My Travel Memories: Detroit, Michigan

I’ve been to Detroit twice — once in 1980 and then again in 1987.  The city declined sharply in the seven intervening years.  My impression of Detroit in 1980 was of a nice little city and in 1987, my impression was of an empty little city.  As with Cincinnati, my only pictures of Detroit were from our 1987 trip, so you’ll just have to trust me that in 1980 Detroit was pretty nice.

The one thing I remember about Detroit wasn’t in Detroit proper, it was Deerfield Village in Dearborn.

Greenfield Village is an open-air museum that is part of a complex known as “The Henry Ford.” .he Henry Ford what is unclear.  I get the impression that it’s a ford (as in low-water crossing of a river) named “Henry.” Greenfield Village was dedicated in 1929 at a ceremony that was attended by historical figures including Marie Curie, Orville Wright, and Will Rogers.

Greenfield Village is now home to a large number or historic buildings, including the home of Noah Webster and the bicycle shop of the Wright Brothers.  There is also a reconstruction of Thomas Edison’s laboratory from Menlo Park, New Jersey.  The original laboratory had been destroyed and so the people who created Greenfield Village moved the two remaining buildings and measured the foundations on the site so that they could recreate the other buildings as closely as possible.

I am not under any kind of misapprehension that the 1880s were anything like a “golden age.”  Too many of my relatives and ancestors were living in tenements for me to do that.  As a result, some of the “let’s go back to a simpler time” stuff is lost on me. It wasn’t actually simpler. However, as an educational destination, Greenfield Village is fun, particularly as a way to look at the work of the innovators of the past and looking forward to the innovators of the future. At 90 acres, it’s also a nice place to get some fresh air.

I went to Google Maps to see if it would look like I remember, and I discovered that they let the Google Street View car into the museum.  This is another one of those situations where the amount of time it’s been since my last visit has come back to me.  This coming August will be 29 years since my last visit, which I remember was a nice temperature, but was very sunny.  It’s not nearly as sunny as I remember, because the trees are nearly 30 years older than they were my last visit.

The sidewalks of Greenfield Village were designed with accessibility in mind, but some of the historic buildings have steps and the people of The Henry Ford, perhaps to preserve the landmark nature of the building, have not installed ramps.  On some of the buildings, however, the presenter can come outside to do his or her presentation so that wheelchair users can get the information even if they cannot come into the buildings.

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