Historic Ford House Updates, Educates with New Bronze Sculpture of Iconic Family

    Part of what makes living in Metro Detroit unique is the historical places dedicated to the area’s automotive past; these are places that serve to entertain and educate.

    Edsel 4Recently, the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House updated its stately grounds with the addition of a life-size sculpture of its namesake couple. The new bronze honors the duo’s 100th wedding anniversary and the estate’s gardens, where Edsel and Eleanor spent many hours together.

    “The love between my grandparents is what forged the Ford family, and I am delighted to see their legacy commemorated in a monument for generations of family and visitors to enjoy,” Edsel B. Ford II, chairman of the Ford House board of trustees, said in a statement. “It’s rare that we add anything to the grounds, and this is an extraordinary supplement to the estate.”

    Edsel & Eleanor Ford House is located at 1100 Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Shores. Since 1978, Ford House has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors to share in Eleanor Ford’s vision of preserving the estate for future generations to enjoy through interpretive tours, family activities, lectures, exhibits and gardens and grounds events.

    Edsel 1Theirs is a true love story. Edsel Ford, the only son of automobile pioneer Henry Ford and his wife Clara, fell for Eleanor Clay, the niece of J.L. Hudson, a department store giant. They had their eyes on Detroit and the world at their fingertips, when their wedding was heralded in newspapers across the country. On Wednesday, Nov. 1, 1916, the couple wed at the bride’s family home on the east side of Detroit, with an impressive, yet humble celebration.

    The lifelike sculpture of the couple was designed by Brooklyn, New York-based StudioEIS, an award-winning team of sculptors and visual storytellers. The firm has 40 years of experience creating bronze monuments, including iconic sports and historical figures like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. The studio houses its archive of past projects at the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas in Austin.

    “To create the Fords, our team had to glean all the historical information we could, including height, weight, style of clothing and year of portrayal,” said Ivan Schwartz, StudioEIS founder and director. “The entire process took about 15 months to complete and began with studying family photographs, portraits and clothing to create the most historically accurate design.”

    Once the clay prototype was created, the StudioEIS team made a silicone rubber mold which was then shipped to the Bollinger Atelier in Phoenix, Arizona. The foundry, using the ancient lost wax process, then cast a hollow wax copy of the original sculpture from the StudioEIS mold. That wax was then melted out of a ceramic shell material and bronze poured into the mold at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit to replace the “lost wax.”

    Cast in numerous pieces, the bronze sculpture was then reassembled, seams welded and cleaned, and given its surface color made with acid and heat known as “patination.”

    “The finished piece is really quite stunning. You can see the craftsmanship that went into every step of the process,” Schwartz added. “From the original clay models to the molding and foundry processes, it took a team of nearly 20 people to capture Edsel and Eleanor’s spirit and disposition in the sculpture – and we think we’ve achieved just that.”

    Edsel 3In total, the statue, just under six feet in height, weighs about 500 pounds.

    It takes up approximately four square feet in the estate’s gardens, the masterpiece accurately reflecting the joy and friendship Edsel and Eleanor shared.

    “Edsel and Eleanor shared a love for family and mutual passion for art and quality design,” said Kathleen Mullins, president of Ford House. “These bronze statues are not only a beautiful tribute to the Fords’ 100th anniversary, but also a reflection of the arts and culture that they so ardently loved.”

    The bronze statue is one element of the “A Century of Love” celebration being held at the Ford House from June 25 through November 6 in honor of Edsel and Eleanor’s 100th wedding anniversary.

    In addition to the bronze statue installation, the celebration includes “Down the Aisle: 100 Years of Ford Family Weddings,” an exhibit highlighting the evolution of wedding traditions and trends over the last century, as seen through the lens of four generations of Ford family nuptials. A Vow Renewal and Garden Party takes place on June 25, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for couples to recommit themselves to each other with the beautiful backdrop of the Fords’ family home.