Highland Recreation Area’s Haven Hill Hideaway Sees New Light

Steady progress is being made at Haven Hill, the
former country retreat of Edsel and Eleanor Ford, thanks to the Friends
of Highland Recreation Area (FOHRA) and their community partners.

Haven
Hill, located in the Highland State Recreation Area, was conceived by
Edsel as a completely self-sufficient pastoral estate. It became a
welcome refuge for the Fords.  Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Edison, and
other luminaries visited regularly. After Edsel’s death, Eleanor sold
Haven Hill to the State. This property along with other land, including
that donated by the Dodge Motor Company in memory of John and Horace
Dodge, became Highland State Recreation Area.

Many
alterations were made to the Estate over the years to accommodate
various uses, until state budget cuts in the 1980s lead to closure of
the structures. Without security and upkeep, the buildings suffered from
disuse and the main lodge was lost to an arson fire in 1999. FOHRA is
working to bring the remaining structures back to life. Consider this:
the state park not only includes historically significant structures but
also a National Natural Landmark. This combination of history and
nature in one setting makes Highland State Recreation Area quite
remarkable. And thanks to many helping hands, it is becoming easier for
the public to appreciate these architectural and natural wonders.

With
support from the MotorCities National Heritage Area, ITC, and others as
well as a core group of dedicated, tireless volunteers, the garage
portion of the Gatehouse is once again ready for use. “The dramatic
transformation in the course of less than a year helps inspire us to
complete the entire Gatehouse and make other park improvements” says
FOHRA’s President Dick Russell. The Gatehouse built in 1927 was the
formal entryway into the 2,422 acre estate. It is only fitting now that
the Gatehouse is to become a focal point for visitors. Its functions may
include orientation to the park and the story of Haven Hill, the
starting point for tours, a hub for the trail system, the location for
various events, a gift shop, and offices for the non-profit.

In
partnership with MotorCities National Heritage Area, wayside
interpretive exhibits will be coming soon to Highland. They are now in
production and will have a noticeable impact at the state park.
The seven, two by three foot exhibits will be installed adjacent to
remaining historic structures. It will help visitors to learn and
appreciate the history of Haven Hill and the people involved.

The
annual Haven Hill Festival on Saturday, August 27th from 10 a.m. until 4
p.m. is a perfect opportunity to have some family fun and experience
firsthand all the progress taking place at Highland State Recreation
Area. Meet at Goose Meadow to celebrate the amazing natural and historic
resources of Highland. Enjoy a Model A Ford Car Show. Take a shuttle
bus or walking tour of the remaining historic structures of Haven Hill.
Watch an Old Fashioned Baseball Game with the Haven Hill Barn Stormers
where there are no balls or strikes called and no gloves are worn. A
highlight of the Festival this year will be a display of historical
photos taken by the Fords’ housekeepers when the Estate was still their
home. These original photos reflect what daily life was like at Haven
Hill. Proceeds from the Festival help support the restoration and
repurposing of the Haven Hill complex. More information about the event
can be found at www.havenhillfestival.com.

The
Friends of Highland Recreation Area (FOHRA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit
organization and operates under a lease agreement with the Michigan
Department of Natural Resources. Its mission is to rebuild, repair and
repurpose the Haven Hill complex of buildings at Highland State
Recreation Area and integrate the history of Haven Hill with the
recreational amenities at Highland State Recreation Area. Join FOHRA and
help improve Highland State Recreation Area at www.fohra.org