Sharon Mills Village Industry
The Lasting Legacy of Henry Ford ~ This year marks Henry Ford’s 150th birthday. Known as one of the greatest industrialists of all time, Ford left his mark throughout Washtenaw County—including at Sharon Mills County Park.
Nestled in western Washtenaw County, Sharon Mills is home to one of Ford Motor Company’s former small factories. Ford built about 20 of these plants around Southeast Michigan through the mid-20th century as part his "Village Industries" concept. These factories were intended to bridge industry and agriculture, and to offer well-paying jobs to farmers during the slow season. Many factories were housed in old mills—standing in stark contrast to the world’s largest manufacturing facility at the time, Ford’s Rouge plant.
The original Sharon Mills building was built in the early 1850s and functioned as a gristmill. Ford purchased the site in 1928 and rebuilt it to accommodate a factory, adding a powerhouse and hydroelectric generator for power. About 15 men made cigar lighters and dome light switches at Sharon Mills until 1946, when the plant closed.
In later years, the building served as a private residence, antique store and winery. The Parks Commission purchased the site in 1999 and returned Sharon Mills to its Ford-era condition. Several remnants from its Village Industry days are still evident, including the expertly-crafted stonework restored along the millrace, Art Deco-style drinking fountains, and hardwood and brick floors. The original hydroelectric generator—more than seven decades old—is as much decoration as it is a functioning artifact.
Since its purchase, the Parks Commission has expanded Sharon Mills County Park to 170 acres. The park offers opportunities for mountain biking, hiking, fishing, picnicking, guided mill tours (see calendar for dates), catered events and more. Staff continues to explore ideas to provide increased recreational offerings.
During Ford’s 150th birthday year, the Parks Commission hopes you have an opportunity to explore this impressive piece of local history!!
Kira Macyda, Park Planner