Greenfield Village

Almost two weekends ago, our family visited Greenfield Village (part of the Henry Ford) in Dearborn.  Check out their interactive map here.  We arrived around 10am with a packed lunch, snack and water bottles.  (Note: to keep this blog entry a bit shorter, I’ve omitted many of the houses and buildings we visited.)

Our first stop, just beyond the train tracks, was a 1914 Model T.  The kids climbed in and checked it out.  You can pay $4 per person to ride in a Model T around the village but we opted to walk.

After the Model T inspection, we headed toward Henry Ford’s birth home.  We learned a little bit about how rugs were made with scrap items in the early 1900s.  This was a craft activity in which men, women and children participated.

Nearby, a staff member played a young Henry Ford telling visitors about his beloved Model T.  Since we arrived in the middle of his talk, we went inside a nearby building and watched a video about the origin of Greenfield Village.

We next moved to the home of Orville and Wilbur Wright (it includes their bicycle shop).  We didn’t stay inside for long because there was a 20 minute play starting outside of the house.  The play was called “Home from Kitty Hawk.”  One of the staff members played the role of Orville and Wilbur’s sister (Katharine); she was waiting for her brothers to arrive home after their successful flights at Kitty Hawk.  The brothers arrive home and talk to their sister on the porch.  Through the play we learn about the brothers’ interests, strengths, dislikes and their technology.  This play was one of the highlights of my family’s visit.

After the play we continued on to the Menlo Park (New Jersey) complex.  We saw the power station and a demonstration of Thomas Edison’s tinfoil phonograph.  There are only 8 original phonograph’s left in the world; the Henry Ford has 4 of them, the Smithsonian has 1 and a private collector owns 1.  I forget where the other two are.

After the phonograph demonstration, we went to see a short play outside.  This play, “Edison’s Light Fantastic,” featured a young Thomas Edison talking to the audience (aka the “media”) on the day after his successful lighting of the streets at his Menlo Park complex on December 31, 1879.  This was a fun, interactive play.  We learned about Thomas Edison’s drive and the challenges he faced.  One of his favorite quotes was that invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

For lunch, we found a shady bench and ate the sandwiches and other food we brought with us.  In the distance we could hear a group (probably the Greenfield Quartet) playing popular songs from the early 1900s.  After lunch we followed the Baseball Parade and the Dodworth Saxhorn Band to Walnut Grove to see old-fashioned baseball.  This was fun to watch.  Next time I plan to bring a blanket to sit on.

The players did not use gloves and played by the 1867 rules (over 140 years ago).  I was impressed how good the players were.  The hitting and catching were very exciting.  I can’t imagine catching a ball that was hit so hard with my bare hands.  Strikes and balls are not called unless the umpire thinks the pitcher or batter are not trying hard enough (to hit the ball or to pitch the ball).  There’s a lot more to tell about the game but I think I’ll leave it for a comment or another post.  Here‘s a page with more info.  We left the game at the top of the 4th inning with the home team, the Lah-De-Dahs, leading the Nationals 11 to 6.

The next stop was the Village Green to enjoy some old fashioned outdoor games.  Some kids and adults were playing baseball with the Massachusetts rules from 100 years ago.  This was an interesting setup with 4 bases in addition to home plate.  Rather than joining their game in progress, we tried the hoop rolling and ring toss games.

Across the street, we went to the musical show “Simply Gershwin” which celebrated the music of George Gershwin.  This was a fun, high-energy show that lasted about 30 minutes.  I recommend it for anyone who enjoys musicals.

We ended the day with visits to the Glass workshop, the Tin workshop and the train roundhouse.  There was much more to see but I don’t think it’s possible to see it all in one or even two days.  I hope we have an opportunity to return to Greenfield Village again soon.

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