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Greenfield Village: A Michigan Staycation Destination

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Greenfield Village

Henry Ford’s first car 1896 (credit: Vicki Briganti)

Vicki Briganti – CBS 62 Writer / Producer / Editor

Summer is finally here. Kids are out of school. Airfare costs are outrageous. Traveling can be a huge hassle. Consider making life simpler for you and your family. Plan a staycation in Michigan. Greenfield Village is the perfect place to spend a day or two.

Remember the first time you went to Greenfield Village? I do. I went with my brownie troop. You get a whimsical feeling when you’re there. From the horse drawn carriages to tree lined Main Street, you’re surrounded by comforting sights and sounds that create a safe and secluded atmosphere. It’s like stepping into another era. Greenfield Village reminds me of Mackinac Island without driving four hours and paying to ride the ferry.

The Motor City wouldn’t be the Motor City without Henry Ford and his inventions. From the assembly line to a $5 workday wage, he paved the course of history for an entire region. He offered hope of achieving the American dream to newly arriving immigrants. You can learn about his contributions while you walk along the brick streets and step into the restored homes inside the Village.

On my recent visit, the sun was shining, white puffy clouds were swirling, and a warm breeze flowed through the windows of houses as old as 1700. What struck me the most was the smell. Each building reminded me of my grandparent’s garage. The basic tools they used and the antique furniture look like they were donated from my mom’s family – back when steel, glass, and wood were prime materials – before the popularity of plastic.

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Office and Library 1929 (credit: Vicki Briganti)

First Impressions Last

Thomas Edison was a genius. When you stroll through the Menlo Park Complex, a lovely staff member dressed in period clothing tells you Edison registered 1,093 patents. A firm believer that the best ideas come from teamwork, his goal was to have one major invention every six months and one minor invention every 10 days. Talk about ambitious.

Not only was he knowledgeable about chemistry, physics, and engineering, he was a shrewd businessman. He built his office from brick so people would think he was running a strong, profitable business. The press called him the “wizard of Menlo Park.” A sign says he used the media to his advantage to promote his public image as a miracle worker; publicize his successes to attract financial support; and exaggerate his progress to scare off competitors. He might have been a nascent brand manager, spinning his own PR.

Did you know on December 31, 1879, Sarah Jordan’s Boarding House in New Jersey was one of the first homes ever to be wired for electrical lighting? Unmarried men working for Mr. Edison lived there. From the way the rooms are furnished, their meager belongings included a suitcase, a very uncomfortable mattress, and a pair of stiff shoes. The 1870s appear simple yet boring. Depending on your affluence, I guess people farmed, cooked, read books, wrote letters, sewed, and went to bed early.

Greenfield Village

Sarah Jordan Boarding House 1870 (credit: Vicki Briganti)

Two years ago, I experienced a different side of Greenfield Village with my friend and her kids. I’d never ridden the train, Model T, horse drawn carriage, or carousel. That’s what we did all day and we had a blast. Next time I go, I’m thinking about taking the train with my mom, stopping at Cotswold Cottage for tea and scones.

This time I walked around from 1pm-5pm, not nearly enough time to cover the entire 81 acres, so plan your trip accordingly. With an annual member pass, you receive free admission to Henry Ford Museum or Greenfield Village and discounted rates on rides and special events. To find out more, go to hfmgv.org.

However you decide to spend the summer, enjoy safe, happy, carefree days with your friends and family. Keep it simple.

>> More Motor City Musing With Vicki Briganti

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