Renovating The Acclaimed Greenfield Village

The Henry Ford
Dearborn, Michigan
80 acres
Construction Management

The Henry Ford is one of America’s great history attractions and an internationally recognized cultural destination. Located in Dearborn, Mich., the complex is comprised of the Henry Ford Museum, the Henry Ford IMAX® Theatre, 80-acre Greenfield Village, Benson Ford Research Center, Ford Rouge Factory Tour, and Henry Ford Academy.

Since the early 1900s, automaker Henry Ford collected artifacts of America’s pre- and early industrial history; part of his collection included items associated with his lifelong hero, Thomas Edison.

Ford’s plan for Greenfield Village was to use it as an outdoor showcase of historic structures to demonstrate how ordinary Americans lived and worked for some 300 years. On Oct. 21, 1929, President Herbert Hoover led the dedication of The Edison Institute, the original name of Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.

Ford collected buildings of historical importance from across the nation and had them re-located to Greenfield Village. It is filled with 83 such structures, including Ford’s boyhood home and Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory.

Walbridge was selected as construction manager in 2002 to lead a $23 million facility and building services upgrade. The objective was to improve the overall visitor experience and preserve Greenfield Village’s historic significance for generations to come.

The project’s scope was still being developed when work began in the fall of 2002. The village was shut down and everything had to be completed in time for an April 2003 re-opening. Walbridge was responsible for work related to vertical buildings, as well as complete infrastructure upgrades to electrical, data and IT systems. Wade Trim, an engineering firm from Taylor, Mich., was selected to design and oversee construction of new roads and sidewalks, and complete system upgrades to the water and sewer infrastructure.

Chilly Challenges

The winter of 2002-2003 was one of the coldest in years. Deep excavation was required for storm drains and water utilities. At one point, frost had permeated the ground four feet below the surface and threatened to shut down preparations for road construction.

Through experience, Walbridge utilized a system of more than one mile of heating coils filled with a glycol product that were set on the ground and covered with insulating blankets. The system ensured the ground thawed sufficiently prior to roadway and sidewalk concrete pours.

As part of the 2002-2003 project, Walbridge oversaw moving 12 historical buildings.

Walbridge managed construction of a new entry plaza, retail shop, fountain and ticketing stations, as well as a new arts and crafts building, a bridge, an activities pavilion, new electrical substations, and 80 acres of landscape and hardscape. A pond and wharf were added, as well as a new foundation and water wheel for a mill. Walbridge Concrete Services did all of the foundations and flat work on the facilities project and what is now Walbridge Industrial Process relocated a large statue of Thomas Edison. At peak periods, more than 400 trades workers and laborers were on site at one time.