Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Greenfield Village 2021: The Springtime Visits

My first time ever going to Greenfield Village was in the early 1970s.  I believe it was in 1973.
Other  '70s visits were spotty at best,  but on our first date in November of 1982,  my future wife and I spoke of going the Village the following year,  which we did.  From that point forward - for the rest of the  '80s,  then into the  '90s,  and,  of course,  here in the 21st century up through today - we continue our visits.  Memories of springtime involved watching the farmers plowing,  harrowing,  and sowing.  My kids think of it as the  "old neighborhood,"  for due to being there so often,  they have the same type of memories as those who lived over a hundred years ago.
And this year more memories continue to be made... 
So,  as you can see,  Greenfield Village has played a very important role in my family and our lives.
It still does,  for I still visit often;  I never cease to get tired of that wonderful feeling of immersion being surrounded by all of that history.  
So I thought I would post a few of my favorite pictures taken during my multiple visits from this past Springtime 2021.  
And there are bits of historical information added to boot.
It's not difficult to locate The Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village.
No,  Dorothy,  you're not in Philadelphia...but this is a sign for fans of history
that they've come to a special place.
Yes,  Henry Ford replicated Independence Hall exactly,  even using the same brickmaker and included any mistakes that may have occurred in the original - - and there were a few mistakes,  such as the windows in the tower being slightly off center
by a couple inches. 
He spared no expense.

So then,  let's begin at the beginning - - Ford's beginning:  the last historic building Henry Ford had personally moved to Greenfield Village before his death was the first one he preserved:  his family homestead.  It was in this house,  on July 30,  1863,  in which Henry Ford,  the first of William and Mary's six children,  was born.

He showed more of an interest in machinery than agriculture and left the farm at age
16 to pursue his fortunes as a machinist in Detroit.

In 1919,  highway officials decided to extend Greenfield Road south through the Ford farm.  Unfortunately, the homestead was directly in the proposed road's path.  The family's decision to move the house and the outbuildings prompted Ford's first restoration project.
I have not read why Ford hadn't moved the home to Greenfield Village before 1944,  but,  evidently,  the restored farmhouse's chances of survival in a developing area and the need for 24 hour security protection from vandals worried him.
However,  available space inside the Village did not permit the transferring of all of the barns and sheds.  But,  once put in place as best as could be done,  the completed restored homestead,  with the white picket fence and outbuildings,  were arranged in their original positions.
That being said,  the ladies who work inside the Ford home bring the house to life by not only cooking on the wood stove,  but in doing Victorian crafts such as punch pin rug making.  By the way,  they also throw quite the 4th of July bash,  as if it were 1876.
Stay tuned for that!

Ford created a business district along a Main Street inside the Village.
Included were a replication of his first factory,  as well as original city buildings
 including the Cohen Millinery Shop from Detroit. 

Straight outta Detroit~
With the classic architecture of the mid-to-late 19th century,  this building had been through a number of businesses before Mr. Ford became its owner.

This millinery shop,  originally located at 444 Baker Street in Detroit,  represents the new wave of specialized stores in the larger cities in the late 19th century.  It was here that Mrs.  Elizabeth Cohen made her living decorating women's hats from 1892 to 1903,  catering to mainly the middle class genre.

From Dayton,  Ohio we have the Wright Cycle Shop.
From 1899 until 1909,  the building served as the Wright Brothers'  first experimental laboratory and design studio,  dedicated to creating that first flying machine. 
Charles Webbert was the owner of the building and leased it to the brothers.
Henry Ford purchased the building from Webbert in 1936 with the understanding that it would be dismantled and moved to Dearborn,  where it would be reconstructed in Greenfield Village.  For reasons unknown,  the Webbert sign at the top was never added to the Wright Cycle Shop when it was restored inside the Village in 1937. 

In 2018,  research work began,  and the focus was on recreating the sign to more accurately represent the building’s appearance in 1903.
The sign was built in sections,  with each decorative element individually hand-crafted,  just as it would have been in 1897.   And now,  over 100 years later,  the Wright Cycle Shop is now complete once again,  and looks exactly as it did when the Wright Brothers were there,  inventing the first airplane in 1903.

When people ask me what my favorite restaurant is,  I never hesitate in saying 
"The Eagle Tavern."
The Eagle Tavern,  built around 1831,  serves up a real  "taste of history"  in the truest sense.  In all honesty,  the whole concept of serving historical food is worthy of praise and patronage,  for what is being served on our plates is every bit as important as the presentations I hear inside the historic homes.

The dining area:  whether daytime or during one of their rare
evening suppers,  the Eagle Tavern is always lit by candlelight.
No artificial light allowed!
Ambience is just as important as the food served.

Nature shines as one strolls through the Village during springtime.  In front of the 1822 Noah Webster Home,  where the American lexicographer,  textbook pioneer,  English-language spelling reformer,  political writer,  editor,  and author completed his first American dictionary in 1828,  we see an... 
...apple or cherry blossom tree in full spring bloom.

The Plympton Home
This structure played a role in the wee early morning hours of  April 19,  1775,  when
the brother of Samuel Prescott,  who rode with Paul Revere the night before, 
came here to notify Thomas Plympton that the Regular Army  ("the British")  were
on the march to Concord,  and he was to let the local militia know. 

The weeping willow over the Ackley pond near the Burbank House from 1800.
There are many legends and myths about weeping willows:
Some believed the wind in the willow leaves were elves who whispered and talked among themselves as people were passing underneath.  Some willows were planted near homes to ward off bad luck.  It is also said that if you confess your secrets to a willow tree,  the secret will be forever trapped inside the wood.  Native Americans tied willow branches to their boats to protect them from storms and to their lodges for the protection of the Great Spirit.
From ancient times,  weeping willows have also been associated with death and mourning.  The willow motif is sometimes seen on gravestones,  especially those made during the Victorian period in America.  Sometimes mourners wore a willow sprig to signify their loss.  The willows were sometimes planted in cemeteries and were featured in art devoted to themes of death and mourning.
Of course,  the wonderful old country tune,  Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow Tree,  dating back well over a hundred years,  remains popular to this day for traditional folk music lovers.  The song's lyrics relate that the singer's lover has left him or her  (in some descriptions just prior to their wedding).  The singer asks that he/she be buried beneath the willow tree,  in the hopes that his/her lover will still think of him/her.

The Ackley Covered Bridge was originally built near West Finley,  Pennsylvania
near the border of West Virginia in 1832.
It's been spanning the Ackley Pond in Greenfield Village since 1938.
From a letter to Henry Ford penned by William Plants in 1938,  the same year the bridge had been re-installed inside Greenfield Village:
"One thing that might be of interest to you in connection to the bridge,  in about the year 1879,  when a lot of people in the hills of West Virginia - not far from this bridge,  were very poor and not much schooling - there was a young man by the name of George Meris who made  "lasses"  (molasses)  from sorghum cane,  he fell in love and went a-sparkin'  a young girl.  He finally popped the question and wanted to get married.  She said she had no dress except the old faded calico one she had on.  He had  .50 cents.  They went to the little store and got calico enough for  .35 cents to make a dress.  And,  dressed up in that they went up to the creek to this bridge,  and so happened that the  'Circuit ridin'  parson'  came along.  And they got married on this same Ackley Bridge you have.  And he gave the preacher the  .15 cents he had left of the 50 for his fee.  THIS IS THE TRUTH."
Every single time I cross this bridge that story comes to my mind.
Every single time.

It is a short walk from the entry gate to the road that takes you to Firestone Farm.  It is along this road that the visitor gets their first taste of the immersion experience that this 19th century farm emits,  for you may see the farmers already toiling in the field or,  as this photo shows,  horses and cart headed your way.
I do not believe there is a better Victorian farming presentation and experience anywhere else in the U.S.,  at least,  not that I've seen or heard of,  than right here at Firestone Farm.  Firestone Farm,  restored to about the mid-1880s,  is a real working farm,  and the interpreters who work there are actually farmers,  for they do all the work that a farm family would have done a hundred and forty years ago.
Here we see Firestone Farm,  originally built in Columbiana,  Ohio in 1828.  The Firestone Farm,  as it stands now in Greenfield Village,  is a living history re-creation of life on a farm of the 1880's in eastern Ohio,  and has been restored to look as it did in 1882,  when Harvey's parents remodeled the house to give it a more modern look. 
Those are heirloom apple trees on the right.  

I remember when they first planted this apple orchard back in the 1980s,  and hearing them explaining to me that the apple trees were of heirloom varieties,  something I had not heard of before.  And now they are planting the next generation of apple trees,  though still of the same heirloom varieties such as Maiden's Blush,  Roxbury Russet,  Belmont,  Rambo,  and Baldwin.

Being that Firestone Farm is a real working farm, the workers there can be found
working the land seasonally,  just as it was done in the 19th century.

The presenters,  however,  are not strictly presenters,  but,  rather, 
they are interpreters,  helping to keep the farm going as if it were
in the 1880s.

And it isn't a  "show"  for the public,  but actual work that needs to be done,  such as preparing the kitchen garden.  The ladies will use what is grown here to accent their meals cooked inside on the coal stove.

For many of us,  gardening is a hobby or even a passion.  And there are many people
 leading perfectly satisfying lives without ever having a garden.
But it hasn’t always been this way. 

Each family during these times long past,  for the most part,  needed a garden in order to live.  Now really think about that for a minute.  The garden was where you found the greater majority of your food,  of course,  but it also provided medicine,  fragrances,  dyes,  and aromatic herbs for the home.

As soon as the weather permitted,  a kitchen garden was planted with an acute sense 
of urgency.

So...as I stood in the side yard at Firestone and spoke with Nicole, 
with the sun shining down,  an idea for a photo popped into my head, 
and it turned out exactly as I had hoped.
It was hard,  I must say,  getting up from the ground  (lol).

As the horse and cart moved along the road,  Nicole ducked out of the way,  thinking she might be in the way of my picture.  I asked her to stay right where she was,  for she would actually complete the scene.  So glad she did for now every part of this picture is a perfect 1880s scene.

The pleasant little scene in the above photo isn't quite as pleasant as we'd think...for this is a manure wagon,  and the guys are going out to the fields to do some spreading!

Sheep shearing is another activity that the Village shows.
Heavy coats of fine wool made Merino sheep a popular breed among nineteenth-century wool producers. 
Every spring,  shearers carefully navigated blade shears to remove each sheep's thick fleece -- a process that could take several hours. 

And now,  here in the 21st century - more than a 140 years later - presenters demonstrate this labor-intensive blade-shearing process at Firestone Farm.

The Firestone Farm truly makes for an authentic living history immersion experience.  One can spend hours watching and speaking to the presenters.  It could very well be the most  "living"  part of the entire historic complex.

To leave you can take the same road that lead you to the farm. 

On the complete opposite side of Greenfield Village is another farm,  though this one is about 120 years earlier than Firestone.  However,  though the Daggett House area is presented as a farm,  it is interactive in a different manner than Firestone.
Now,  if you are a regular reader of Passion for the Past,  then you should already know that the Daggett House is my absolute favorite,  for due to all of the extra research I've done on this house,  as well as the original occupants  (Samuel & Anna Daggett and their family),  and 18th century farming practices and daily life routines,  I feel a kinship here.  So much so that I have partly  "Daggett-ized"  my own home!
It's early spring in the 1760s,  and the ladies of Daggett have gathered,  perhaps to plan what they may grow in this year's kitchen garden.

By mid-May much of the asparagus,  re-seeded from previous years,
   is ready to be picked!

Gigi shows us her yield.
You know that fresh-grown heirloom asparagus will certainly taste good!

Daggett House also has a kitchen garden,  and,  like the Firestones,  the interpreters
who work here will use the yield as part of their dinner or supper.
Yes,  they really do eat what they grow!

It seems the wooden hand rake has a few tines missing.
It's time to run out to Home Depot to get a new one!

Ahhh...not so in the 1760s!
Chuck,  here,  will make new tines to replace those that are broken.

Perfect fit!
Chuck has really found his niche there and has proven himself to be able to step into
the shoes of wood and house wright Samuel Daggett!

Meanwhile,  Jan is sewing buttons in the same way as was done in the 18th century.
In fact,  each Daggett House presenter,  including Jane & Roy  (not pictured) 
have found many niches in bringing this house to life.
At the bottom of today's posting will be a number of links for more Daggett information,  should you want to pursue further research into this amazing colonial house and family.

Greenfield Village past:
Here is a picture going back to May 8,  1988 from the Detroit Free Press.
Note the man in the middle of the first picture - my friend,  Mr.  Fred Priebe,  in the days he portrayed Samuel Daggett.  As Mr. Daggett,  he would give a speech in front of the Daggett House.  
Detroit Free Press
May 8,  1988
Here is a portion of the speech Fred,  as Daggett,  gave:
"You town folks and neighbors come gather by and give an ear to Sam Daggett.  Most of you know me,  by name or by sight,  a patient and God-fearing friend and neighbor.  Why,  I helped build some of your houses and barns...
I pray you listen to me now,  'cause there's a fire kindlin'  under me in this year of 17 and 87 that's roarin'  a storm within,  and I can't lay it by." 
It then goes into a historical oratory,  and includes thoughts on Shay's Rebellion and the Articles of the Confederation,  among other things,  which I found to be pretty fascinating.
This second photo shows the Daggett house as it appeared in the late 1980s.
Yes,  I remember being at Greenfield Village in those days...
Fred has since made his name portraying President Abraham Lincoln.  In doing so he has found himself on the cover of Time Magazine as well as on TV shows.  Not only has he presented as Lincoln throughout the midwest and east coast,  but he has also done so internationally,  in Australia, Canada, England and France.  While dressed as Lincoln he has even met President Gerald Ford!
And to think it all started as Samuel Daggett.

Speaking of Fred Priebe:
Here he is standing in front of the English Cotswold Cottage,  built in 1620.
His new wife,  Virginia,  had never been to Greenfield Village before,  aside from Holiday Nights during the Christmas season.  So we met up on a late spring day and had such a fine time indeed!

Greenfield Village Past:
When Henry Ford first acquired the Susquehanna House from Maryland, 
he believed it was built in the 1600s,  and up until the 1980s that's how
the house was presented.  It was in the  '80s,  through a series of
 circumstances,  that it was found out the house was actually from
around 1840 or shortly before.
Upon visiting the house in the early 1980s,  historians from Maryland became suspicious of claims that it dated from the late 1600s.  They told museum officials that there were only two buildings from before 1700 standing in Maryland -- one in Anne Arundel County and one on the Eastern Shore.
This alerted the staff at Greenfield Village that something was amiss.
Soon the staff realized there were major flaws in the story of Susquehanna.  After doing tree-ring dating on the beams of the house and doing archaeological work on the home's Maryland site,  it was determined the house wasn't so old.  It likely dates to the 1830s.  The Village staff knew they had to make changes. 
And because the historians of Greenfield Village,  with the help of historians from St. Mary's County in Maryland,  un-earthed the true  history of the Susquehanna House,  it is now presented more historically accurate,  and the year 1860 - just before the Civil War - was chosen.
I give the powers-that-be a lot of credit in their willingness to admit when a mistake had been made...and,  more importantly,  they corrected it.

The importance of the local gristmill to our ancestors cannot be overstated.  And Greenfield Village has the Loranger Gristmill from Monroe,  Michigan.  Though now mostly for show,  at one time this gristmill would grind grain into flour to be sold at the Village store.

And then there's the Giddings House.
Whereas the Daggett House shows rural 18th century living,  Giddings shows a
more upper class urban home from the same period in time.  

The log cabin birthplace of  William McGuffey,  author of the McGuffey Reader, 
the most popular school book of the 19th century.
The cabin was built by William's parents in 1789.

The cabin was not open for visitors last year due to rotted floor boards.
Well here we are - new floor boards and open to the public once again!

You are peering into the front entryway to the Menlo Park Laboratory of
Thomas Edison,  where such great inventions as the incandescent light
and phonograph were born. 
However,  this is a replication of the original building...  
It was unfortunate that the original site was nearly completely dismantled not too many years after Edison's move to West Orange,  New Jersey in 1887 by neighboring farmers.  Many of these local residents began using the quickly dilapidating building's boards to repair their own deteriorating barns and hen houses.  A severe storm blew what was left of the building over in 1913.
Luckily,  with Mr.  Edison's help,  many of the original boards were found,  including some that were in storage,  while others were regained through purchase of the sheds and other farm buildings mentioned above.
Edison himself supervised the reconstruction.
It is an exact replication...except,  according to Edison,  "It was never this clean!"

Earlier you saw our visit to the Eagle Tavern.  Well,  directly across the Village Green from the tavern we'll find the Logan County Courthouse:
One of my favorite things about visiting the Village is seeing all of the patriotism - the traditional red,  white,  and blue flags,  swags and buntings positioned on so many of the buildings - such as what we see here on the Logan County Courthouse.
When the 2012 movie about Abraham Lincoln  (“Lincoln”)  starring Daniel Day Lewis and Sally Field was released all those years ago,  what I read and heard about the making of it really made me stand up and take notice:  it had to do with the sound effects.  To help make this movie come alive,  the film makers actually used original period sounds to give it that note and tone of realism.  For instance,  the pocket watch Daniel Day-Lewis  (as Lincoln)  has is a prop.  But the ticking you hear coming from it is not.  That's because the sound man,  Ben Burtt,  recorded the faint tick tick tick  from one of the actual time pieces Abraham Lincoln owned.
But that's not all...
The ringing of the steeple bell from St. John's Episcopal Church,  of which our 16th President attended often,  is heard as well,  along with the sound of the church floor boards - the very same that Lincoln walked upon over 150 years ago - with the wearing of period shoes and walking across the floor,  all the while recording the sound being made.  Ben Burtt even went as far as to record what it sounded like when Lincoln sat down and stood up from his pew!  In the executive office of the White House,  there is a clock that's been there since the time of Andrew Jackson,  and the sound of that clock is used in many office scenes in the movie.  Other sound effects from the White House include door latches being latched as well as the opening & closing and the knocking upon those original doors - the very same that were there when Lincoln occupied the building.
But the capper may be having the opportunity to hear the squeaks from the springs of the original carriage that took the President and his wife to the Ford Theater on the evening of April 14,  1865. 
But guess what?  We are lucky enough to hear the same sounds that Lincoln heard as well,  for inside of Greenfield Village is the original courthouse where Mr.  Lincoln once practiced law in the 1840's. Henry Ford spared no expense restoring this structure:  even the original plaster was preserved,  having it reground with new plaster and included in the restoration.  And on a personal note,  during the Civil War Remembrance reenactment,  I have stepped upon the floorboards inside this building – the very same that Abraham Lincoln himself did – while in my period clothing,  including similar style shoes worn during Lincoln’s time,  also hearing  (and making)  the sounds of the past.
It's these little things like sound-effect details that bring history to life for me,  whether in a movie or while at a museum or even at reenactments.  
And this is why Greenfield Village is so magical;  this is why I visit often;  there are so many ways to experience the past there…through sight, sound, smell, touch, and even taste.

Until next time,  see you in time.


If your interest in the houses and history at Greenfield Village have been whetted,  please check out the following links:

In this posting we learn more about the Daggett House itself,  including its own history and how it came to be relocated to Greenfield Village,  a more in-depth tour and study room by room,  with virtual tour videos included as well from the presenters who work there,  and even information on the kitchen garden.  Sixty photos,  most of which you may not have seen before.

And HERE is a  "part 2"  of the above posted link,  with many more photos and much more information to help in bringing the Daggett Family to life in a way that has not been done before.

To learn how I turned a portion of my own home into a Daggett room,  please click HERE

What many visitors don't realize is that inside these hallowed walls of history  (Greenfield Village)  there are three specific homesteads which are situated near each other,  and the long past inhabitants of  each of these historic 18th century houses played a role to some varying degree in the Revolutionary War.
This is their collective story.

Ackley Covered Bridge 1832
At one time, covered bridges were commonplace. Not so much anymore. But Greenfield Village has one from 1832.

Doc Howard's Office - The World of a 19th century Doctor
It's 1850 and your sick. Who are you going to call on? Why, good ol' Doc Howard, of course!

Eagle Tavern
Learn about the Eagle Tavern and 19th century travel

Eagle Tavern: Eating Historically 
Taste history while being immersed in the 1850s
Firestone Farm at Greenfield Village
Learn about the boyhood home of Harvey Firestone, the tire magnate.

The Giddings House
Revolutionary War and possible George Washington ties are within the hallowed walls of this beautiful stately colonial home.

Through well-made historical movies centering on Abraham Lincoln,  the Court House that sits inside Greenfield Village becomes even more alive.
And just look at the latest additions!

Noah Webster House
A quick overview of the life of this fascinating Founding Father whose home, which was nearly razed for a parking lot, is now located in Greenfield Village.

The Plympton House
This house,  with its long history  (including American Indians)  has close ties to Paul Revere himself!

Preserving History
Henry Ford did more for preserving everyday life of the 18th and 19th centuries than anyone else! Here's proof.

Tales of Everyday Life in Menlo Park (or Francis Jehl: A Young Boy's Experience Working at Menlo Park)
Menlo Park is brought to life by one who was there. First-hand accounts.

Richart Carriage Shop
This building was much more than a carriage shop in the 19th century!

And for some haunted fun, 
Ghosts of Greenfield Village
Yep - real hauntings take place in this historic Village.

To learn more about the beginning of Greenfield Village,  please click HERE
To see the Four Seasons at Firestone Farm,  click HERE

 ~   ~