New visitor center and administrative building break ground at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford estate

A groundbreaking was held at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House on the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 14. The event celebrated the construction of two new buildings on the grounds of the historic estate and drew officials from the organization, architects from the SmithGroupJJR, and members of the Ford family.

The Grosse Pointe Shores estate, built in 1927 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2016, was once the home of Ford Motor Company magnates Edsel and Eleanor Ford. Today it serves as an education and arts center on the shore of Lake St. Clair.

The groundbreaking kicked off the construction of two new buildings on the site, a 40,000 sq. ft. visitor center and a 17,000 sq. ft. administrative building. The buildings were designed with sustainability in mind, with the administrative building designed to LEED Platinum standards and the visitor center designed to LEED Gold standards.

The administrative building is on track to become a net-positive energy building, says Vice President of Communications for the estate, Ann Fitzpatrick. The excess energy produced would then be re-directed to the new visitor center.

"We kind of outgrew our original visitor center. We were always bumping into each other. It limited our offerings," says Fitzpatrick. "This is going to allow us to expand our programming with an improved environment. The new restaurant alone is going to be its own attraction."

The new restaurant, which will face Lake St. Clair and offer outdoor seating in the warm weather months, is just one of the planned improvements. A new visitor center means more room for historic exhibitions and art shows. And a new administrative building allows staff to move their offices from the historic estate, allowing for the preservation of said building.

This construction is phase two in the implementation of a site master plan developed in 2012. Infrastructure upgrades, including improvements to the stormwater runoff and electrical systems, were completed in 2015.

The new administrative building and visitor center are on track to be completed by spring 2019.

The Edsel and Eleanor Ford House is open to visitors during construction. It is located at 1100 Lake Shore Rd. in Grosse Pointe Shores.

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.