Report From America: Firestone farm to be moved to Michigan


COLUMBIANA, Ohio -- They are razing the 155-year-old farmstead where Harvey S. Firestone was born, grew up and later tested some of the first tractors to run on rubber instead of steel tires.

But no wrecking balls are being used. This is a precision demolition job.


During the next two years, the brick farmhouse, its heavy timbered barn and a summer kitchen will be dismantled down to foundation stones, shipped 250 miles away and finally resurrected at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich.

Blake Hayes, the restorer directing the project, says the painstaking process is much like building with Lincoln logs, something he did a lot of as a child.

Greenfield, founded by Firestone's close business associate car-inventor Henry Ford, has become the final resting place for many homes of famous Americans including Thomas Edison, Luther Burbank and Ford himself.

The Firestone Foundation in Akron gave up several years ago trying to lure tourists to a remote northeast Ohio village to see the farm, but hopes it will fare better in Dearborn. Along with the homestead, the foundation last month donated the building's furnishings and $2 million.


At least half that will be spent resettling the farm Nicholas Firestone built in 1828. President Thomas Jefferson signed his land grant for 640 acres in 1804.

The grandson who was to turn a $10,000 investment into the $100-million-a-year Firestone Tire and Rubber Company was born in 1868.

'It's more than just moving a house,' said Hayes. 'We have to determine the point in time to which we'll restore the house.'

To make that decision, Greenfield's experts will examine photos and written records of the farm and architect Rosemary Bowditch will compile a analysis pinpointing where and when additions and remodeling changed the 1828 structure.

'Restoration is going back to some point and making it as much as possible as it would have been then,' said Hayes. 'That means removal of some added work or copying some things missing now.'

Ms. Bowditch and Hayes this week began measuring and sketching the homestead inside and out. A plane flew over and around the farm taking aerial pictures that will be blown up into full-scale architectural drawings.

Once the recording and measuring is done, Hayes said, trim, doors and porches will be coded by number and removed.

When the house is a masonry shell, contractors move in, Hayes said. They will take down the walls, one brick at a time and the roof, slate-by slate.


Mortar can't be salvaged, so new batches will be mixed after a chemical analysis shows exactly what ingredients to put in.

In Dearborn, following a numbered guide, builders will put the house back together, again facing east, with the barn to the right and planted fields to the front.

'It will be an entire living exhibit,' said Hayes who said the Firestone home will be featured as the first real farm in the outdoor museum that specializes in 19th Century American history.

The experts say the tedious process of ripping down then rebuilding the farm is the best way to move it, something that might have upset Firestone himself, who was an early sponsor of trucking freight.

'The problems moving (the buildings) on a flat bed on the highway, because of the distance, the country roads you'd have to use, permits needed, wires that would have to be removed -- the cost would be prohibitive,' said Hayes.

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