The lifelong philanthropists generously supported organizations that reflected their own passion for art, design, nature, and family life.
The Ford Family
Eleanor and Edsel Ford designed their estate at Gaukler Pointe to reflect their public roles as well as their private values – grand and gracious, a stately mansion inspired by cozy cottages. Here they kept their family safe and surrounded themselves with art and nature.
Both Eleanor and Edsel were raised in Detroit in families with similar interests and a strong sense of social responsibility.
Edsel B. Ford (1893—1943) was the only child of Clara and Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company. Eleanor Clay Lowthian (1896—1976) was born the same year Henry Ford motored around Detroit in his first experimental car. After Eleanor’s father died when she was 12 years old, she moved into the art-filled home of her uncle, Joseph L. Hudson, owner of Detroit’s premier department store.
Although the couple may have lived less simply than most Americans, they created a warm, loving family life that sustained them through the years.
Four children arrived in quick succession from 1917 to 1925, coming of age when their grandfather’s cars were changing the world more profoundly than anyone imagined. Henry II and Benson were born just two years apart in 1917 and 1919. The only girl, Josephine, nicknamed “Dody,” arrived four years later, and the baby of the family, William Clay, two years after that.
With their children, the Fords routinely spent weekends in the country, enjoyed birdwatching and boating, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe. Yet, they always returned here – to their family home on the shore of Lake St. Clair.
The Fords enjoyed a warm and affectionate family life, full of quality time spent together.
Our new Visitor Center features "The Ford Family Story" exhibition. Stroll through the gallery to view family films, hear their stories, and learn more about the Fords.