The air hangs still in the sunlit office, where a massive grandfather clock keeps companionable silence with a green-veined marble fireplace. Outside, there's a maze of modern cubicles in the former Ford Engineering Laboratories in Dearborn, now the home of powertrain development.
But here, just off the wood-paneled corridor, is Henry Ford's former sanctuary. Historians write that Ford disliked the Schaefer Road headquarters and would make token appearances there, then flee to this office to do serious work and thinking.
On pillar C-10 in the same building, the names of the members of the board of directors are penciled in from Oct. 16, 1938, with marks of their heights, like a mother's jottings on a kitchen door frame. Henry's mark is in the lower third. Upstairs, a massive safe, now unused, once guarded payroll and Ford's blueprints.
The "No smoking" sign at Henry Ford's Piquette Avenue plant in Detroit is a reminder that discipline was rigorous at the birthplace of the Model T. PHOTO: Julie May
The real Ford touch exists in more commonplace, workaday sites. There are many such overlooked spots in and around Detroit and Dearborn. They are places that seem to be waiting for Henry Ford the master mechanic to walk back in.
Grandfather clock sits in Henry Ford's office in the former Ford Engineering Laboratories building in Dearborn. PHOTO: Ford company photo by Sam VanHagen
The nonprofit group is dedicated to preserving historical and architecturally significant places and buildings in and around Detroit, which is where the vast majority of Ford's early growth and later building took place.
"He wanted to tinker. I just feel sorry for him that he got so damned successful."
A taste of Ford discipline still hangs on the wall of the Piquette Avenue plant in Detroit, where ancient signs admonish "Positively no smoking" in the shadows where the Model T was cranked out.
It was at Ford's Highland Park plant that the $5 day caused a national furor. PHOTO: Julie May
In Highland Park, Pewabic tile still adorns the otherwise unidentified Ford Administration Building, and a lone Ford sign near the police impound lot signals the once mighty plant where the $5-a-day wage was initiated.
Out along the Huron River in Westland, Nankin Mills, a historic park and interpretive center, shows how Henry Ford wanted rural life to be.
The sprawl of the Rouge complex demonstrates his vision for a vertically integrated business. The channel that makes the Rouge River run straight past Zug Island is a relic of Henry Ford's Eagle Boat business during World War I.
In Dearborn, contra dance enthusiasts enjoy the special springy wooden floor of Lovett Hall at The Henry Ford museum, where Ford executives once were forced to show their steps at the master's whim.
The traces of the real Henry Ford are, like their maker, individualistic, quirky and even a little lonely.