The Way It Was




They were both born into families of wealth and social standing, but as The Beatles reminded us, “Money can’t buy me love.” However, Edsel Ford and Eleanor Lowthian Clay didn’t have to spend a cent of their fortune on their marital happiness, for they were, by all accounts, truly in love. He was the only son of Henry Ford and she was the niece of J.L. Hudson, of department store fame. They were married nearly a century ago at her uncle’s home on East Boston Boulevard. Even though the department store magnate died in 1912, Eleanor, her sister, and mother continued to live in his house. Here, Eleanor is pictured on her wedding day. Her Russian-style gown is from the House of Lucile, which was run by the renowned British couturiere Lucy Duff-Gordon. The 100th anniversary of Eleanor and Edsel’s wedding is being celebrated in the exhibit Down the Aisle: 100 Years of Ford Family Weddings at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores. The exhibition, which runs through Nov. 6, also includes other Ford family weddings through the years. After their honeymoon, Edsel and Eleanor settled in a fine house on Iroquois in Detroit’s fashionable Indian Village neighborhood. In 1929, the Fords moved into the Albert Kahn-designed Cotswold home in Grosse Pointe Shores. Edsel and Eleanor were the parents of four children: Henry II, Benson, Josephine, and William. Edsel, a talented designer, shared his love of art with his wife; they were astute collectors. The couple also received private art history instruction from Detroit Institute of Arts director William Valentiner, as mentioned in the book The Passionate Eye: The Life of William R. Valentiner. It was Edsel Ford who also bankrolled the execution of Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry frescoes at the DIA. Edsel Ford died in 1943, at the age of 49. His wife, who died in 1976, never remarried. Today, their splendid home is open to the public and serves as a reminder of their love for art and design — and for each other. 

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