washingtonpost.com  > Travel > Travel Index > United States > Michigan
Correction to This Article
A Nov. 28 Travel article incorrectly said that the Ford Rouge Factory in Dearborn, Mich., is the only automotive plant in the United States open for tours. Other such tours include those at the Corvette and Toyota factories in Kentucky and the BMW plant near Greenville, S.C. Also, the article incorrectly said that Rosa Parks was a cleaning woman at the time of her historic arrest for refusing to relinquish her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Ala. She was a seamstress.
Page 3 of 4  < Back     Next >

In Michigan, a Tour de Ford

Distressed that the line sometimes slowed as his factory awaited parts, Ford decided to make everything needed to construct a car, including steel, glass and paint. More than 100 raw materials from around the world were shipped into one end of the Ford Rouge plant. Completed cars moved out the other end.

The movie doesn't gloss over Ford's bitter opposition to unions and even shows his hired goons beating up union organizers. But what comes through strongest is Ford's genius, and his impact on a new century.

The Ford Rouge Factory Tour includes a 360-degree multiscreen theater. (The Henry Ford)

The new plant is, oddly enough, a state-of-the-art experiment in industrial environmentalism. The factory grounds are planted with more than 100,000 flowers, trees and shrubs, and vines will eventually cover the factory walls. The roof is also covered with plants and has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest living roof. Cisterns capture rainwater for use in the factory, and in the shop, hydrogen from paint fumes is captured and made into electricity.

From a deck above the factory floor, you watch workers and robots do their jobs. Miles of conveyor belts that look like roller coasters shoot up and down the interior. As they have since the 1920s, parts move to the workers. But now, the parts move not just horizonally down the line, but up and down, so that workers don't need to bend.

Greenfield Village

It takes most of another day to explore Greenfield Village, which holds 83 historic buildings. Although Colonial Williamsburg is better known to East Coasters, Greenfield Village gets about twice as many visitors annually.

Buildings moved from original locations include the Springfield, Ill., courthouse where Lincoln practiced law; the Ohio home and bicycle shop where the Wright brothers tinkered with the idea of human flight; and the Ohio boyhood home of William H. McGuffey, author of McGuffey's Readers.

It's clear during a walk through the village that Ford admired Edison, who routinely came pretty close to his goal of creating one major invention every six months, and a minor one every 10 days. Edison's lab in Fort Myers, Fla., was moved here, as was his glassmaking shed, his home and the 1870 boarding house where his assistants lived when working at his lab in Menlo Park, N.J. Unable to buy Edison's Menlo Park lab, office, library and machine shop, Ford in the early 1900s arranged to have exact replicas built on the Greenfield Village grounds.

As part of the recent renovation, buildings within the village were moved to create seven themed areas. For example, buildings that house artisans are centered on an old mill, so you can meander down one street and watch demonstrations by weavers, jewelers, blacksmiths and potters. Main Street includes all the elements of a town: houses, school, church, working restaurants, tavern, shops, post office, doctor's office and a carousel.

My visit coincided with the World Series baseball tournament on village grounds -- the world series for baseball played in the uniforms and by the rules used in 1867, that is. Other annual events include a parade of cars from 1932 and earlier each fall, and from 1933 to 1977 each summer.

Next month the village will be decked out for Christmas. On weekends, it will stay open until 10 p.m., lighted by candles, kerosene lanterns, bonfires and warming barrels. Carolers, bands and people dressed in period costume will stroll the village, and at 9:45 p.m., in an old American custom now lost, fireworks will light the sky. Ice skates are lent to anyone who wishes to skate the village pond after shopping for handcrafted presents or attending a performance of "The Christmas Carol."

< Back  1 2 3 4    Next >

© 2004 The Washington Post Company


Adventure Travel

  •  Airfare

  •  Bed and Breakfasts and Inns

  •  Caribbean

  •  Conferences & Events

  •  Cruises

  •  Golf Vacations

  •  Historic & Educational

  •  International

  •  Maryland Travel Ideas

  •  Pennsylvania Travel Ideas

  •  Rental Cars

  •  Resorts, Hotels & Spas

  •  Virginia Travel Ideas

  •  Weekend Getaways

  •  West Virginia Travel Ideas