[graphic header] Detroit: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary, National Park Service


Fair Lane records the private life of automaker Henry Ford, perhaps Detroit's most famous citizen. When Ford and his wife Clara decided to move out of the city to escape the constant attention the runaway success of the Model T had brought them, they turned away from the east-side suburbs that were increasingly home to the rich. The Fords instead headed west to Dearborn, acquiring 1300 acres just two miles from the farm on which Henry had grown up. Starting in 1914, more than 500 men began the construction of the Fords' final home. In a year, these workers created a 31,000 square foot residence built from Marblehead limestone and designed in a modified early English style. Its interior included a 4,000 book library, an auditorium, and a suite of rooms reserved for Thomas Edison, a close friend of the Fords. The house formed only a small part of Fair Lane, which was named after the area in Ireland where Ford's had ancestors lived. Among the other buildings were a hydro-electric powerhouse that included a private laboratory, a green house, staff cottages, and a working farm built to scale for the grandchildren. Some of the estate's more than $2 million construction cost went into converting what had been farmland into a man-made lake and a series of gardens, most of which famed landscape architect Jens Jensen designed. The grounds also included a garden which featured more than 350 varieties of roses.

Henry died in 1947 and Clara died shortly after in 1950. In 1957, Ford Motor Company, which had purchased the estate in 1952, donated 210 acres to the University of Michigan so it could establish a Dearborn campus. In 1966, the house and 72 acres of the estate was designated a National Historic Landmark. In the 1970s, the house and the grounds were opened for public tours, and volunteers have continued to preserve and protect what is now known as the Henry Ford Estate.

Fair Lane is located at 4901 Evergreen Road in Dearborn. The University of Michigan Dearborn Campus is directly to the east, and Michigan Avenue is just to the south. Tours are available. Visit www.henryfordestate.org for further information. There is a price for admission.

Fair Lane Fair Lane - the Henry Ford Estate
Photograph by Balthazar Photographers, courtesy of the Henry Ford Estate

  Henry and Clara Ford The Fords in Fair Lane's gardens
Photograph courtesy of the Detroit News

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