Ford Center 60th Anniversary
The 60th anniversary of Michigan Technological University's Ford Center is upon us! Events will be held at the Ford Center, Alberta, MI on August 9th and 10th, 2014.
In celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Ford Motor Company’s gift to Michigan Tech, a variety of programs - covering the history of the Ford Center and how Michigan Tech has used the Ford Center and the surrounding research forest over the past six decades - will be provided during the weekend of August 9-10, 2014.
These programs will include presentations by students and faculty members performing research and management on Ford Center lands as well as field trips to sites that are utilized in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science curriculum.
Alumni, Students, Staff, Faculty, and Friends - MARK YOUR CALENDARS! We look forward to seeing you all at the Ford Center on August 9-10, 2014.
Ford Center History
The village of Alberta, MI (aka Ford Center) was constructed by Henry Ford in 1935. Its sawmill and houses were to become the public face of Ford’s lumber empire (1919-1951), which occupied almost one-third of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Construction of the sawmill began in 1935 and went into operation the following year. Its first job was to cut the lumber needed to construct the village. By 1938 the village was complete and consisted of a sawmill, a welcome center/pump house, three school-related buildings, twelve houses and twelve garage-like units. The aerial image (below) is of Alberta, MI in about 1940.
Alberta had one of six sawmills Henry Ford built or purchased, but it was the only one designed to be a tourist destination. The main function of Alberta was public relations. The sawmill was designed so tourist could safely view the operations and the village was to be a model of a self-sustaining community. The Ford Motor Company’s need for lumber lessened each year, until there was only one model – the Woodie Wagon—that required any notable amount of wood. When this model was discontinued in 1951, the Ford Motor Company began selling off the land and the sawmills.
In November 1954 the Ford Motor Company donated the village of Alberta and 1700 acres of forest to Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan. Soon after the gift was received the University
began using the site as a training facility for their forest industry students. Initially the houses and school buildings provided the students’ housing and dining hall. Within two years the University started construction of several new buildings. None of the original structures of Alberta were moved or removed; the construction by Michigan Tech University was along the perimeter of the village. The first buildings (about 1956) were four 12-person barracks; they were located to the south of the school buildings. Over the years several more buildings were added; the last construction project was in 1980 when the final addition was added to the large Dorm.
Michigan Tech Uses of the Ford Center
Michigan Technological University has used the Ford Center in a variety of ways over the past 60 years.
The university first used Alberta as a base for forestry students. Students lived in the houses and used the mill as a training facility.
After 1980, the Ford Center became a conference center. In 1996, Ford Motor Company gave the center another grant, this time to fix up the old mill and turn it into a museum.
The Ford Center lands and facilities are used today as the campus for the School of Forest Resources & Environmental Science's Integrated Field Practicum, more affectionately known as Fall Camp. The Integrated Field Practicum is a semester long program where third year undergraduate students, as well as Masters of Forestry and Masters International students, have the opportunity to complete course work in the field, learning and practicing the hands-on skills that are necessary to their futures as foresters and ecologists. In addition to the Integrated Field Practicum, the Ford Center also hosts classes, seminars, camps, and training sessions targeted toward professional educators, natural resources professionals, and fellow educational organizations.
Today, the Ford Center's forest lands are used not only as a teaching space, but also as a grounds for conducting research on sustainable forestry, silviculture, and ecological processes. There are several long-term studies taking place on the property, including the internationally recognized cutting trials. Programs covering the research that is currently being conducted on Ford Center lands will be offered during the 60th anniversary celebration on August 9-10, 2014.