The Haven Hill Estate Retreat


Edsel Ford, only child of Henry Ford, began purchasing parcels of land in Highland and White Lake Townships in 1923. The plan was to construct a  self-sufficient retreat as a diversion from the hustle and bustle of city life - a retreat that was more convenient than a lengthy drive north.   


During the Edsel & Eleanor Ford family years, the Haven Hill Estate consisted of five structures:


1. Gate House - the estate’s primary entrance

2. Riding Stables - home to the family’s prized riding horses

3. Barn - housing for sheep, work horses and Black Angus cattle

4. Carriage House - three car log garage with living quarters

5. Lodge - the Ford family’s residence at Haven Hill

Haven Hill Lodge

Haven Hill Lodge circa 1966

Edsel Ford Swimming Pool

Pool & tennis court circa 1940’s

The role of this 2,422 acre estate, was that of recreation—

a leisure estate that included:


1. 3,000 ft tow-return toboggan run

2. Swimming pool

3. Tennis court

4. Horseback riding

5. Fishing and more

Three years after Edsel’s passing in 1943, Eleanor sold the estate to our state park system, which eventually became Highland Recreation Area.


Many alterations were made to the estate over the years to accommodate various uses, until state budget cuts in the 1980’s lead to closure of the structures. The structures have suffered from lack of use, but continue to fascinate visitors and serve as a popular park attraction. The Riding Stables and Lodge have since been lost to fire.


Now under lease agreement with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, FOHRA is working to bring the three remaining structures back to life, while returning them more closely to their original design...

Once completed, the Gate House  will provide related historical details along with an intro to Jens Jensen’s landscape design, while also serving as a store/visitor center.

Gate House Concept Rear FOHRAGate House Concept FOHRAText Box: Gate House Conceptual

By colorizing original black & white photos, we are better  able to show our goal for the Gate House, which is to repeat everything shown here—from the fireplace entry (left), to the clothes line and wooden garage doors (below).

This conceptual was created by Oakland County Planning & Economic Development Services utilizing the footprint of the former Haven Hill Lodge—a lost structure that will undergo feasibility studies in 2010 for possible rebuilding due to popular demand.


Like the neighboring Carriage House, our goal is to construct an observation deck here as well, providing a more breathtaking view —from the very top of Haven Hill!














Though the self-sufficient estate entertained many famous names, it was also designed by famous names. Robert O. Derrick was contracted as the primary structural architect, while Master Landscape Planner, Jens Jensen served as landscape architect.




Edsel Ford Haven Hill Lodge Concept FOHRA

Haven Hill Lodge Conceptual

Once completed, the house will offer all of the estate’s unique history, including the backgrounds of its many famous guests. This will be supported with a variety of tours. Also included will be lecture areas (above), a class-size observation deck (right) and more. It may then become known as the “Haven Hill Heritage House”.

Carriage House Concept Observation DeckEdsel Ford Carriage House Concept FOHRAText Box: Carriage House Conceptual

Again through colorization (left), we are able to give a better representation of our plans for the 2-story, 80 foot long Carriage House—including reinstalling the three sets of wooden garage doors as shown in the center of the house.

Similar to this rendition (left), one of the rooms will be converted into a class/meeting area. The room will double as a warming area during winter months for cross country ski, ice skating under the pavilion, etc...

Highland Rec Concept Refreshment StandConcept FutureEdsel Ford Barn Concept FOHRAText Box: Barn Conceptual

This “pavilion” rendition of the Barn was created after 75% of  its 15,000 sq ft was lost to severe winds in June of 2008.


The goal here is an educational   & recreational event space, that  will also serve as the “hub” in Oakland County’s new trail system. The pavilion will act as Phase One in the barn’s revival.

Haven Hill


In 1923, Edsel Ford began purchasing parcels of land spanning Highland and White Lake Townships, for what would eventually become Edsel & Eleanor Ford’s, Haven Hill Estate.


Construction of the estate began with the groundbreaking of the Haven Hill Lodge in 1924. By 1931, the Haven Hill Estate was complete, including a swimming pool, tennis court, tow-return toboggan run, and horse riding track.

Completely self-sufficient, the estate included two vegetable gardens, a farm area, and a lake.


Initially, the Haven Hill Estate was comprised of five structures:

1. Gatehouse, upon entry into the estate

2. Riding stables for the prized riding horses

3. Barn, housing 1,500 sheep

4. Carriage House, designed as the garage and living quarters for the chauffeur

5. Lodge, the residence of the Ford family (Edsel and Eleanor Ford, their sons, Henry II, Benson, and William Clay, and daughter, Josephine)


Designed as a getaway home, Haven Hill accommodated many visitors, ranging from the Prince of Wales, to Tarzan author, Edgar Rice Burroughs. After the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s son, the estate became high security, with walking guards and guard dogs, as well as barbed wire fencing surrounding the entire 2,422 acres.


Eleanor Ford sold the Haven Hill Estate to the state of Michigan in 1946, three years after Edsel’s untimely passing at age 49.


At A Glimpse

· Edsel & Eleanor Ford estate from 1923-1946

· 2,422 acres, that included 69 acre man-made Haven Hill Lake

· Completely self-sufficient, high security

· Lodge was built at the top of Haven Hill, on the border line of Highland & White Lake Townships

· Three remaining structures = barn, carriage house & gatehouse

· Lodge was designed by architect, Robert O. Derrick

· Oakland County’s highest natural hill — 1,132 feet

· Estate was landscaped by Jens Jensen

· Received “National Natural Landmark” designation in 1972, and American Society of Landscape Architects “Medallion Award” in 1999

· Riding stables were destroyed by fire in 1949, while the Lodge was destroyed by fire in 1999

· The $1.8 million estate was sold to the state of Michigan for $310,000.00, a deal that even included the toboggans


Remaining Attractions

1.   Barn

2.   Carriage House

3.   Gatehouse

4.   Lodge footprint and fireplace

5.   Jens Jensen landscape

6.   Swimming pool

7.   Tennis court

8.   Toboggan run

A visit is literally a “day in the park”

Friends Of Highland Recreation Area