BACKSTORY: The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake". Michigan is the 9th most populous of the 50 United States, with the 11th most extensive total area. Its capital is Lansing, and the largest city is Detroit.
In February 1914, work began on what would be Henry Ford's final home. Between 500 and 800 masons, wood carvers, and artisans worked year round to complete the estate as quickly as possible. In keeping with the Ford’s love of nature, the residence was built with rough-hewn Ohio limestone to harmonize with the surrounding countryside. The grounds, designed by noted landscape architect Jens Jensen, were transformed from farmland into a natural, native landscape. Henry Ford enjoyed Fair Lane for over thirty years until his death in 1947. When Mrs. Ford died three years later, her grandchildren commissioned Parke-Bernet Galleries of New York to conduct an auction of the home’s furnishings.
In 1952, the Ford Motor Company purchased the estate from the heirs and, after renovating parts of the interior, established its corporate archives in the residence. Ford Archives stayed until 1957, when the company donated the residence, powerhouse, 210 acres, and $6.5 million to the University of Michigan for the creation of the Dearborn campus. In 1963 a local group, the “Women of Fair Lane,” persuaded university officials to allow tours of the home, which lasted for three years, when Ford Motor Company and the University of Michigan reacquired some of the rooms for administrative purposes. The Henry Ford Estate, including 72 of the original 1,300 acres, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. Public tours of the historic home were re-introduced in the 1970s. Since then, a limited staff, generous contributors, and approximately 250 volunteers successfully continue the process of rebuilding the estate and reviving its former splendor.