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Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Henry Ford’s Village Green: The Heart of Greenfield Village

June 10, 2021 Archive Insight
Postcard with image of buildings, greenspace, and roads

Postcard, Aerial View of Greenfield Village, 1940 / THF132774

Henry Ford’s idea of re-creating a historic village in Dearborn, Michigan, began to take shape when he restored his own birthplace (1919) and childhood school (1923) on their original sites. In 1926, he proceeded with a plan to create his own historic village, choosing a plot of land in the midst of Ford Motor Company property and beginning to acquire the buildings that would become part of Greenfield Village.

One of Henry Ford’s earliest ideas for Greenfield Village was to have a central green or “commons,” based upon village greens he saw in New England. Ford envisioned a church and town hall flanking the ends of his Village Green. He couldn’t find exactly what he wanted, so he had them designed and built on site in Greenfield Village.

Martha-Mary Chapel


Red brick and white wood building with columns out front and steeple
Martha-Mary Chapel / THF1966

The design for Martha-Mary Chapel was based on a much larger Universalist church in Bedford, Massachusetts. It was one of six nondenominational chapels that Ford erected. This was the first and only one built of brick.

Ford named the chapel after his mother, Mary Litigot Ford, and his wife Clara’s mother, Martha Bench Bryant. The Martha-Mary Chapel has been used for wedding ceremonies since 1935, as shown here.

Bride and groom, arm in arm, walking down a church aisle past pews full of people sitting facing away from the camera
First Wedding Held in Martha-Mary Chapel in Greenfield Village, 1935 / THF132820

The bell up in the tower, likely cast during the 1820s, is attributed to Joseph Revere & Associates of Boston, Massachusetts—a foundry inherited by Joseph from his more famous father, Paul Revere.

Large metal bell
Bell, Cast by Joseph Warren Revere, circa 1834 / THF129606

Town Hall


Town halls were the places where local citizens came together to participate in town meetings. Town Hall in Greenfield Village is patterned after New England public meeting halls of the early 1800s.

White wooden building with four large columns in front
Town Hall in Greenfield Village, September 2007 (Photographed by Michelle Andonian) / THF54040

These buildings also became gathering places for political elections, theatrical performances, and social events. We have often recreated the types of activities that might have appeared in town halls of the past, such as this 2007 performance.

Two people on a stage surrounded by red, white, and blue bunting perform in an auditorium filled with people
Ragtime Street Fair in Greenfield Village, July 2007 (Photographed by Michelle Andonian) / THF52067

Scotch Settlement School


Henry Ford also decided he needed a schoolhouse for his Village Green. This one-room school—which he himself attended when he was a boy back in the 1870s—was from the so-called Scotch Settlement in Dearborn Township. Here it is on its original site in 1896.

Group of children pose outside of a small brick building; also contains text key with the names of those in the photo
Group outside Scotch Settlement School at Its Original Site, Dearborn Township, Michigan, 1896 / THF245422

Scotch Settlement School had been one of Henry Ford’s first restoration projects. In 1923, he had restored the school and operated it on its original site as an experimental pre-school—shown here around 1926.

Woman poses for photo with a group of young children outside a small brick building
Scotch Settlement School at Its Original Site in Dearborn Township, Michigan, circa 1926 / THF115902

Once in Greenfield Village, this school served as the first classroom for the Edison Institute school system that Henry Ford started in September 1929—an experimental combination of progressive education and “learning by doing.”

Two men stand with a group of children outside a small brick building; one shakes hands with a child
Henry Ford with Students outside Scotch Settlement School in Greenfield Village, 1929 / THF96582

Eagle Tavern


Ford thought a historic inn would make a nice addition to his Village Green. In 1927, he purchased this old 1830s-era inn from Clinton, Michigan—shown here on its original site in 1925. Even though this was never its name, he called it Clinton Inn.

Decrepit two-story wooden building with columns in front, leaning at different angles, and second-floor balcony that is sagging
Eagle Tavern at Its Original Site, Clinton, Michigan, 1925 / THF237252

Clinton Inn first served as a cafeteria for students attending the Edison Institute schools. When Greenfield Village opened to the public in 1933, it was the starting point for carriage tours. Later, it became a lunchroom for visitors, as shown below.

Room filled with people eating at small square tables
Visitors Lunching at the Clinton Inn (now Eagle Tavern), Greenfield Village, 1958 / THF123749

When we decided to turn Clinton Inn into a historic dining experience, we undertook new research. We found that a man named Calvin Wood ran this inn in 1850 and called it Eagle Tavern. Today, we recreate the food, drink, and ambience of that era.

Woman in pink plaid dress and white bonnet smiles and holds tray of pastries
Eagle Tavern in Greenfield Village, October 2007 / Photographed by Michelle Andonian / THF54291

You can learn more about Eagle Tavern in this episode of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation, this blog post about creating the historic dining experience in Greenfield Village, and this blog post about our research and interpretation of drinking at Eagle Tavern. Also check out this blog post I wrote on how our research changed the interpretation of five Village buildings, including Eagle Tavern.

J.R. Jones General Store


What would a village green be without a general store? The J.R. Jones General Store was originally located in the village of Waterford, Michigan. Here it is on its original site in 1926, just before being moved to Greenfield Village.

Two story wooden building with mural on side, elevated slightly on jacks
J.R. Jones General Store (Just Before the Move to Greenfield Village), Original Site, Waterford, Michigan, 1926 / THF126117

We decided to focus upon the era of James R. Jones, who operated this store from 1882 to 1888. During that time, Jones sold everything from coffee and sugar to fabrics and trims to farm tools and hardware. No wonder it was called a general store!

Store shelves and display cases holding clothing, fabric, and other items
J.R. Jones General Store in Greenfield Village, September 2007 (Photographed by Michelle Andonian) / THF53762

Check out more content about the J.R. Jones General Store on this episode of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation and the related content on our web page.

Logan County Courthouse


This courthouse, from Postville (later renamed Lincoln), Illinois, is not just any courthouse! From 1840 to 1847, Abraham Lincoln was one of several lawyers who practiced law here as part of the 8th Judicial Circuit. Later, it was a private residence, as shown here about 1900.

Seven children and adults stand and sit outside a two-story wooden building
Group outside Logan County Courthouse at Its Original Site, Lincoln, Illinois, circa 1900 / THF238618

Lincoln thrived on the judicial circuit—handling all sorts of cases, representing different types of people, and getting to know local residents. All these experiences helped prepare him for his future role as America’s sixteenth president.

Color portrait of tall, thin man in black suit, standing before a blue curtain and holding a book
Lithograph Portrait of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 / THF11619

To Henry Ford, Abraham Lincoln embodied the ideals of the self-made man. Ford searched for a way to memorialize Lincoln’s accomplishments. When he learned of this courthouse, he obtained it, then had it dismantled and reconstructed on his Village Green.

Color postcard of two-story wooden building, inset oval portrait of a man's profile, and text
"First Court House of Logan County Where Abraham Lincoln Practiced Law, Lincoln, Ill.," 1927 Postcard / THF121352

After the courthouse was reconstructed in Greenfield Village, Ford filled the building with Lincoln memorabilia. The chair he subsequently purchased, in which President Lincoln had been assassinated, is visible inside a glass case in this 1954 photograph.

Interior of room containing upholstered rocking chair in case, along with other furniture
Logan County Courthouse in April 1954, Showing the Abraham Lincoln Chair Then on Exhibit in Greenfield Village / THF121385

Today, this chair can be found in the With Liberty and Justice For All exhibition inside Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

Red upholstered rocking chair in glass case surrounded by mustard yellow curtains
Chair Used by Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, on Exhibit at Henry Ford Museum, June 2007 / THF51751

You can learn more about Abraham Lincoln’s life as a traveling circuit-riding lawyer by checking out this article.

Dr. Howard's Office


This country doctor’s office completes the historic buildings located around the Village Green today. Acquired after Henry Ford’s time, it was moved to this location in 2003.

Small dark red wooden building on a large lawn with a streetlamp in front
Dr. Howard's Office / THF1696

Dr. Alonson B. Howard was a country doctor practicing medicine near Tekonsha, Michigan, from 1852 to 1883. Dr. Howard would have attended to everything from pregnancies to toothaches to chronic diseases such as kidney disease and tuberculosis.

Man with beard wearing coat
Portrait of Dr. Alonson B. Howard, 1865-1866 / THF109611

The building, originally constructed in 1839 as a one-room schoolhouse, was conveniently located in the front yard of the Howard family farm. So, when the school moved to a new building, Dr. Howard took over this building as his office.

Several buildings visible within a group of trees at the side of a road
Dr. Howard's Office at its original site, Tekonsha, Michigan, March 1956 / THF237140

After Dr. Howard’s death in 1883, his wife Cynthia padlocked the building and there it remained—virtually intact—until removed to Greenfield Village between 1959 and 1961. It opened to the public in 1963.

Room interior containing shelves and tables covered in books, bottles, jugs, and other items
Interior of Dr. Howard's Office at its original site, Tekonsha, Michigan, March 1956 / THF237188

You can learn more about Dr. Howard’s life and work in this blog post.

Check out The Henry Ford Official Guidebook and Telling America’s Story: A History of The Henry Ford for more about the Village Green and the buildings surrounding it.


Donna R. Braden is Senior Curator and Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford.

#THFCuratorChat, Scotch Settlement School, J.R. Jones General Store, Henry Ford, Greenfield Village history, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, Eagle Tavern, Dr. Howard's Office, by Donna R. Braden

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