tage of the 87-acre estate’s frontage along Lake St. Clair, offering views of Ford Cove and Bird Island. Once the buildings are completed, which should be by spring 2019, visitors will be able to take in the picturesque view and interact with the estate in new ways, officials said.
Like the Edsel and Eleanor Ford house, which was designed by Albert Kahn, the buildings will be a “contemporary interpretation” of an English Cotswold Village, each with a limestone exterior and a slate roof, said architect Bob Varga, vice president and design principal with Smithgroup JJR in Detroit.
Varga, whose firm worked on the designs for more than a year, said it wasn’t about copying the architecture of the main house, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2016, but making it compatible. Each building will also have steep arch gables and prominent chimney features.
“You want to have it work in harmony,” said Varga.
The cost of the two new buildings hasn’t been disclosed, but both projects will give visitors a chance to experience the estate in a new way. There will be a new visitor orientation space when guests first arrive, a second-floor event space with food service and seating for 200, dedicated space for traveling and changing exhibits, a waterside restaurant and an education wing. The old visitors center, built in 1990, will be torn down.
It’s about taking the legacy of Edsel, the only son of Henry Ford, and Elenaor and their four kids, and answering “how do we move that legacy forward?” said Kathleen Mullins, president and CEO of the Ford House.
Part of that is through environmental stewardship, she said. The new administration building — which will consolidate the estate’s administrative staff now spread out in various buildings in one location — will be what’s called a net-zero building, meaning it’ll generate as much energy as it uses. That’ll be done through dozens of photovoltiac panels that will cover the roof.
Vargas said the board of the estate, which along with Edsel includes Martha and Benson Ford, was vocal from the beginning of the planning process that they wanted the new buildings to be as green, or environmentally-friendly, as possible.
The buildings “will serve as an example of how historic estates can do this,” said Mullins.
The artist rendition of the visitor center shows Cotswold Cafe, which will have 80 seats inside and 40 outside with views of Ford Cove.