by MIKE SKINNER
Photos by LINDA LEGGITT
The Henry Ford Heritage Association’s celebration of the l40th anniversary of Henry Ford’s birthday, held at the Henry Ford Estate -Fair Lane, was attended by a record 176 members and guests! Fortunately, the weather was nearly perfect since the strong attendance led to a dozen attendees eating dinner outside next to the rose garden.
This year’s guest speaker and Friend of Ford award winner was Henry and Clara Ford’s great grandson, Edsel Ford II. Mr. Ford spoke of his family’s legacy, the Fair Lane and Gaukler Point estates and of the recent Ford Motor Company centennial celebration. Afterwards, Mr. Ford was gracious enough to allow a question and answer session. Mr. Ford’s remarks included the ongoing restoration of the Fair Lane residence and grounds. Of the residence he said, “I believe that this was Clara’s home first. When my great grandfather was bored, he’s go back there (Mr. Ford pointed towards the estate powerhouse) and work on watches and things. This home clearly reflected Clara’s interests, especially the gardens. So as part of the task here at this home is to a attempt to restore it to what it was like when Henry and Clara Ford lived here.”
After Edsel Ford II’s remarks, several presentations were made. First, Mike Skinner presented Mr. Ford with a copy of a framed print of “The Automobile Industry of Michigan, 1907″ on behalf of the Henry Ford Heritage Association Board of Directors. Mike noted that it was a copy of the photograph of ninety-eight Michigan automotive pioneers that hung in Mr. Ford’s office at the Piquette Plant. Mike also noted that Henry Ford’s photograph was at the top center of the photo (where he belonged even in 1907) and next to him is Ransom E. Olds and that in 2004 when Oldsmobile ceases to exist Mr. Ford will be the last person in the photograph that will still have a company named for him. Mike also presented Mr. Ford with two copies of the HFHA2004 Calendar.
Then Dr. Jerald Mitchell, CEO of T-Plex, the 501 C 3 organization set up to over see the Piquette Plant, and Margaret McAlister presented Mr. Ford with a framed ..Artist’s Proof’ of Ms. McAlister’s painting of the Ford Motor Company Piquette Ave. Plant ca. 1906. Finally, Sara Ford, HFHA member and representative of the Milan, Michigan Chamber of Commerce presented Mr. Ford with a Ford Centennial lap blanket. The city of Milan presented these blankets to 250 Model T owners that visited Milan during the Model T Club National Meet earlier in July.
HFHA Historian, Ford R. Bryan received the HFHA Book Award for his sixth book, Friends, Families and Forays: Scenes from the life of Henry Ford. Ford also completed his seventh book, Rouge: Pictured in its Prime” in 2003 and he is working on an updated version of his first book, The Fords of Dearborn, to be published in 2004.
As we do at each annual dinner, we asked for a show of hands of those who either knew, or had met, Henry Ford. It is good to see so many attend the dinner, unfortunately this group seems to be dwindling each year.
After dinner Mike Skinner announced the new slate of HFHA officers and directors, thanking outgoing board member, Dolores Blaszczak and By-Laws co-chair, Bob Witter and welcoming Patricia Long back to the board. Following the business part of the evening including Nominating, Membership and Treasurer’s reports, guests were urged to visit the two Ford Estates by Casey Granston, Director of Development at the Henry Ford Estate-Fair Lane and John Franklin Miller, President of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House. Additionally, Dr. Jerald Mitchell invited everyone to visit the Ford Piquette Plant and he thanked the Ford Motor Company and family for their support. His remarks were as follows:
I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge the multi- faceted assistance that Ford Motor Company has provided to T-Plex.
First, I wish to thank Mr. Edsel Ford and Mr. William Clay Ford Jr. for autographing Margaret McAlister’s painting of the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant and for assisting our fund raising efforts by granting permission to make prints of the painting for sale.
We wish to thank the Ford Motor Company for holding their 2003 North American International Auto Show press parties at the historic Piquette Avenue Plant. We were honored to be the venue of such important events and appreciate the resulting building improvements and favorable media coverage that we received.
We also wish to acknowledge the major assistance provided by the Ford Community Service Program. Through this program, hundreds of salaried Ford employees have provided thousands of volunteer hours. Ford employees deserve much of the credit for the progress we have made in preparing the building for restoration. Volunteering at T- Plex has put employees in direct contact with the company’s remarkable history. Visiting the historic plant is a real morale builde7: As a result, employees leave T-Plex with renewed pride in being part of the Ford Motor Company and with greatly increased morale.
The Metro Detroit Ford Dealers have become major participants in our Adopt-A- Window program. After touring the building, dealers experienced a renewed appreciation of Ford history. In addition, they are now taking pride in contributing to the preservation of a great American landmark.
Finally, we wish to acknowledge the contribution made by FREE -Ford Retired Engineering Executives. They have formed a sub-committee to provide advice and counsel. Also, a hands-on group meets regularly to work on our 99-year old windows. In addition, FREE donated the recently unveiled bronze marker indicating inclusion of the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in the National Register of Historic Places.
As this list indicates, Ford assistance to T-Plex is virtually universal. It encompasses members of the family, the company and its employees, dealers and retirees. We are grateful and proud to have such a resounding endorsement of our efforts to preserve a key part of Ford history and a great landmark to American genius and ingenuity.