News & Stories
December 6, 2023

Ford History Stewards Visit Berry

One hundred years ago American industrialist Henry Ford and his wife visited Berry College founder Martha Berry in Rome, Georgia.  

That visit in 1923, marked by a new exhibit at the college and a recent Ford Legacy Summit, resulted in a robust relationship between Berry and the Fords. The Fords' gifts to Berry were numerous and varied from monumental structures to soybeans. The intention behind the Fords' generosity remained constant: improve the lives of the Berry Schools' students.  

The Ford Legacy Summit, which was held in November at Berry, was organized by the Henry Ford Heritage Association and included various Ford historical site representatives.  The group dined at Oak Hill, took breakfast in the Dickey Living Room of the Ford Buildings, enjoyed music in the newly renovated Bell Recital Hall and marveled at the Old Mill, gifted by Henry Ford in 1930. 

Todd Bryan, president of the Henry Ford Heritage Association, said his group acts as a hub between all the history sites and organizations across the United States that have a history with Henry Ford. 

Cyndi Peters, who works with the Ford Family, had never been to Berry.  

“My goal coming down here was to learn more about the Henry/Clara connection and the seeds they planted decades ago that are continuing to this day to support and sustain the institution and…mission accomplished,” Peters said. “The last couple of days have been insightful, formative, educational and I’m taking back with me some wonderful tidbits of knowledge that I can then take back to the family members directly. Most if not almost all of them are not really aware of the family legacy with Berry College.” 

She noted that at the Oak Hill dinner, Berry representatives took turns reading correspondence letters between Martha Berry and Mr. Ford. 

“All of those were building blocks to help grow and sustain the college, which then was the catalyst for him actually physically visiting the college. It was in that visit that Clara (Ford) mentioned ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if the girls' school had a stove that worked?’ and that turned into all those buildings.” 

Many of Berry's iconic structures, such as the Old Mill and the Ford Complex, trace back to the Fords and have evolved with the schools since their initial construction. Other more personal gifts, such as recipes and repaired clocks, are remembered in Berry’s history and speak to the sincere friendship and concern Henry and Clara Ford had for the Berry community. 

The Martha Berry Museum’s current exhibit, “An Indelible Impact: The Fords’ Gifts to Berry”, runs through Dec. 22, 2023. The museum is open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and admission is free.  

 The exhibit includes: 

  • historical photographs of the Fords at Berry 

  • photographs/blueprints/maps of the various building projects funded by the Fords 

  • correspondence between Berry’s administrators and Ford representatives between 1920s-1940s 


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