A Visionary’s Village: 100 Years of Historic Preservation at The Wayside Inn
This exhibit is now on display in the Jerusha Howe Gallery,
located on the 2nd floor of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn.
On August 9, 1923, Henry and Clara Ford purchased Longfellow’s Wayside Inn and 60 acres of land in Sudbury for $60,000 and endeavored to create one of the first village museums in the United States. At this time the Colonial Revival movement fueled American nationalism and inspired preservation campaigns across the country. At The Wayside Inn Ford sought to use the past to showcase his deep-rooted personal values, preserve vernacular architecture, and use the historic setting for educational purposes (Swigger, 32). Ford had already achieved success as an industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company. The Inn was his first large-scale preservation project, and it laid the foundation for his later work preserving other old buildings and creating Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan in 1933, to showcase the history of transportation and innovation in America.
The Wayside Inn that visitors see today is the result of Ford’s vision. During his ownership from 1923-1945 Ford renovated the Inn and transformed the landscape to include new buildings such as the Grist Mill and Martha-Mary Chapel, replicas of quintessential New England architecture, and created the Route 20 Bypass to protect the Inn from heavy automobile traffic. Ford established a vast working farm that included: dairy, produce, and food processing and storage facilities to provide the food consumed at the Inn. He also created a milling operation, a blacksmith and carpentry shop, a farm stand, and he established three schools. Of these buildings nine remain extant today.
Ford’s efforts to restore and preserve The Wayside Inn were not always successful. Some projects met with criticism and resistance. Ultimately, his grand plan to create a 300-person Colonial village did not come to fruition. By 1944 Ford had invested almost $3 million in the property and Henry and Clara placed the Inn into a charitable trust, now The Wayside Inn Foundation.
Ford’s work significantly impacted the Inn and the people who worked and were educated here. This exhibit seeks to showcase the evolution of the famed Wayside Inn Historic Site 100 years ago and set the stage for its future.