Being museum professionals, when my husband and I went on our honeymoon in September 2000, of course we stopped at a museum along the way! On our way to Mackinac Island from New York, Dearborn seemed like a good stopping point. And it just so happens one of the best “Americana” museums in the WORLD is located there!
On our first trip, we only had time to visit Greenfield Village. Like an oasis among the automobile factories that surround it, Greenfield Village is truly a slice of history. Although it is a bit jarring to have so many important historic buildings from all over the country – and throughout time – located in one “village,” it was fabulous to walk into each structure and appreciate the important events that occurred within their walls.
Henry Ford was fascinated with the American story, and set out to acquire as many significant historic buildings as possible for his village. You can visit the Wright Brothers bicycle shop, the home where Heinz ketchup was “born,” and Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory. There are even slave quarters, originally built in the 1820s in Savannah, Georgia – a rare exhibit indeed. In total, there are 103 sites outlined on the tour map!
If you’ve ever been to a place like Sturbridge Village, where it is perpetually the same time period, Greenfield Village is like walking through a time warp. It is nice to have so many historic milestones commemorated in a “one-stop shop,” but no doubt the character of the homes has been altered when they were transported from their original foundations.
Again, being museum professionals, my husband and I HAD to return to Dearborn to see the Henry Ford Museum, so we stopped there for our third anniversary.
We saw the chair Lincoln sat in on that fateful night at Ford’s Theater, the “Rosa Parks” bus, and several presidential limousines, including the one Kennedy was sitting in when he was fatally shot in Dallas. (Did you know that car was actually retrofitted and used for several more Presidents before it was replaced? We certainly didn’t, until we went to the Henry Ford Museum!)
A unique attraction is the Dymaxion House, the only surviving prototype of its kind in the world. The restoration of the building was complete in October 2001. Daily guided tours allow visitors to experience yesterday’s “house of the future.”
There are plenty of other neat things to see, including a genuine roadside diner, the “Automobile in American Life,” and a special 20th century exhibition that will bring back fond memories for multiple generations – even Twentysomethings!
The Museum’s collection contains exquisite examples of furniture, clocks, jewelry, silver, “home arts,” and much more.
The Museum has a new IMAX theater, which was playing a fabulous Lewis & Clark movie when we were there two years ago. And you don’t have to leave to find lunch – you can eat at the Michigan Café, or get a hotdog at the Weinermobile!
The Henry Ford, as they prefer to be called these days, is certainly worth a visit. But be sure you have two days to spend looking at the exhibits – you won’t want to miss a thing!