Restoration of Historic Powerhouse Scheduled for 2004

Milford Michigan’s Art Deco Powerhouse built by Henry Ford in 1939 will have a new life when restoration of the building begins in the summer of 2004. Milford’s Pettibone Creek Hydroelectric Station (the historic name) will be restored according to the strict guidelines of the U.S. Department of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation. The preservation project is a partnership between the Village of Milford, owner of the building, the Milford Historical Society and the Milford’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

Deterioration and vandalism of the small building in Milford’s Central Park had brought it to the brink of extinction. In December of 1999, the Village Council put out a call for a plan to save it. After four years of planning and gathering funding for the project the final pieces fell into place as Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), administrator of a $262,500 grant awarded by the Federal Highway Commission, approved the exterior restoration plans in mid December 2003. Subsequent phases: interior and site work, as well as interpretation of the building’s historic significance will be completed when funding and volunteer work and materials have been secured.

“This project is very important for Milford,” said Judith Reiter, President of the Milford Historical Society and co-chair with Suzanne Fleming of the Milford Powerhouse Restoration Committee. “It demonstrates respect for our historic icons. That beautiful building is now assured of being there to inspire and to celebrate.” Glenn Rittenger, a Milford resident and professional engineer, is serving as the technical advisor for the project. “Our committee sought funding, but it was Glenn’s dedicated and meticulous work that made this project viable,” says Ms. Reiter.

Milford DDA’s commitment is an important link that ensures the project’s success. “I have personally always loved this building, but beyond that, preservation is a proven catalyst for economic growth,” reflects Dave Armstrong, a Milford DDA member and project supporter. Ron Fowkes, current Village Council President, has actively worked in the planning process. “Preservation is good for our entire community,” he says, “I’m proud we have the resources and commitment for such an important project.”

The Powerhouse was designed by America’s great architect, Albert Kahn, who designed Ford’s huge Highland Park, Rouge and Willow Run plants, as well as the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, the Fisher and General Motors Buildings in Detroit and notable University of Michigan buildings.

The Powerhouse, one of two hydroelectric stations supplying Ford’s carburetor plant, is the sole survivor of the three late 1930’s buildings and five dams that comprised Milford’s “village industry.” It has an important story to tell about Milford’s place in the early development of the auto industry that changed the world. Believing that: “With one foot in industry and one foot in agriculture, America is safe, ” Ford restored mills and built small industrial complexes in rural communities along Southeastern Michigan’s Huron, Rouge, Raisin and Saline rivers. “Milford’s Powerhouse,” observes Prof. David L. Lewis of the University of Michigan, “is one of the most distinctive of Ford’s village industries buildings, located in a most picturesque setting. Ford-history enthusiasts are delighted to learn that is to be restored!”

The historic significance of the Powerhouse garnered the attention of many discerning funders, locally and nationally, including the Village of Milford, Americana Foundation, National Trust for Historic Preservation (Johanna Favrot Fund), Oakland County (Community Development Block Grant), Michigan Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Commission, Milford’s Downtown Development Authority, Auto National Heritage Area, Detroit Area Art Deco Society, Milford Historical Society, Pettibone Creek Questers, International Questers, Milford Township, Siplast/Icopal Roof Systems, Milford Business Association, Read Between the Lines Books, Hines Park Ford, Inc., Colley Electrical Systems, Inc., Denise and Lyle Tyler and many of the community’s citizens who supported the project.

The architectural firm chosen for the restoration project is Cornerstone Architects of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

To learn more about the Powerhouse, visit:

February 2004
Pettibone Creek Hydroelectric Station
Rehabilitation Project Update

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