Edsel and Eleanor Ford’s old pool gets a makeover

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“No one dives, no access to the board,” joked Rebecca Torsell, director of historic preservation at Ford House in Grosse Pointe, to a small crowd of Ford family members, contractors and other guests. as she showed off a replica wooden diving board. From Belgium.

Early Monday morning, guests donned their finest flowery dresses paired with straw hats or their best summer suit paired with loafers and headed to Ford House for a reception celebrating the lagoon restoration project and of the historic swimming pool.

In 2019, Ford House’s board of directors decided it was time to restore the historic lagoon and pool that had stood for over 90 years.

The pool was a summer staple for Edsel and Eleanor Ford and their four children. Lynn Ford Alandt, chair of the Ford House board and granddaughter of Edsel and Eleanor, recalled her experiences growing up.

Edsel Ford II, grandson of Edsel Ford I, left, his wife Cynthia Ford, secretary David Hempstead, Lynn Ford Alandt, board chair and granddaughter of Edsel and Eleanor Ford, and Mark J. Heppner, president and CEO of Ford House, stand for a photo during a makeover celebration at Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores on Monday August 1, 2022.

“When we were kids, we used to come and swim,” Alandt said. “We had lunch in the pool house and then swam in the pool and had a great time.”

Alandt didn’t always swim when she came to grandma and grandpa’s 87-acre estate in Grosse Pointe Shores. When she was able to come, however, she said it was always welcoming and just fun.

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She praised the team of contractors and architects who made the restoration a reality after several years.

“They did a fabulous job,” she said.

The pool was created by architects Jens Jensen and Albert Kahn in 1926. It was created to resemble the woods of northern Michigan with native shrubs and trees. The restoration by Ford House staff and architects and engineers at Albert Kahn Associates in Detroit took three years.

Stephen White, vice president and landscape architect at Kahn, said it was an interesting project.

“It wasn’t a blank palette to come in and just design an environment or an ecosystem that we wanted to see,” White said. “It was really a restoration from historical photographs, the actual work that Jens Jensen designed in the 1930s, in the original project. We’ve looked at hundreds and hundreds of photographs, and we’re dissecting the photographs, annotating them and we rebuild the plant communities as they were at the time of origin.”

Malea Howard, 32, Clinton Township resident, Ford House employee, broadcasts remarks live during a pool and lagoon restoration celebration at the Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores on Monday, August 1, 2022.

The pool can hold up to 185,000 gallons and the deep end is 9 feet. The new modern pool has UV sterilization which neutralizes harmful bacteria and pathogens.

Prior to the restoration, the pool was in dire need of refurbishment as the piping under it was leaking, according to Ford House’s Karl Koto.

“Every day we were losing thousands of gallons of pool water,” Koto said.

The lagoon was damaged by erosion and required repairs.

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Guests gather for a celebration of pool and lagoon restoration at the Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores on Monday, August 1, 2022. The pool and lagoon are now open to visitors six days a week for an entrance fee $5, although swimming is not permitted.  .

The pool is swimmable, but swimming is not allowed, as it is part of the museum.

This was one of the most extensive repairs to the pitch to date. It features a replica diving board imported from a supplier in Belgium, one of the only companies in the world that still creates wooden boards.

Edsel Ford’s first wooden diving board was designed by Jens Jensen in 1926 and Ford purchased it in 1928 for $150.

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