Amish Acres

Amish Acres® Historic Farm and Heritage Resort is Listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is America's most complete Amish heritage experience featuring historic interpretation, culinary and performing arts, lodging, and shopping.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What would Henry think?

We revisited Henry Ford's Greenfield Village last week for the first time in several decades. It is one of the marvels of the man acknowledged as the most important industrialist of the 20th century. With a little jealously and envy Henry watched John D. Rockefeller rescue Williamsburg, Virginia, from the scrap pile of American history and create the unprecedented Colonial Williamsburg, the most ambitious historic preservation and restoration effort in America.

Ford answered by creating Greenfield Village within sight of Ford Motor Company. Rather than a restoration it was a repository of buildings representing 19th century American life and progress as he saw it. A close personal friend and admirer of Thomas Edison, Ford moved the entire Menlo park laboratories from New Jersey to Dearborn, Michigan. The Wright brothers bicycle shop sits next to their family house. Noah Webster and Robert Frost's houses sit on Maple Lane.

Six years ago the board of directors realized that the purity of the historical record could not be sustained and commercial concessions needed to be made to meet coming generation's expectations. So the village was shut down for nine months, $120,000,000 were invested in relocating buildings, upgrading infrastructure, paving the gravel lanes, paths, and streets. The "improvements" permitted the addition of Model T rides, a modern food court added to the historical tavern, and a crafts village producing pottery, glass, tinware, and weaving by artisans whose products are now sold through new shops and online. The new map of the village looks more similar to the Magic Kingdom than to a historical map in black ink from a quill on parchment. Visitors seem to like the changes, the attendance slippage has been reversed. The village is vibrant. I think Henry would be happy, and maybe a little sad.

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