Edsel Ford Barn 2015: New Roof and New Posts and Beams

Many passing visitors have wondered if the Edsel Ford Barn in Highland State Recreation Area is being saved or is to be torn down. Well just one look at the Barn's roof now and the answer is clearly a resounding "it is being saved!". The Barn's new life is planned to eventually be as a community building, available for educational, family, outdoor, and other pursuits for everyone to enjoy.

above: The Edsel Ford barn at highland state recreation area in 2008 before the a violent june storm collapsed the rear sections.

One of the largest challenges of the renovation and repurposing of the buildings of the historic Haven Hill complex has been the daunting task of stopping rainwater and snow melt intrusion from the failing roof structures. The Barn's huge roof has been no exception. The Friends group has completed a new roof on the Haven Hill Gate House at the front of the park, and has now begun repairing the massive roof structure of the Edsel Ford Barn.

Since the violent storm damage in June of 2008, the Friends of Highland Recreation Area, along with several support organizations and many volunteers, have made dramatic strides towards refurbishing and repurposing the once grand structure.  The cleanup of the debris pile after the storm took over two years. Volunteers have salvaged as many components as possible, properly disposed of other materials, and even raised funds to have asbestos and vermiculite contamination professionally removed prior to continuing interior renovation. All of this effort has required many volunteer people hours, generous contributions, a high level of dedication and work ethic, and great passion.

Recent efforts during the winter of 2014-15 have resulted in a renovation of the Barn's interior posts and beams, overhead roof joists, new sheathing, and finally a new exterior roof and shingles! The Edsel Ford Barn in Highland State Recreation Area is now dry and ready for ongoing project work. 

The next development phases for the Barn include rewiring with safe and modern electrical systems and the installation of interior insulation and wall systems. Your support in the form of manpower, equipment, materials, and of course finances is very important. Go to our Support pages to contribute.


A Working World of Agriculture

The centerpiece of Edsel Ford’s working farm at Haven Hill was this barn, built in the early 1930's and partially blown down by high winds in 2008. Edsel’s father, Henry Ford, was a strong advocate of partnering between agriculture and industry, once proclaiming, "with 1 foot in industry and 1 foot in agriculture, America is safe". Henry Ford explored the use of soybeans and other farm products as materials for automobile parts, and Edsel joined other early 20th century automotive industrialists in establishing farms. This huge barn at first housed 1,500 sheep, later replaced by horses and cattle.

“We are witnessing the beginning of the Agrindustrial Age!” - Dallas Dispatch and Dallas Times-Herald, June 7, 1936

  • Interior spaces in the barn were divided by a hallway that led into the livestock area. Photo courtesy of Friends of Highland Recreation Area.
  • The barn at Haven Hill. It’s scale and natural lighting, through windows and skylights, were similar to early Ford automobile manufacturing facilities. Photo courtesy of Walter Reuther library Wayne State University.
  • Horses and riders in a corral at the working farm at Haven Hill. Horseback riding was common at Haven Hill and throughout Western Oakland County. Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
  • Haven Hill’s working farm buildings have been converted to state Park work buildings. The cupolas on the roof identify this building as the one in the background of the photo to the left.


Enclosing 15,000 square feet of space, this was one of the largest barns east of the Mississippi River.