Golden Hour on the Rouge River

The Golden Hour on the Rouge

The Golden Hour on the Rouge, photo by pkHyperFocal

The Rouge River Gateway Project relates that the Potawatami referred to the river as Minosa Goink which means “Singeing Skin River” – the place where game animals were dressed. The history continues (with my links to other fun stuff):

The French first settled on the banks of the Rouge River in the 1780s. They named the river “Rouge”, or red. Settlers would claim a few hundred feet of river frontage and extend their farms deep into the forest. Remnants of these “ribbon farms” still exist today in land ownership patterns along the river. Europeans continued to immigrate into the region to take advantage of its resources. They used the reddish clay for brick, mined the area’s salt deposits, and built farming communities along the riverbanks. The native prairie oak savannah and hardwood forests were cleared to make room for agriculture and industry.

Rapid growth and industrial development characterized the late nineteenth century. Henry Ford purchased extensive land holdings along the river. He built a factory in Dearborn to manufacture farm tractors, but kept a good portion of his land in agricultural production, partially for testing equipment. In 1914, he started construction of a permanent residence on the banks of the Rouge River.

A defining moment in the history of the river transpired with the construction of the Ford Rouge Plant during World War I. The development of the plant was motivated by Henry Ford’s desire to supply submarine chasers to the US military. The Ford Rouge Manufacturing Complex grew into a massive self –contained industrial complex that daily employed over ninety thousand men in the early 20th century. Raw materials including coke, iron ore, and rubber were brought in and transformed into cars in less than thirty hours, a process that set a new global standard for industry. The Rouge Manufacturing Complex became the largest manufacturing site in the world.

In his book Burning Rivers, Allen Park native John Hartig relates how heavy manufacturing and population growth seriously impacted the river to the point where the river became one of the most polluted waterways in the nation, catching fire in 1969 shortly after the famous Lake Erie/Cuyahoga River fire.

In 1986, in a Sunday feature on a new organization seeking to restore the Rouge, the Detroit Free Press called it the “sewer for a metropolis, discharge drain for industry, dumping ground for junk and garbage”. They went on to say that “the Rouge River has become so polluted that a cleanup seems unthinkable.”

While the Rouge is certainly far from restored, the organization the Freep was talking about, Friends of the Rouge, has been dedicated along with other public and private efforts to the preservation & restoration of the river. I encourage you to check them out for more information and to learn about their good work on the behalf of the river. Lots more at the Rouge River Project and Wayne County’s Rouge Project.

View pkHyperFocal’s photo big as a boat and see more in their Man Made slideshow.

More industry on Michigan in Pictures.

Happy 150th Birthday, Henry Ford

Henry Ford 1921 Model T

Henry Ford poses with 1921 Model T, photographer unknown

150 years ago today, on July 30, 1863, American industrial icon Henry Ford was born in Greenfield Township. The museum that he founded, The Henry Ford, says that Ford was a complex man who was ultimately responsible for transforming the automobile from an invention of unknown utility into an innovation that profoundly shaped the 20th century and continues to affect our lives today. A sampling of some of the facts about Ford they offer bear that out:

  • As a child, he was inspired by his mother, who encouraged his interest in tinkering. His father was a farmer. He encouraged Henry’s interest in the use of machines on the farm.
  • Thomas Edison was Henry Ford’s role model and later his close friend. (here’s a photo of Edison & Ford)
  • He built and drove race cars early in his career to demonstrate that his engineering designs produced reliable vehicles.
  • He financed a pacifist expedition to Europe during WWI, but during WWII Ford mobilized his factories for the war effort and produced bombers, Jeeps, and tanks. (more about that check out Willow Run on Absolute Michigan)
  • He owned a controversial newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, that published anti-Jewish articles which offended many and tarnished his image.
  • Henry Ford built Village Industries, small factories in rural Michigan, where people could work and farm during different seasons, thereby bridging the urban and rural experience.
  • The idea for using a moving assembly line for car production came from the meat-packing industry. Ford sought ways to use agricultural products in industrial production, including soybean-based plastic automobile components such as this experimental automobile trunk.
  • He was one of the nation’s foremost opponents of labor unions in the 1930s and was the last automobile manufacturer to unionize his work force. (not really a surprise there)

Read on for a full bio and if you ever have a chance definitely visit – it’s pretty amazing!

Celebrate Henry Ford’s 150th at The Henry Ford Museum!

Entrance to the Museum! - HFM

Entrance to the Museum! – HFM, photo by MikeRyu

Lish Dorset of The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn writes on the Pure Michigan Blog that although summer is always a busy time at The Henry Ford, this summer is shaping up to be especially busy as they celebrate what would have been the 150th birthday of founder Henry Ford. She writes:

We’re celebrating Henry’s legacy all year at The Henry Ford, whose birthday is July 30. Starting in June and running through August, pay a visit to Miller School in Greenfield Village and step back in time to the days of Henry’s youth as he experiments with clock parts, machines and principles that challenged him.

You can also visit Henry’s T, a 15-minute dramatic play and hear how this ultimate maker was inspired to build his universal car. Follow up the play with a visit to Henry Ford Museum and learn how to build a Model T yourself.

Both Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village are offering guided tours to guests with an emphasis on Henry’s work.

Check out for a timeline of the legendary automotive pioneer, and you can also read more about events at the Henry Ford and keep up with everything on their Facebook.

Mike took this shot on an Exposure.Detroit photowalk at The Henry Ford. Check it out on black and see more in his Henry Ford Museum slideshow.

Also see the Henry Ford Museum slideshow in the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr for over 400 more photos from The Henry Ford!