I love finding a historical site that is tucked away, almost completely hidden from the busy world around it. I suppose it isn’t great public history when a site isn’t noticeable, but it feels like a hidden treasure when you do stumble upon it. One such site is the Henry Ford Birthplace Park on the corner of Greenfield and Ford Road in Dearborn. The park marks the place where Henry Ford grew up on his family’s farm. The farmhouse itself was moved to Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford in 1944 where it is visited by thousands of visitors each year, but the birthplace park is much quieter. It is on the property of the Henry Ford Village Senior Living Community and is enjoyed by the residents there, but it doesn’t get many other visitors (although I did once see a wedding party taking pictures there). Possibly because it is not well known, but also because it is hidden behind a high brick wall in front of a senior living complex on a very busy intersection. You could drive by the site every day and not even realize it exists. People should stop by, however, because it is a lovely park and includes a number of plaques telling the story of Henry Ford and his many innovations. The plaques are arranged in a circle around a large fountain and are interspersed with benches. The park also has a number of flowerbeds that are in full bloom this time of year, and even has a short path through a beautiful flower garden. It is surprisingly quiet and peaceful in the park, thanks to the large brick wall (clearly, both a blessing and a curse) blocking off the noise of the the intersection outside. My favorite feature is a gazebo (recently redone by a local boy scout) with a rather unique weathervane – take a look in the pictures below!
To get to the Henry Ford Birthplace, it’s best to come up Greenfield from the south (turn in at the sign for Henry Ford Village, right before the light at Ford) or from the west on Ford (take the exit ramp off Ford for Greenfield, then drive past the intersection and turn into Henry Ford Village right before the ramp merges back with Ford). Read the plaques, take a seat and enjoy the fountain or walk around the flower garden for a bit. And think about how different that spot would have looked in 1863 when Henry Ford was born. No strip malls, no restaurants, no subdivisions – and obviously, no cars. Just an ordinary old farmhouse and a boy who would grow up to be anything but ordinary.