Every home has unique needs that must be tended to and the home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford is, and was, no exception.
Hundreds of employees worked on the estate during the family’s residency, from when the Fords moved into the home in 1928, until Eleanor Ford’s passing in 1976.
Now the lives and labors of that staff are being explored in a new exhibition, “Making It Work,” opening June 1, in the Gaukler Pointe Gallery inside the Visitor Center at Ford House.
The previous exhibition, “Driven by Design,” has been reinstalled in the now-open historic Garage at the Gate Lodge and includes two additional vehicles: a 1934 Brewster Town Car and a 1952 Lincoln Town Car Limousine, which was custom engineered to allow Eleanor Ford to enter without stooping.
“Making It Work” invites visitors to meet and learn about several staff members who had a significant impact on the family and the estate.
“Some worked here for decades and lived on the estate,” Ford House Director of Communications & Engagement Tommy Karr said.
“The head of security was here until the 1970s, with more than 50 years of service,” Ford House Director of Material Culture Lisa E. Worley added.
Interviews with staff members were recorded in years past and those, combined with artifacts, news clippings, photos and more, were curated to present a unified story of the staff experience. Seven former employees, including a butler, chauffeur and housekeeper, will have their stories shared through oral histories in the exhibit’s video presentation.
“This is the rare chance to look behind the family, to see and understand the efforts that went into supporting a huge country house estate like this,” Karr said.
“Making It Work” will be on exhibit for two years and is free to all guests. Visitors can go more in-depth with the staff by taking the 55-minute “Making It Work” tour, in which guests travel to the main residence to explore the dedicated staff spaces of the home. Additionally, Worley will give a talk Thursday, June 8, discussing the staff and what it took to run the estate and support the Ford family.
Tickets to the “Making It Work” tour and “Making It Work” lecture may be purchased online at fordhouse.org/events or by calling (313) 884-4222.