Sunday, July 4, 2010

Finding Historical Charm at the Eleanor & Edsel Ford House in Grosse Pointe

Last week I visited the Eleanor & Edsel Ford House in Grosse Pointe with the lady I can always count on doing historical/cultural things with me: my mother.

Let me just start off by saying this place is a mecca of cool I didn't even know existed until my company started doing work with them a few years back. After hearing my colleagues describe the place to media (this is not my client), I decided this should be on my "things to do in the Detroit area" list.

History? Check. Fab Detroitness? Check. Charming place to eat? Check. What more could a gal want?

Prior to the tour, we checked out Macy's adventure passes so we were able to tour FOR FREE. (If you're unfamiliar, see here: it's a fantastic program made possible with the help of local libraries). Had we not gotten in for free, it would have cost $10 for me and $9 for my mom (a senior) and it would have been worth every single penny.

We started our time on the grounds watching a short film about the lives and family of Eleanor and Edsel. This was a fantastic way to start, as it really laid the groundwork of what the family was about - each other, arts/culture/history and philanthrophy. Through the film, I really gained a respect for the family (Edsel is the only son of Henry, the entreprenuer behind Ford Motor Co.) and their passion for Detroit.

After the film, we were driven in a mini-bus to the home where we were greeted by a tour guide, who was an adorable and knowledgeable older lady. She walked us through a chunk of the home, stopping to tell stories about the family along the way. One of my favorite rooms showcased the wedding dresses of some of the Ford women. They were beautiful (and tiny!).

The house was truly a masterpiece. It was really interesting to hear about the history of each item that adorned the walls - from 16th century wood brought over from England to pieces of art by some of my fave French artists such as Degas, Cezanne and Van Gogh and even pieces from the Han Dynasty and Ming Dynasty (super-de-duperly old). The dining room was really neat and we learned the family dined there every night by candlelight (there were no lights in the room).

I felt like I was friends with Eleanor after the tour, as I and greatly admired her passion for the arts in Detroit. One neat thing I learned was that the family kept the Detroit Institute of the Arts open during the depression by paying for the salaries of the employees. For that, us Detroiters should be forever grateful.
After we walked through the house, we toured the grounds, including seeing the Ford's amazing pool, Josephine Ford's playhouse version of the house (pictured below) and a beautiful rose garden that made us feel like we were in Europe.

After the tour, we stopped for lunch at the newly opened Cotswold Cafe. At the cafe, we ordered quiche and a Maurice Salad (my favorite item from J.L. Hudson, Eleanor's uncle), which were pretty yummy, but the best part was the dessert - a pear and cranberry cobbler that was absolutely delish.

If you're fascinated by Detroit history, art and culture or even need an impressive place for a date, check this historical gem out. Plus, it's a great excuse to drive down Lake Shore Drive and admire the beautiful historical homes that have put Grosse Pointe on the map. Can't wait to go back for the additional tours available...and one day, take my little girl there to see our history trapped in time.