The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House (Ford House) has taken the first steps towards a comprehensive plan to restore, reconstruct, and rehabilitate the estate to when it was occupied by Edsel and Eleanor Ford and their family. Major electrical upgrades and a newly designed storm-water management system are among the first projects completed. A new bridge was also built to connect Bird Island to the mainland after opening a channel between Lake St. Clair and Ford Cove.
To celebrate the progress, the estate is hosting a free evening on the grounds for the public on Wednesday, July 8 from 5 – 8 p.m.
“The landscape of this magnificent estate has matured at the same time that the infrastructure has aged. 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.” said Kathleen Mullins, president and CEO of the Ford House. “There is a legacy of being environmentally concerned in the Ford family, starting with Clara and Henry and continuing with today’s family members. With the work we are undertaking at Ford House, we are continuing their legacy, while at the same time, setting an example for solid, sustainable management of historic estates.”
In support of the Ford family’s vision, Ford House developed a long-term plan to enrich operational and visitor experiences by honoring, and building on, the environmental visions of landscape architect Jens Jensen and the architectural designs of Albert Kahn.
“To improve the ecological health of Ford Cove, we implemented a “green” approach to storm-water management by upgrading the drainage system to direct property runoff into a newly constructed bio-swale, that filters the water naturally before entering Lake St. Clair,” said Dave Miller, project manager for Ford House.
Among the most visible upgrades is to the land known as Bird Island, a peninsula created by the Fords and Jensen to attract migratory birds. A small portion of the neck of the peninsula was removed to allow water to circulate between the cove and the lake. This simple initiative will reduce the risks that develop with stagnant water, including algae blooms. Closed since the winter, Bird Island reopens on July 8 when visitors will have their first opportunity to walk across the newly installed foot bridge and enter the seclusion of the Island. Visitors will also be able to view the bio-swale and learn more about how this extraordinary feature functions.
Many of the initial projects involve replacement and upgrading of the aging infrastructure to serve as a foundation for future estate upgrades. The replacements and upgrades are a strong step in making the estate more environmentally responsible.
“The electrical, sewer and irrigation systems were approaching 90 years old, much older than their intended life expectancy,” said Miller. “We have replaced more than 16,000 feet of underground electrical cabling, and we are adding more than 50,000 feet of underground piping, and 1,000 sprinkler heads for the upgraded irrigation system that will also now be a sensor-based system in order to maximize water efficiency. The system will deliver only the amount of water needed to maintain the landscape. Also, to be as environmentally conscious as possible, all underground work was carefully orchestrated by computer controlled boring machines to prevent unnecessary disruption to the property.”
In addition, more than 5,000 cubic yards of dirt from construction projects around the property is being repurposed to expand the berm system around the property perimeter. This continues the project begun by the Ford Family in the 1970s to protect the estate from floodwaters.
“We invite people to enjoy the estate just as the Fords did,” said Mullins. “For our visitors, and for the future of the estate, we are enriching their opportunity to be part of the natural environment when they visit. And, we want to use the work we are doing as a means for understanding and learning about good stewardship. As they see the flow of water that is being naturally cleaned before entering the Cove they will understand how initiatives like this contribute to the health of our waterways. We invite our visitors to explore and discover this extraordinary estate, to spend time, to ask questions, and to take away ideas for how they might become involved with environmental initiatives in Southeast Michigan.”
Ford House plans future announcements on projects that will continue to introduce environmentally conscious initiatives. Future projects under consideration include construction of a new administration building that will allow for operational functions to be relocated from the main house and enable the staff wing of the main house to be restored and incorporated into the tour and educational program. On the historic landscape, a long-term restoration, replacement, and rehabilitation program is being drafted to ensure that the vision of the Fords, Jensen and Kahn continues to be seen for generations to come.
For more information, visit www.FordHouse.org or call (313) 884-4222.