St Clair Art Fair, Edsel and Eleanor Ford Home and Heidelberg Project in Detroit

6/30/13 Sunday at St Clair, MI (St Clair-TT)

Knowing the St Clair Art Fair began at 10 am, we timed our morning so we could get there about then. Good Artists and Craftspeople represented, although at first I mostly recognized those we’d walked by last night. Then I saw wonderful photography, that had watercolors mixed with it. I was intrigued. Overcoming my natural shyness, I asked the artist about how she managed to create a certain image. She excitedly explained. I told her I loved both photography and watercolor, so I was entranced by her work. I noted that I rarely have seen Bleeding Hearts in images. She said they remind her of her grandmother. It’s the same for me, I said. Pretty soon I learned that her family is in Spokane Valley and Idaho! She was born in Canada. We got quite excited about all the common threads. When I told her I didn’t have time to study Adobe Photoshop like a should, because I’m in this RV and writing this blog. She then said she wants to travel in an RV and write travel stories. Wow. So I bought some of her note cards (no wall space for photography) and we exchanged information. Give her website a peek:

Too soon, John came over to let me know that time was ticking, we had more to see and still leave by 11:30 to get to Costco for lunch, then to the Ford House ( by 1 pm to meet my cousin Judy. Thus we hurried past the rest of the booths and were on our way in time.

IMG_0297 Detroit building, tagged with graffitti, off I-94

While at Costco, John looked for shorts (his are pretty ratty), but didn’t find any that were the right size and/or color.

IMG_0298Divided arterial street in the richer neighborhood of Grosse Point Shores (reminded me of the divided arterial streets in Palm Springs – minus the cacti, of course.

We got to the Ford House before 1 pm and bought our tickets ($11/senior – 60). Judy had gotten a little lost, but made it in time for our 1:30 pm tour.

They don’t allow photos inside the home (hmm, seems I’ve heard that before), but it’s fine on the grounds. Edsel and Eleanor believed in simplicity and loved art. Edsel was Henry’s only child. He lived from 1893 to 1943, dieing of stomach cancer. Eleanor’s uncle was founder of the famous Hudson’s Department Stores. Their wedding was simple, not ostentatious. They designed their home on Grosse Pointe Shores – calling it Gaukler Pointe estate (next to the St. Clair River because they loved the water) with simplicity, entertaining and children in mind. They had 4 children: Henry II, Benson, Josephine and William.

The home is patterned after English “Cotswold District” homes. The interior is of beautiful carved woods – mahogany, oak and knotty pine, elegantly designed plaster ceilings and sandstone (from Indiana) walls. It was comfortably cool on this rather warm day. Almost all of the furniture was original. There were famous paintings that the children inherited from their parents, then they often gave the paintings to the Detroit Institute of Art. Cezanne, Van Gogh, Degas, Renoir were among the artists I remember. This house was more recent than the Oliver mansion in Indiana, so it was neat to see how they kept certain traditions (staff of 38) while taking on modern things like electricity for their lighting and refrigerators. Their kitchen looked very much like a modern day commercial kitchen. Our guide told us the steel was of the early kind, so it contains a lot of nickel, thus every fingerprint had to be cleaned with silver polish!

IMG_0305The grounds were so peaceful, with lovely bird sounds, shade, breezes and flower smells.

IMG_0306 The home entrance (left, center, right)


Farther on the right, we are outside of the “Gallery” room, where they’d put away the furniture for dancing. It was a really tall vaulted plaster ceiling, with an English/French motif and a solid oak floor from England. This wall, with the stained glass, was of dark mahogany.

IMG_0311 A view of the back of the home, that faces the St. Clair River, which borders Canada. Note all the chimneys (they had large fireplaces), the slate (real stone) roof and the canopy for shade at the very right.

IMG_0312 IMG_0315 Their pool, where the kids often swam. You can see the St. Clair River off its end – sort of like an infinity pool. It was the largest of its kind when it was built, with some sort of automatic filtering system that they use today. A sailboat floated by, so I tried to take a photo, but the boat was on the edge of our view by then.

IMG_0317 IMG_0318 Pool house, with gorgeous Hibiscus flowers at the entrance.

IMG_0319Near the rose garden (no photos of it because the roses were past their prime), there was this delightful flower/vine that I have never seen before, Mandevilla “Alice Dupont”.

IMG_0321 IMG_0327IMG_0325 IMG_0330 IMG_0331 Josephine’s playhouse – built to scale for a 7 year old, by a famous architect. A birthday gift from her grandmother. $15,000, when most homes in Detroit at the time were being selling for $5-6,000. The tea set was designed for her, inscribed with her initials, JF.

IMG_0322 This is a fish fly (new to me). They were everywhere, including on Josephine’s playhouse. Just a thought – I’ve seen way more bugs in Michigan that any other state so far. I thought the winters killed off the bugs!

IMG_0332 IMG_0334 This is the gatehouse, where we (and the Ford’s guests) first drove in. On the left and right was housing for their security staff and those who took care of their cars. The garage is at the farthest right, where John is opening the door.






















































Inside the garage you are greeted by a painting by Diego Rivera, painted in 1932. Edsel supported Rivera’s mural paintings in Detroit, while many others decried them, because he was Communist. They had their own gas pump. The black hose was for washing the vehicles. In the last photo, note the circle under the car. This is a turntable, so that they could drive the car in, then turn it so they could drive out without backing up.

IMG_0345 IMG_0346 IMG_0348Edsel’s gift was in design. He loved European car designs, so he got together with his chief designer E T Gregoire, to design what became the Lincoln Continental cars.

Before we left Judy and I each created a “new” car design on a touch screen computer, which we could print and take home (for free).

It was time to leave and Judy was hungry (no lunch), so we stopped at the Navigator Deli for a sandwich. When we left, we each set our GPS for 3600 Heidelberg St, Detroit, MI, but they both got confused at first. We gathered at some parking lot to regroup. By then our GPS’s were in gear, so off we went.

IMG_0364 The first house we saw as we approached Heidelberg St. Hmm. Interesting.


















IMG_0354 IMG_0355 IMG_0357 IMG_0359 IMG_0362 More houses. The sidewalk on both sides of the street had faces painted on each section. They were the most fun of all the art we saw there.
























IMG_0360 IMG_0361Some other art there. Some of the art we saw was pretty angry and morbid, from our perspective.










IMG_0356According to Judy, the founder, Tyree Guyton, made his house unique and drew criticism. He responded by contacting certain authorities and eventually getting a grant to fund the art in this neighborhood, encouraging expression and care for the neighborhood in the inner city.

By now, it was nearing 5 pm, so we with hugs, bid adieu and made our way to our homes.

After dinner, John and I walked the campground, then stopped at Allan and Pauline’s to say good by (they’re leaving tomorrow). In the end, we stayed an hour, then parted with hugs all around. At home, we relaxed, then hit the sack. John has to get up for golf tomorrow.

About Patricia Elser

I've always loved the loose, flowing, transparent look of watercolors, of Chinese paintings and their calligraphy, but alas, no watercolor classes were available when I was in school, so that interest remained buried until my children were grown. Even then, I was afraid that I couldn't really paint, so upon my sister's advice, I actually started to take classes. I signed up for every class available, determined to learn no matter how afraid I was. I came upon a teacher, Stan Miller, who inspired me, who opened the door to success in watercolor. I love to look at beautiful images. I want to capture them forever. All my life, photography was how I gathered images of the beauty I saw. Thanks to all that photography, I enjoy composing pictures, especially up close. Watercolors allow me to add more of me in their translation of that beauty. My paintings reflect my love for music and dance, with their rhythm and flow. I am fascinated by the play of light, so it appears in my pictures as drama for they are filled with darks and lights. Maybe it's the challenge, maybe it's the beauty, but now, when a work comes together, it fills my soul.
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