 1, 2011. The Board of Trustees of Ford House approved the MOU in late March.

Historic restoration architectural firm Chambers, Murphy, Burge have completed a comprehensive analysis of the Estate. Over the next 15 months, Ford House, with museum and preservation specialists, will detail the work that will be undertaken for both restoration and reinterpretation.

The Estate will close prior to the July 1, 2011 transfer to allow for restoration work on its buildings and grounds to begin. Ford House anticipates the Estate will reopen in phases to celebrate milestones in Ford Family history: Henry Ford’s 150th birthday in 2013, the Estate’s 100th anniversary in 2015, and Clara Ford’s 150th birthday in 2017.

A national historic landmark nestled on the UM-Dearborn campus and home to the automotive pioneer Henry Ford and his wife, Clara for more than 30 years, the Estate has been owned and operated by the university for 53 years.

The relationship between Ford House and the University is anticipated to lead to new opportunities for faculty and students through research initiatives, fellowships, internships and volunteer opportunities.

"UM-Dearborn is committed to preserving the legacy of Henry Ford, which is a story of innovation and experimentation that serves as inspiration for the entire region," said UM-Dearborn Chancellor Daniel Little. "This transfer will help the Henry Ford Estate achieve its full potential as a first-rate historic attraction and allow the university to remain committed to its core academic mission. We have a cultural gem on our campus and we look forward to many collaborative opportunities with Ford House."

"For Ford House, bringing the Estate into its management and interpretive operation reflects a key vision in Ford House’s 2010-2015 strategic plan — increasing accessibility to the Ford Family story through preservation of the Family’s historic resources, as well as the Family legacy itself," said Kathleen Mullins, president of Ford House.

"The capstone of our plan is to bring to life the story of this great American family," Mullins added. "Bringing together the estates of Henry Ford and his only child, Edsel offers a multitude of new opportunities. This is the family that put the world on wheels and dedicated itself to the community; it is a story of innovation and design, inspiration and reflection, philanthropy and responsibility; it is a story that will be more effectively shared with a national and international audience with the coming together of these important properties."

Bringing these two great estates together under one governance and operational structure is of great interest to the nation’s preservation and museum communities. "Together, the Ford estates have a unique opportunity to become a testing ground for bold ideas, innovative approaches and new ways of thinking about how we preserve and present historic sites," said Richard Moe, president of The National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Moe continued, "We applaud the University of Michigan and the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House for having the foresight to bring these two estates together as one. The National Trust looks forward to learning from this venture as innovative methods are tested and a new model for sustainability is explored."

The innovative stewardship model is also being hailed by the American Association of Museums (AAM). "Museums across the country are looking for novel ways to realize new efficiencies while still meeting their mandate of public service," said AAM President and CEO Ford Bell. "This amalgamation between Ford House and the Henry Ford Estate is indicative of this kind of progressive thinking, and will undoubtedly result in synergies that can serve as a template for other historic sites, as well as museums."

To ensure a successful and smooth transition, UM-Dearborn and Ford House will form a transition task force to guide the process over the next 15 months.

Edsel & Eleanor Ford House is located at 1100 Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Shores. Since 1978, it has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors to share in Eleanor Ford’s vision of preserving the estate for future generations to enjoy through interpretive tours, family activities, lectures, exhibits and gardens and grounds events. For more information, visit or call 313-884-4222.

Source: PRNewswire/ Edsel & Eleanor Ford House