PRESERVATION CONNECTION: Lincoln Lore reset in stone
Car dealer's display recalls the beginning
BY NATE TRELA
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Photos by ERIC SEALS/DFP
Preparing a 1940 Lincoln Continental for display, Wally Tennyson, 63, of Harrison Township does some sanding.
Tennyson stands in front of the original stone letters of the Lincoln plant's administration building and a 1922 photo of the building.
Nearly two tons of automotive history have found a temporary home in Sterling Heights.
Seven large limestone blocks from the facade of the original Lincoln Motor Co. administration building in Detroit are on display at Jerome-Duncan Ford -- nearly two years after the Lincoln complex in Detroit was razed.
The blocks -- depicting two oak leaves and spelling out "Lincoln" -- are almost all that was saved from the 50-acre site that was the original home of Lincoln. They sat in storage for more than a year as the Lincoln Motor Car Foundation tried to find a place to display the 87-year-old slabs.
"Many people are agonizing that we're kind of a throwaway society, and artifacts like this should be saved," said Jack Eby of Bloomfield Hills, chairman of the foundation's board.
"Things like this are a manifestation of our past, and it's difficult to explain our story to young people without this type of thing to show them," he said.
Eby estimated that it took more than $50,000 worth of donated labor to remove the stones and assemble the new exhibit -- and a little bit of luck.
Lincoln's manufacturing complex was built in 1917 at Livernois and Warren, with the administration building at the front. The factory originally was used to build Liberty engines for World War I fighter planes, but was reconfigured after the war for cars.
More than 400,000 Lincolns were built at the site between 1921 and 1952.
Detroit Edison bought the facility in 1952 and used it for storage and office space until the buildings were declared unsafe. DTE, which now owns Detroit Edison, began demolition in fall 2002, and Eby found out about the work only after it had begun.
After talks with the demolition company and DTE, the foundation had two weeks to remove the limestone. Roncelli Construction of Sterling Heights coordinated the effort, cleaned the stones and stored them as the foundation looked for an exhibition site.
Dick Duncan, a longtime Ford dealer, agreed to display them with his collection of classic cars and Ford memorabilia at Memories -- the Old Garage museum at Jerome-Duncan Ford. A simple display with photos of the old building and the removal effort was set up in an exterior courtyard next to the museum.
"Jack had asked if we would have room to store this for the foundation, and we agreed to. But as time went on and the pieces arrived, the thought was put forward to display it properly," Duncan said.
Duncan's museum is a temporary home for the facade. Eventually, Eby said, the foundation wants to incorporate the stonework into a museum. Two large ledge stones and a pallet of bricks were also saved from the demolition, and Eby said they can be used to determine what materials should be used to re-create the front of the administration building.
Memories -- The Old Garage is open every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The museum is in the Jerome-Duncan Ford complex in Sterling Heights, on the west side of Van Dyke halfway between 17 Mile and 18 Mile. Admission is free.