Last Saturday evening, Dave and I drove out to Grosse Point Shores for a candlelight stroll at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House. We had our “tour” scheduled for 5:30pm. I say “tour” because it is a self-guided stroll through the house. There are docents in most rooms, some had a spiel, while other didn’t say anything unless you asked a question.
The house sits right on Lake St. Clair. It was designed by Albert Kahn and it was built in 1926 (it took 3 years to complete, including landscaping and interior design). Edsel Ford was the only son of Henry Ford. Edsel and Eleanor had four children: Henry Ford II, Benson Ford, Josephine Clay Ford, and William Clay Ford.
We went from the main hall to the gallery. At 1500 square feet, the gallery is larger than our entire house! The ceiling was carved plaster and the walls were covered in antique wooden paneling from an estate in England. Everything in the house, except for a few pieces of art, is original. Many of the famous artworks are reproductions as the originals can be seen at the Detroit Institute of Arts. From the gallery, we back tracked through the drawing room and the library. From there we went to the morning room and the dining room. We saw a sliver of the butler’s pantry and kitchen. I wish we had gotten a better view as well as the other areas of the house that were dominated by the servants, but many of these rooms have been converted to administrative offices.
Two of our favorite rooms on the main floor were the modern room and Edsel’s study. Like many of the rooms, Edsel’s study is covered with dark carved wooden paneling and is dominated by a huge stone fireplace, also imported form a manor house in England. What was cool about this room were the two hidden doors, one led to his darkroom (he was an avid photographer) and the other led to his private bathroom, which included a staircase that let to a tunnel to the garage. The modern room was designed by legendary industrial designer, Walter Dorwin Teague and its Art Deco lines and contemporary look sharply contrast the rest of the main floor.
We headed to the second floor to see the master bedroom, Josephine’s bedroom (now a guestroom), the children’s sitting room, and the boys’ bedrooms. Our favorite rooms were the boys’ bedrooms and the en suite bathroom of Henry’s bedroom. All three rooms were also designed by Walter Dorwin Teague and despite having been remodeled in the 30’s, they looked very modern. The bathroom was particularly interesting with the unusual materials and methods used for the floor and walls.
There were several lighted and decorated Christmas trees throughout the house and two groups of live musicians performed carols. Despite the name, there was no candlelight as prolonged exposure would do damage to the house and its fine antiques.
We finished our stroll in about an hour, but we had made our dinner reservations at the Cotswold Cafe for 7:00pm. We tried getting seated early, but despite many tables being empty, the hostess would not seat us because our assigned table was still occupied. So we wondered the gift shop and visitors center for a half hour before returning for our meal. Our table was still occupied and there were still many tables empty, and the hostess got very flustered and had to get her boss, the chef, to find out what to do with us! We were finally seated, where we waited a good 10 minutes before our waitress arrived. I ordered a cheeseburger and Dave had the chicken pot pie. The food was good, but the service was TERRIBLE. Our waitress was super slow and terribly inefficient. So while I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to the Ford House, I’m not sure I could recommend eating at the restaurant.
If you’re interested in visiting the Ford House this holiday season, they still have Candlelight Strolls this weekend as well as daily holiday tours through the end of the year. Visit their website for more information.