Men’s Club Luncheon Speaker: Mark Heppner, President and CEO of Eleanor and Edsel Ford House
Our luncheon speaker on November 26th was Mark Heppner, the President an CEO of the Ford House. Mark had previously served as vice president of historic resources and most recently, interim chief of operations over both Ford House and Fair Lane. With nearly 30 years of experience in museums and historic sites, Mark had served historic properties in Ohio and Iowa before moving to Michigan. A native of Ohio, he earned a B.A. studying history at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, and an M.A. in American history from Cleveland State University,
Mark spoke briefly about the history of the Ford House and Edsel and Eleanor Ford before discussing hopes for the future of Ford House, including the new Visitor Center and Administration Building currently under construction. A master planning process that started in 2012 identified that the existing visitor center and the lack of office space for staff members were holding back desired growth in attendance and revenue for the Ford House. The desire to take the historic core buildings back to how they were when the family lived there to give the visitor a more authentic experience led to moving the visitor center, parking lot and new administration building away from the historic buildings. This will remove the staff from the main house and other historic buildings to open up more space for visitors. Another objective of the project was sustainability, with the new administration building being net positive for energy use, producing more energy than is being consumed. Other features include windows that will prevent bird strikes, water management with natural filtration, and use of native plant species.
The new 40,000 square foot visitor center will provide more space for the new restaurant named the Continental in honor of Edsel Ford, event space for meetings, conferences, etc., and gallery space for permanent and seasonal exhibits, including historic photos and videos. More visitors will learn the story of Edsel Ford and his importance to Ford Motor Company. Several of the cars he designed or owned will be able to be displayed for the first time locally..
Due to construction delays, the new buildings are now scheduled to open in the Fall of 2020. Mark invited us to visit Ford House to see the changes as they occur, and he took a number of questions from our members.