Inspired by the historic beauty of England’s pastoral Cotswolds region, American auto baron Henry Ford brought a bit of it back with him to America—stone by stone.
Visitors to The Henry Ford, a majestic museum based in Dearborn, Michigan, might be surprised to discover that a monument created to pay tribute to such an iconically American entrepreneur also showcases the rustic charm of seventeenth-century English architecture. While traveling abroad in 1912 to trace their family’s ancestral roots, Henry, his wife, Clara, and his son, Edsel, visited England and Ireland. Enthralled by the picturesque stone cottages that dot the verdant hills of southwestern England’s Cotswolds region, the industrialist vowed to incorporate them on his estate.
Upon Henry’s instruction to search for a dwelling available for sale, his agent, Herbert Morton, located Rose Cottage—a circa-1619 abode in Chedworth, Gloucestershire, that also included a barn, fences, and 2 acres of land. The buildings on the property were constructed of the fabled limestone indigenous to the Cotswolds, a lush 790-square-mile area replete with rolling hills, beautiful river valleys, and scenic meadows. In 1929, Henry purchased the property for $5,000 and immediately hired a team of local builders to restore the structures to more accurately reflect the era in which they were built. Upon completion, the workers dismantled them stone by stone, numbering each one individually and packing them in gravel sacks that were transported to the United States via train and boat.
Reassembled on Michigan soil by some of the English builders and an American crew, the home was rechristened Cotswold Cottage, in honor of the place of its origins. It was opened to the public in 1930 as part of The Henry Ford’s 90-acre Greenfield Village. Celebrating the Ford legacy, as well as the English heritage of countless Americans, Cotswold Cottage provides a window to the past and a view of European life nearly four centuries ago.
Text Anne Garry
“A Touch of England: Cotswold Cottage” can be found on page 40 of the March/April 2011 issue of Victoria.