Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Playing around in history

April 17, 2013 Think THF

Anyone who has visited Greenfield Village’s 80 acres knows that there’s a lot to see and do during any given visit. Despite having numerous open spaces throughout Greenfield Village, guests have asked us for a safe, contained space that offers children a chance to run and play while parents take a minute to relax and enjoy their surroundings. We heard you loud and clear – we needed a play area for our younger visitors.

A while back, The Henry Ford began exploring what a playscape might look like in Greenfield Village. Thanks to an early planning grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, our teams were able to explore a design for the area. Designing a playground for an open-air museum provided a bit of a challenge – it needed to be historically themed, for one thing. We also wanted to make sure that the playscape offered endless amounts of fun and lots of challenges as children played, no matter their abilities.

Today we’re pleased to break ground on our Greenfield Village Playscape. Thanks to a generous donation from long-time Dearborn residents and dear friends of The Henry Ford, Mary and Don Kosch, our playscape will be ready for guests to enjoy this fall. What we came up with is a construction-like setting featuring both artifacts and state-of-the-art playground equipment. Located behind the Herschell-Spillman carousel, the playscape’s home is a natural fit for that area of Greenfield Village; on any given day we see families relaxing there, enjoying a snack, or getting ready for another ride on the carousel.

What will you find inside the playscape? Quite a bit! Features include:

  • a water tower
  • sculptural swings
  • water feature with tanks
  • sluice and hand-pumps
  • climbing wall
  • work building; work tables
  • tool fence
  • boardable 1931 Model AA truck
  • boiler tunnel
  • large platform seesaw
  • gear climber
  • tot slide
  • interactive boiler sculpture
  • cement mixer
  • Because we wanted our new playscape to be enjoyed by all, most of the activities are ground-level accessible or accessible by ramp. The area is fenced in with ramp accessibility. Our sculptural swings vary in design so that all children, whether fully-able or without full control of their arms and legs, may enjoy them.

    Moving the boiler tunnel over to the playscape construction area.

    Will our playscape look like other playscapes in parks or at schools? No. Our playscape will have an authentic, era-appropriate look that will fit right into Greenfield Village’s backdrop.

    We can’t wait for children to enjoy the playscape later this year. While we’re looking forward to seeing all of the great memories made season after season, we’re also hoping that our commitment to creating an all-ability environment will spread to other family destinations, too. Hopefully you agree.

    Make sure to follow along on Facebook this summer as we share updates on the playscape’s progress. The next time you visit Greenfield Village make sure to stop by the construction area to see what’s new.

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