The Family Pool – 1935

(from Summer, 2023 Edition of Macomb Now Magazine)

By Tommy Karr

When Eleanor and Edsel Ford were considering their future home at Gaukler Pointe, they turned to celebrated architect Albert Kahn and renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen to create the breathtaking estate we know today as Ford House.

Ford House was the Ford family home, so a swimming pool and lagoon were constructed on the property to safely support their active lifestyle. Jensen’s design for the swimming pool at Gaukler Pointe is meant to provide the impression of being a woodland retreat yet connected to the larger lake nearby. The irregularly shaped pool is situated so that views across its length end in views of Lake St. Clair in the distance. The turquoise hue of the pool repeats the colors of the large lake, making the two bodies of water feel connected.

At the north end of the swimming pool, Jensen created a small waterfall overflowing into a small lagoon. Stepping stones from the woodland garden around the pool cross the waterfall and lead into a small rock garden with views across the lagoon and back to the house. Initially, the lagoon was connected to Lake St. Clair and included a boat landing. After Edsel’s death, Eleanor had Marshall Johnson create a berm separating the lagoon from the lake, transforming it into a naturalistic pool and providing more privacy for the lagoon, rock garden and swimming pool areas.

Connecting the residence to the lagoon and pool landscape to the southeast is a walkway that provides a route from the house to the swimming pool.

For this connection, Jensen planned a gradual transition from the typical native trees of southeastern Michigan to those of northern Michigan, suggesting a retreat “up North” as one moved to the pool. The walkway is made of cut limestone and is approximately four feet wide. Along the path is a small irregular grove of white birch trees, backed by evergreen hemlock on a slight rise. The intent was to mimic a naturally occurring stand of white birch. During the planting process, Edsel observed to ensure proper spacing and wrote to Jensen when he noticed that the trees were planted in more of a straight line instead of a more artistic arrangement. Jensen instructed his foreman on the project to adjust the trees, creating the looser arrangement that persisted throughout much of the estate’s history and has guided recent replanting of this same grove.

Today the pool and lagoon are beautifully restored, offering visitors a spot to appreciate and enjoy the Fords’ passion for design and architecture. Being part of the historic corridor of the estate, swimming and touching the diving board are no longer permitted. Ford House hopes these beautiful spots will continue to inspire generations of visitors, encouraging them to embrace the beauty and artistry of nature.

Pictured in the photo above is young William Clay Ford, preparing to dive into the pool. The photo was created as a still photo from one of the Ford family’s home movies.

Photo Credit: From the collection of Ford House.

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