The Ford House

Edsel & Eleanor Ford House tells the story of the home life of a prominent American family.

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Ford House receives award for COVID-19 response, & Employee honored as 'Colleague Champion'
Posted: October 28, 2020


Ford House is honored to receive an award for service to our community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, presented by Michigan Museums Association (MMA).

Michigan Museums Association (MMA) presents annual awards to members with exceptional programs, exhibits and individuals who made an impact during the year. This year, MMA pivoted to recognize members for their efforts responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ford House took action, donating supplies, offering moral support, dinners, and encouraging bouquets to healthcare workers. Leadership took decisive actions for the protection of visitors and staff. In support of the wider community, our teams reimagined programs and events to engage the public while keeping them safe. Most recently, Ford House is helping young learners and their families, granting free grounds passes to kids 12 and under through Nov. 30, 2020, and giving them free educational activity kits through Nov. 15, thanks to the generosity of the Ford Motor Co. Fund. 

At Ford House, we do these things because supporting Detroit, families, staff, and frontline healthcare workers during a crisis is part of the legacy of Eleanor and Edsel Ford.

The Beginning
On March 11, 2020, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency. While there were many unknowns, our leadership team sprang to action with a clear focus: The priority was protecting visitors and staff, right away. The gates of the estate closed to visitors immediately, and staff were sent home within two days.

Donations & Support of Healthcare Workers
By March 13, hospitals were running out of vital supplies. While our staff was packing up to begin working home, our Collections and Communications teams dug into Ford House’s stock of items used for preservation of Edsel and Eleanor’s historic home. They gathered N95 masks, nitrile gloves, protective aprons and other cleaning supplies, and donated them to our local hospitals in Detroit.

Two weeks later, as the gravity of the pandemic grew, we hung ribbons and signs outside our closed institution, expressing our gratitude for healthcare workers. As we shifted our priority to support these heroes during the crisis, we hoped to inspire drivers passing by to do the same.

Hospitals were still overwhelmed in April. In a combined effort of our Facilities and Maintenance, Landscape, Communications, Security, and Development teams, over a thousand tulips from our gardens were cut and arranged in vases. These offerings of hope and support were distributed to essential workers in our health care community.

In September, we sent gourmet dinners, received as part of our sponsorship of a local chamber of commerce fundraiser, to essential workers nominated by our healthcare partners. These healthcare workers at Henry Ford Hospital and Ascension Hospital went above and beyond to take care of others during the pandemic.

Protecting Staff & Visitors
After closing to visitors and staff in March, Ford House leadership diligently monitored the developing crisis, instructing employees to stay home and safe. During that time, we formed a committee who formulated a thorough and thoughtful plan for bringing staff and visitors back to the estate when it was safe to do so.

Most staff were required to work remotely until June, when they could return to the office on an as-needed basis only. A detailed handbook was created for staff, describing rigorous cleaning procedures for workspaces, rules for wearing face masks, and procedures for estate entry and contact tracing. These policies remain in effect today, as we continue to keep health and safety first. Working from home is still encouraged, and staff are asked to only report to the estate when necessary.

In June and July, we welcomed back our friends and visitors in a two-stage reopening of the estate. We were happy to be able to serve the community as a safe and peaceful place to unwind and enjoy nature, historic architecture and lakeviews. To protect and reassure our visitors, we implemented thoughtful precautions for all who enter the estate: conservatively limited capacities, timed entry tickets purchased in advance, outdoors-only, social distancing, and face mask rules. We have kept our historical buildings closed to the public, and there are no house tours. In the meantime, we have shifted to offer great outdoor tours, programming and events with ample space for social distancing on our 87 acres of scenic grounds and gardens.

Events & Programs for Education, Enjoyment
As the pandemic swept away Americans’ plans for the year, our Education team got to work, reimagining programs, workshops and tours. New educational offerings launched within 6 weeks of Michigan’s stay-at-home order, providing people with something to look forward to: opportunities for learning, recreation and socializing. Our team created worksheets for children to explore and learn about nature in their own backyards. A new mobile app was launched, featuring a virtual look inside the historic home, and around the grounds. Book club, gardening workshops, storytime, lectures, stargazing talks and more were presented live on the Zoom platform.

When Ford House reopened the gates, our staff carefully added events and programs that could be safely held in-person on the estate, while continuing to offer a docket of virtual offerings. Visitors were thrilled to get out of their houses, return to the property, and enjoy yoga, walking tours and fitness classes. We also added some special nights of live music on the estate, a family day called Chalk the Walk, and a Drive-Thru Halloween event. Our partners at the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology welcomed car enthusiasts to Ford House for a “Sunday Drive” photo opp, a creative spin-off in place of the annual EyesOn Design car show.

Supporting Schoolchildren & Families
In serving our community, we launched an initiative in October to support young learners and their families during this challenging school semester. With the generosity of the Ford Motor Co. Fund, we are offering free grounds passes for kids 12 and under, as well as free educational activity kits for exploring the estate. With field trips off the table, these kits give children and families a chance to create their own day of hands-on learning fun at Ford House. Our Education team tailored activities for children in age groups 0-3, 4-8 and 9-12 to learn about nature. The positive response from families has been overwhelming. Free kids' admission will continue through Nov. 30, and educational kits will be available through Nov. 15.

Stay safe and be well.


Felicia Konrad-Bevard, one of our Museum Technicians on our Collections & Archives team, has been individually honored with an MMA award. This award recognizes her excellent work in supporting our reopening plan earlier this year and bringing staff back onsite. This was especially integral because our staff offices are inside our historical buildings: She went above and beyond in researching COVID-19 safety procedures, keeping in mind the unique needs of caring for our historical collections while protecting the health and wellbeing of our employees.

Felicia joined the Ford House team in September 2018. We are proud to have her on our staff. She works to help preserve, protect and maintain the historic home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford, exercising expertise in handling priceless and delicate artifacts, caring for historic surfaces and textiles, and presenting her knowledge in Ford House’s educational programming. Her career in museums has included work at Greenfield Village, the David Owsley Museum of Art, and the Wood County Historical Center and Museum. She holds a degree in history and anthropology from Heidelberg University, and is currently working on a masters degree in Anthropology through Ball State University.

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