If there was ever a man born into the auto industry, it was Edsel Ford. He was born November 6, 1893 about the time his father began work on his first two-cycle engine. Two and half years later, Edsel had his first ride in an automobile, the first Ford quadricycle. In 1899, when Edsel was six, his father's first automotive venture, the Detroit Automobile Company, was organized, but never really got off the ground. On November 20, 1901 a second, new company was organized at the behest of many of the original investors and given the name of the Henry Ford Company. On June 16, 1903 the Ford Motor Company was at last incorporated. Edsel went to work for Ford Motor Company in 1912 at the age of 19. Somewhere along the line, Edsel discovered that he liked designing cars more than he liked tinkering with them mechanically. On December 31, 1918 Edsel was named president of Ford Motor Company at the ripe age of 25. Edsel acted to persuade his father to purchase the faltering Lincoln Motor Company in the early months of 1922. Edsel was destined to play a central role in the development of the Lincoln. The Mercury was entirely Edsel’s project. Lincoln Continental a custom car made for Edsel’s personal use. As fate would have it, it was destined to be his last such car and his finest.
Henry Ford’s entrepreneurial savvy led him to participate in his first and last automobile race on October 10, 1901 at the Detroit Driving Club’s one-mile oval, in Grosse Pointe (at the time this location was in Grosse Pointe Township and has since been annexed into Detroit). The event was to include three races plus a 25-lap event which would pay $1,000.00 to the winner plus a cut-glass bowl. A competitor, Alexander Winton, was a highly skilled mechanic turned race car driver and reportedly had put up the prizes for the race. Winton built cars in Cleveland and, like Ford, sought publicity as much as anything else from the event.
Clara Ford described the race best when she wrote: "Henry has been covering himself with glory and dust...I wish you could have seen him. Also heard the cheering when he passed Winton. The people went wild. One man threw his hat up and when it came down he stamped on it, he was so excited. Another man had to hit his wife on the head to keep her from going off the handle. She stood up in her seat…screamed, "I'd bet $50 on Ford if I had it." Enough of this automobile talk. We are keeping house again and are very glad to be alone. We have a very nice cozy little house. We did not build on account of Henry building the racer, he could not see to anything else. So we will have to put up with rented homes for a while longer."
On his 21st birthday, Henry Ford gave his son a gift of $1 million, taking Edsel to a Detroit bank to see that amount of gold bullion.
At the Annie Ward Foster dance school, Edsel met Eleanor Clay, a niece of Joseph L. Hudson of department store fame. Edsel was 17 or 18, Eleanor only 15 or 16. Edsel and Eleanor married at the Hudson home on East Boston Boulevard in Detroit on November 1, 1916. Their honeymoon included a stop at the Grand Canyon prior to a several-week vacation in Hawaii. They had four children: Henry II (1917), Benson (1919), Josephine (1923) and William Clay (1925). In 1929, Edsel and Eleanor moved to their Grosse Pointe Shores home, Gaulker Point, at 1100 Lake Shore Road. The Edsel Fords were quite generous, donating millions of dollars to numerous projects and institutions.
In 1915, at age 22, Edsel was named to the Ford Motor Company's Board of Directors. In 1916, he became company secretary and in 1918 was named company president, a post he would hold for the rest of his life. As president of Ford Motor Company, Edsel took responsibility for finance, sales and, after the demise of the Model T in 1927. The Model A, introduced in 1927, was patterned after the Lincoln. During the Depression, Edsel was very distressed that so many men were unemployed. At age 49, Edsel Ford died from stomach cancer at his home on Lake Shore Road. Edsel Ford is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, across form the Michigan State Fairgrounds.
Source: The Dust and the Glory by Leo Livine
Henry Ford I came to Grosse Pointe Shores in 1911 and purchased 21 parcels of land at Gaulker Point. He sold the land to son Edsel, whom with wife Eleanor built their magnificent mansion in 1926-29 on Lakeshore Road. Edsel and Eleanor wanted a modest house and picturesque home – not a palace or fortress – and they wanted its architecture to reproduce faithfully the beautiful and practical Cotswold houses of Worcestershire, England. The residence is faced with Briar Hill Sandstone.
The stones for the roof of this home were imported from England, and expert British workmen were also brought in to split the stones and to lay them on the roof in authentic Cotswold manner.
Because he did not want the River Road running through his property, Edsel paid for a new bridge over the Milk River in 1931 and the road was re-routed accordingly. After Mr. Ford’s death in 1943, the house was unsuccessfully offered for sale in 1945. In 1948 Eleanor sold 44 acres of land from the estate – the swampy land along the Milk River that lies within the borders of St. Clair Shores – and made it available for park development. Mrs. Ford sold it to Grosse Pointe Woods for $60,000.
The Cotswold style, 30,000 square ft house, has more than 30 rooms and an art gallery. 52 servants and maintenance kept the estate running smoothly.For all its imposing size, lavish appointments and breathtaking furnishings, the house maintained an undeniable warmth and intimacy. They moved into the house in 1929, and for the next 47 years until Eleanor’s death in 1976 at least one of the family members continued to live there. The Fords had not allowed workers building the house to even install electrical outlets in the dining room because they had always enjoyed the ambience of dinning by candlelight.
Source: Heritage Magazine, Feb/March 1985, pg. 26)
Edsel Bryant Ford (1893 – 1943)
Son of Ford Motor Company Founder. In 1918, he became president of Ford Motor Co. Edsel Ford brought style to the line of Ford automobiles. His flair for style can also be seen in the stunning Cotswold styling of his Lake Shore Mansion, designed by Albert Kahn. The home became available to the community at large in accordance with his wife Eleanor's will, and stands today as proud remembrance of Ford heritage.
Henry Ford II (1917 - 1987)
Person credited with turning around a failing Ford Motor Company. He became a vice president, president and chairman of Ford Motor Company, until March 1, 1979. 1940 Henry Ford II's parents gave him a home at 300 Provencal Road as a wedding gift. He moved to 421 Lakeshore Road in June 1948, then to 457 Lakeshore Road in 1956. Later he purchased a home at 160 Provencal Road. It is also noted that Henry II’s girls, Anne (his first wife), Charlotte, and Anne (daughter) were voted to the best dressed women’s list for many years.
Benson Ford was born in 1919, married Edith McNaughton Ford. Benson occupied 3 houses in Grosse Pointe: 906 Three Mile, 109 Kenwood, 635 Lakeshore
Josephine Ford, born in 1923, was one of the most significant philanthropists in metropolitan Detroit history. She married Walter Buhl Ford II, who came from another Ford family, and together they raised four children: Walter Buhl Ford III, Eleanor Clay Ford, Josephine Clay Ford and Alfred in Grosse Pointe. She was 81 when she died and lived her married life at 248 Provencal Road in Grosse Pointe Farms. She was known as "Dody" to friends and family, provided unstinting financial support to arts, education, cultural and health care institutions in metropolitan Detroit.
William Clay Ford was born in 1925, married Martha Firestone in 1947. William lived at 396 Provencal until they built a house on Lakeshore in the early 1960s where they reside today. Staff positions in sales and advertising, quality control manager Lincoln-Mercury, manager of special operations, vice chairman of board and chairman of Executive committee. He is currently owner of Detroit Lions.