Why is the Nankin Mills Nature Center important?
Nankin Mills began operation in 1842. Henry Ford visited the mill as a boy and it is said to have been one of his favorite places. In 1918, the automaker bought Nankin Mills and converted it into a small factory—part of Ford’s Village Industries project whereby he hoped to preserve rural life. Small factories in rural areas would allow people to do factory work part of the year and farm the rest. Nankin Mills retained hydroelectric power, but gas generators and eventually electricity supplemented the factory’s power supply.
Nankin Mills was remodeled by Wayne County and dedicated in 1958 as a nature center, featuring exhibits on the history of the Mill, surrounding natural resources and wildlife. A center to rehabilitate injured wildlife was a popular attraction there for decades. The Nature Center was closed in 1980 but the formation of the Friends of Nankin Mills allowed it to raise the capital to restore and expand the facility. The mill reopened as an interpretive center in 2001 highlighting the role the Mill played through time in the settlement of the area, the Underground Railroad and one of the first Ford Village Industry plants. The generator is one of the oldest examples of Henry Ford’s and Thomas Edison’s experiment to convert water power to hydroelectricity. The center now offers educational programs to thousands of school children and the public at large.
The Friends of Nankin Mills is working in partnership with Wayne County Parks in restoring the mill and creating interpretive programs that are invaluable resources for both the educational institutions and the community at large.
Help Make History
We would like to enhance our historical interpretation by restoring a Model T for an interactive educational exhibit, researching and restoring Thomas Edison’s early generators, and buying video equipment to preserve the unique stories of area residents through oral histories. While donations are always welcome, please consider becoming a member and/or a volunteer!