River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Sunday, February 25, 2018

River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Sunday, February 25, 2018
River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Sunday, February 25, 2018

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan - Sun., Oct. 12, 2014

What a wonder we encountered today...Greenfield Village. Here you can wander over 80 acres of authentic, historic buildings.

But let me back up a little. The Detroit-Greenfield RV Park where we are staying is 30 minutes west of Greenfield Village. Driving to Greenfield Village from the RV park is very easy, just hop on I-94, go east (and a little north) and you're there.

We parked in a lot with warning signs saying it was for the conference center and violators would be towed. I was nervous about that. We asked a young couple walking by, who  parked in the same lot, if they were worried about getting their car towed. They assured us they park there all the time. They have an annual membership and the only time they tow cars from that lot is when there's a conference. Their annual membership allows for four ride tickets at Greenfield Village, they only needed two and would we like the two extra tickets ($30 value each)? That was so incredibly nice of them. They went in and got the wristbands for us and we were able to ride the steam train, Model Ts, and the Carousel (didn't have time to ride the horse-drawn carriages or old buses).

Upon entering Greenfield Village, we were amazed by the first building we encountered: the Soybean Experimental Laboratory. In this building, built in 1930 in Greenfield Village, Henry Ford's workers experimented with soybeans and other crops. Mr. Ford designed Model A car parts, an experimental car body, and a suit of clothes from the plant.

Outside the back door of the Soybean Experimental Laboratory was the Port Huron Engine. This steam-powered traction engine could push or pull farm devices or run a variety of machines, and was used to power threshing machines as they moved from farm to farm. In short, movable vehicles throughout history went from human powered, to horse drawn, to steam powered, to gasoline engines. Steam-powered engines started the Industrial Revolution. You see what kind of history we're talking about here?
Port Huron steam-powered engine
To think we learned all that in our first 15 minutes in the park as we waited for the steam-powered train to take us around the Village. Wow. We were in for a day of learning.

On the narrated train ride around the Village, our engineer pointed out the different areas of the park: Henry Ford's Model T, working farms, Railroad Junction, Main Street, Edison at Work, Porches and Parlors, Liberty Craftworks, and Walnut Grove. As much as we tried, we could not see it all in six hours, but we did our best.

Calumet & Hecla Mining Co. Torch Lake steam engine
Water tower coming up
Definitely steam powered...
watch out for coal pieces in your eyes!
After the train, we headed directly to the Henry Ford portion of Greenfield Village. After all,  he is the man who started and inspired Ford Motor Company, Greenfield Village, and The Henry Ford Museum. So we started with the instigator. Although it could be argued it all started with his parents' encouraging him, or with Thomas A. Edison believing in him.

Henry Ford's Model T

As a young boy, Henry did not take to farming. He was more interested in how things worked.

Below are photos of his restored boyhood home. The only original piece of furniture is the writing desk pictured below.

Writing desk in formal living room.
Henry Ford's boyhood farm home
At age 16 he moved away from home and was employed at various jobs that taught him how machines work. He invented a "quadricycle."

While he didn't invent the automobile, he did revolutionize manufacturing. In 1908 he built a car "for the great multitude:" a Model T. The Model T changed the landscape of America forever. From that point on, we saw the growth of suburbia, creation of a national highway system, and people with a new sense of freedom that they could go anywhere, anytime. New businesses sprang up to cater to the new travelers: hotels, restaurants, gas stations, campgrounds, travel services such as the American Automobile Association, tow trucks, etc.

This is the car that made America mobile back in the day.

We walked out the back door of the building and, voila, we were able to take a spin in a Model T. Our particular model was one that would have been used like a taxi to pick up people and their luggage from the train station.

Model T's lined up waiting for passengers
Here's "our" Model T (with a very knowledgeable driver)
Main Street:

After our tour by car, we walked around Main Street and stopped by Sir John Bennett's Sweet Shop for hot chocolate and cookies. Inside, we learned Sir John Bennett's Jewelry Shop was in London, England. Henry Ford had seen it on a visit and loved it.

A few years later Sir John Bennett's shop underwent major remodeling and Henry Ford was able to buy the whole facade of the five-story building which he then had shipped to Greenfield Village for reconstruction. The facade was taken from five stories to two to fit the New England custom of no building being higher than a church steeple. Besides Gog and Magog, only the clock, and parts of the facade are original, the rest of the exterior and interior were built at Greenfield Village.

Bob at Sir John Bennett's Sweet Shop
My favorite weather vane ever!
Gog and Magog, mythical giants who protected the British Isles
We also walked past a wonderful children's playground, Donald F. Kosch Village Playground. I wanted to play in there. Here are some photos of the playground...

Little boy making water go through the aqueduct
Tunnel, rock-climbing wall, and slide structure
Kids can climb all over and in this truck

Waterworks...prepare to get wet!
Below is the actual building from Dayton, Ohio, where Wilbur and Orville Wright worked on bicycles. The work they did here turned this little bicycle shop into the "birthplace of aviation."
Wilbur and Orville Wright's Cycle Company
The cycle shop
Back workshop - "birthplace of aviation"
Next door to the Cycle Shop is the Main Street Emporium where I found an exquisite music box.
Captivating sounds from this music box
The Wright family home, built in 1871 in Dayton, Ohio

Watching Fords go by.
Also on Main Street is the original house where H. J. Heinz developed his first products. Do you know what the first product was that H. J. Heinz developed and sold? Hint: It wasn't catsup. Answer in a minute.

Heinz House, built in 1854 in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania
One thing that H. J. Heinz thoroughly understood was "branding." Heinz 57 Varieties is known as his brand. It didn't matter that he eventually had more than 57 varieties of products. His brand was associated with being "pure" and making life easier for women because they no longer needed to do their own canning, pickling, and sauce making. Mr. Heinz and his 57 Varieties made life better and gave women more free time to spend with their families. [Answer to question above: The first product made by H. J. Heinz was horseradish.]

Edison at Work:

In this area we saw Thomas Edison's Fort Menlo, New Jersey Complex, Sarah Jordan's Boarding House, and Edison's Fort Myers, Florida Laboratory.

The locals didn't think much of Thomas Edison and his new ideas.

Thomas Edison believed the best inventions came from people working together. (What's so terrible about that?) As soon as I saw that about best inventions and also read he provided an organ on the second floor of his Menlo Park Laboratory, I thought about his laboratory as a precursor to Google as a great place to work. He supplied his scientists and chemists with all the chemicals they would need to do their experiments and work. His team of workers had traditional craft skills and new scientific knowledge. This laboratory was home to the first electric light bulb, the first phonograph and many other inventions.

Below is the machine shop portion of the Menlo Park Complex...

Machine shop, Menlo Park Complex
Vertical steam engine
Interior of machine shop
Next we toured through the Menlo Park Laboratory building, heart of Edison's complex. In many buildings docents were on hand to tell us about what we saw. Very knowledgeable, all of them. They told stories, answered questions, and carried on conversations with the people coming through. Kudos to The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village for hiring and training people with a passion for their work!

Docent on left telling us about the laboratory
Fascinating to me were the furnaces on the first floor of the laboratory. Workers heated strips of bamboo, wood and other materials in airtight graphite boxes. The strips did not burn, but were transformed into thin carbon strands that were tested for use as light bulb filaments.
Furnaces to make filaments
On the second floor of the laboratory is where Edison's most famous experiments took place. Edison had the best scientific equipment available at the time.

Menlo Park second floor lab
When Henry Ford was furnishing this laboratory, he had a copy of all the original chemicals ordered for the laboratory. He ordered them all for the museum. You will see in the photo below that many bottles are empty. They used to be full of things like arsenic, asbestos, and other chemicals OSHA deemed harmful. All those had to be disposed of according to the laws about hazardous chemicals.

Lab chemicals
The organ for benefit of chemists and scientists
Where the work was done
The reason there is a photo of a lone chair below is that Thomas Edison sat in it when Greenfield Village was dedicated. Henry Ford did not want the chair to be moved from that spot so it was bolted to the floor. A number of years later the floor needed to be replaced. You can see where a square was cut around the chair. All the flooring around it was replaced, but there is still original flooring under the chair! More fascinating info from a docent on the second floor.

Once outside in the Menlo Park Complex, we wandered over to a small building which was closed for renovations. We were able to look in the windows and saw glass instruments needed for chemical experiments. They were made in this glass shed.

Menlo Park Glass Shed, built 1876 in Menlo Park, New Jersey
Glass beakers for chemical experiments
Glass tubes for chemical experiments
Then we saw the Ft. Myers, Florida laboratory where Ford and Edison worked together on alternate sources of rubber. Their families had winter cottages near each other.

Ft. Myers Laboratory, erected in 1885 in Fort Myers, Florida
Are you still with me? There's a lot to see and learn. I'm making it as brief as I can. A quick tour of...

The Luther Burbank house
Hermitage Slave Quarters, built about
1820 near Savannah, Georgia
Martha-Mary Chapel on the Village Green
Lunch was in the Eagle Tavern, a 19th century stagecoach stop serving meals inspired by 1850s recipes. (Hint for fellow travelers: This is the only sit-down-service restaurant in Greenfield Village at this time of year. It took a looooong time to get our food. People came and went while we waited for our main dishes. Apparently it was waitress error, but we missed good sightseeing time sitting here waiting for our food. Next time we would opt for a cafeteria-style restaurant.) The food was awesome once it arrived. What you see in the photo below is what you get while you're waiting for your main dish: assortment of rolls and muffins with butter and apricot jam, cinnamon applesauce, and black-eyed peas. We also ordered a pitcher of sarsaparilla. Seating in the restaurant is family style at long tables so you will most likely share a table with others.

Eagle Tavern family-style seating
Next we went on the 1913 Herschell-Spillman Carousel with Wurlitzer organ, the only carousel featuring frogs (in human clothing) no less. This Carousel reminded me of the one at Knott's Berry Farm 55 years ago.
Here we are on the Carousel
Decorative panel on the carousel
We were second in line to enter. I told Bob I wanted to ride the cat unless some little girl really wanted to ride it. Sure enough, the little girl in front of us raced to the cat. Very sweet. We rode horses.

Cat on the carousel
Railroad Junction:

Bob had been very patient waiting to go to Railroad Junction. That was our next stop. There is a working roundhouse here rebuilt with some of the original materials from the Detroit, Toledo, & Milwaukee (DTM) Roundhouse formerly in Marshall, Michigan.

Railroad Junction, Greenfield Village
The Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukie Roundhouse
The circular track in front of the roundhouse is so perfectly balanced that almost anyone can move a multiple-ton locomotive.

Demonstration of how easy this track is to move.
This big diagram on the wall shows the inner workings of a steam locomotive.

Engine from Detroit & Lima Northern Railway
American Locomotive Works (Schenectady, NY) steam engine
used by Michigan Central Atlantic, 4-4-2 8085
Bob admiring how huge the steam engine is
We have almost finished our day at Greenfield Village.

Liberty Craftworks:

Here we learned about glass-blowing, sawmills, a gristmill, weaving shop, pottery shop, carding mill, and a printing office and tin shop.

Gorgeous bowl in glass-blowing area.
Craftsman in tin shop making a duck cookie cutter. He is getting ready to solder the tin together.
Ready to solder
Working grist mill

Sock-making machine
Socks on forms

More advanced loom
The punched cards below belong to a newer loom that reads the cards (much like a player piano reads music) and creates woven products.

Punch cards for a loom
Products created by the punch-card loom
Hand-painted pottery artist
Decorated pumpkins were everywhere. This one says "Ford." LOL
We finished the day by seeing all that we could. I'd venture to guess it takes 1-1/2 to two days to absorb everything there is to see at Greenfield Village. Areas of the park we did not see included Porches & Parlors and Walnut Grove.

Halloween is a big deal in Michigan. Greenfield Village celebrates it every weekend night in October. You can see Halloween decorations in some of today's photos.

At the entrance to Greenfield Village. It wasn't there this morning!
Since the Halloween celebration at our campground last night, the place cleared out while we were gone today. We wondered if we were at the right park!

Our site, #232
We have a lake view now that our neighbor moved.
Very empty campground when we returned today.
Tomorrow we go back to use our tickets for The Henry Ford Museum. If you go to Michigan, you MUST see Greenfield Village and The Henry Ford Museum. You must!

Travel Bug out.


  1. Good tour! We lived near there for a number of years in two different stints and have been there four or five times. Looks just like I remember it:)

  2. Great tour, moved to the top of our list.

  3. You convinced me, added it to the list! Wayne will love this place.


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