Henry Ford’s mansion, “Fairlane,” still stands in Dearborn, Michigan, as a master example of mankind’s inventiveness.
Ford chose the beauty of the sloping banks of the River Rouge as the site for his new building. The mansion has 55 rooms on three floors, with eight fireplaces, including one made of marble standing 13 feet high. A flick of the finger provided light from any of the 550 switches in the 31,000 square foot mansion.
It’s a magnificent structure, with perfect workmanship and exquisite taste. When it was built in 1917, well before inflation shrank our dollar, it cost Ford just over a million dollars ($1,057,000).
Ford’s ingenuity even reached to the power supply. He wanted to be independent of pubic utilities, so he built his own power plant at a cost of $200,000, using finely machined turbines to feed electricity to the entire estate with enough extra juice to sell to the public utilities in an emergency.
However, when torrential rains hit the Detroit area in 1947, the River Rouge overflowed its banks and flooded into the furnace under the boilers, smothering the fire, which then caused the steam pressure to fall. The turbines stopped spinning and the electricity failed for the only time in forty years.
Ironically, that was the night that Henry Ford lay dying in his bedroom. Though surrounded by an engineering marvel, he left the world just as he had entered it 87 years before — in a cold house lighted by candles.
None of us were born with pockets, and like Henry Ford, we will leave this world the same way we came into it. What awaits us on the other side depends on what we do here.