Henry Ford’s Village Industries

In 1938, the automotive industry was young and the early auto barons were bold, innovative men. One of Henry Ford’s pioneering ideas was the coexistence of technology, modern production and farming. Workers would have “one foot in agriculture…and the other in industry.”

Ford began developing his vision by creating “Village Industries.” He chose sites in southeast Michigan: Milan, Brooklyn, Saline, Northville, Macon and Milford where early waterpowers still existed. He restored existing historic mills or constructed modern buildings, creating small industrial complexes in these rural settings.

Milford’s Upper Mill Pond, created by an early 1845 dam, became the site of the 12th Village Industry when the Ford Carburetor Factory  was built in 1938. Albert Kahn designed the factory and two hydroelectric stations, one on the Huron River and one on Pettibone Creek to supply the factory with power. The plant employed 350 workers, 53% of them farmers. The output was 1,700 carburetors per day. The larger hydroelectric station was demolished in 1997; the carburetor factory was razed in 2001.

Milford’s Powerhouse, historically the Pettibone Creek Hydroelectric Station, is one of only a few buildings in southeast Michigan that remains from this interesting experiment. The striking silhouette of this restored Art Deco building will stand to tell an important story of local and regional history.

The Powerhouse as it looked in 1932

More Help is Needed

Saving a local landmark from “demolition by  neglect” depends on help from many sources: preservation grants, local businesses and a broad base of community support.

While Phase 1 costs are completely funded, funding and in-kind donations are needed to complete the project. Donations are needed for concrete, handrails, guardrails, sandblast and painting, toilet room construction, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, electrical and site utilities Site work needed includes tree and brush removal, brick paving, grindstone stairs and site lighting.

Community support in the form of labor, materials, and equipment and additional funding, will chip away at the wish list piece by piece.  In addition, supporters can “Paint-a-Tile” and “Buy-a-Brick” as part of the effort to bring this elegant building back to life. (Contact the Milford Historical Society for details.)

Phases of the Project

       Work will be completed in phases:

Building Enclosure

Interior Restoration

Site Improvements

Hydro Infrastructure Repair


The exterior restoration will follow the U.S. Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation. Completion of Phase 1 is projected for fall/winter, 2004. As funding and in-kind donations become available, the other phases will follow. The interior will be readied for a tenant whose business is compatible with parks and recreation zoning requirements. Site work will be done to enhance the building and increase its visibility and use.

Interpretation will tell the stories of Henry Ford’s Village Industries, Milford workers, the Art Deco architectural style and hydroelectric power generation.

The Powerhouse project is associated with the Auto National Heritage Areas, designated by the U.S. Congress in 1998. With this affiliation, Milford’s Powerhouse will be included in their mission to preserve and interpret the region’s automotive heritage as well as encourage tourism to southeast Michigan.

Investors in the Project

Village of Milford    

Milford Historical Society    

Milford Downtown Development Authority   

Mich. Dept. of Transportation

Federal Highway Administration

Americana Foundation

Community Devlp. Block Grant

Siplast/Icopal Roof Systems

Automobile Nat’l Heritage Area

Evans Memorial Grant

Newton Crane Roofing Contractors        

Milford Township

Western Waterproofing

Johanna Favrot/ Nat’l Trust

for Historic Preservation                                                                                

Integrated Engineering Assoc., Inc

Colley Electrical Systems, Inc.

Dan Christie Illustrations

Milford Business Association

Pettibone Creek Questers                    

Mich. State Organization of Questers

Detroit Area Art Deco Society

Denise and Lyle Tyler

  Hines Park Ford, Inc.

The Restoration Project

The Building

- Pettibone Creek Hydroelectric Station

- Art Deco Style

-  Designed by Albert Kahn

-  Built by Henry Ford, 1939

     The Partners

- Village of Milford                                              

-  Milford Historical Society  

-  Milford Downtown Development Authority

The Plan               

- Restore to US preservation standards

- Interpretation of building and site

- Recreation related business as tenant

- Trail head for projected bike path

Projected Costs

Project Phases  Funding

Building Enclosure                      100%

Interior Restoration                           0%

Site Improvements                          30%

Hydro Infrastructure Repair               0%

Interpretation                            0%

2nd   Revision 04/ 04

Buy a brick!

Pettibone Creek Powerhouse Restoration Project Overview
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