Genius Innovators

Fair Lane: A House And A Personal Power Plant


If you read cruisintime‘s comment yesterday, you’ll know what this is. If not, let me explain. That’s a power plant. It is on Henry Ford’s Fair Lane estate in Dearborn, MI. When you’re an industrial giant and Thomas Edison is your BFF, you can build your own power plant just for you (and a little bit for the surrounding town).

Built on the banks of the Rouge River just upstream from his giant Rouge Complex, Henry Ford’s Fair Lane estate is almost stereotypical of estates belonging to other industrial magnates of the time. The 1300 acre estate includes a 31,000 square foot house, riding stables, greenhouse, boathouse, a children’s playhouse, a treehouse, and extensive gardens and natural landscapes. Oh, and a powerhouse.

An eight foot dam on the river was used to proved enough energy to the power plant to run two 55 kW generators. That power went to provide that electricity stuff to the estate and part of Dearborn. The power generating equipment was designed and built by Edison and ol’ Tom himself helped to commission the plant. The plant is still generating electricity to this day.

The power plant also houses the garages and, on the second floor, a workshop where Henry could tinker with new engine designs.

[Image Credit: Dave Parker]

  • hglaber

    It also housed the compressor that pressurized a tube in the underground tunnel between the power and main houses which terminated into a device for drying Clara Ford's hair. Advances in miniaturization have shrunken blow dryers to the extent that the entire mechanism can often be located within the main house nowadays though.

    • In house hair dryer? What kind of nonsense is that? I will keep my hair dryer compressor next to my outhouse for the foreseeable future, thank you very much.

    • Wow. Did Clara Ford invent pointing the hair dryer at the cat?

      • monkey_tennis

        As the 'hair dryer' was one end of a mile-long tube I assume she had to point the cat at the hair-dryer instead. Much the same effect, but tricker to achieve (especially the second, third and fourth time).

        • Deartháir

          Turn off hair dryer.
          Place cat in tube.
          Squish gently until cat properly fills tube.
          Wait until mom enters room.
          Turn on hair dryer.

  • cruisintime

    Old Henry was a genius.

  • monkey_tennis

    The equivalent of Fairlane in the UK is the wonderful 'Cragside' in Northumberland.

    Built in the 1860's in a steep wooded valley by Lord Armstrong (whose Tyneside factories were perfecting the mass production of gun barrels and pistons) the house used a fast-flowing nearby stream to power a hydraulic system — operating an elevator and various items of kitchen equipment — and a small pelton generator to power some of the UK's earliest incandescent lamps.

    The house was was at both a retreat from the bustle of industrial Tyneside and a demonstration to visiting clients of the technical prowess of Armstrong's factories.