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Ford Center (Michigan Technological University's Ford Forestry Center/Alberta)
The hamlet of Alberta was built in 1936 (1938?) to shelter workers at one of the Ford Motor Company's early mill operations, which produced lumber for making automobile parts. At its peak of operation, Alberta housed about fifty workers and their families. This self-sustaining sawmill community was both a showplace of modern sawmill technology and an experiment in an industrial community, one of four in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (others are Pequaming, Kingsford, and Big Bay) and one of several others statewide for which Henry Ford was famous.
Named for Alberta Johnson, daughter of a Ford brother-in-law, the village of Alberta was laid out on a northeast–southwest axis between the sawmill and the school with broad, tree-lined boulevards fed by narrower streets. A water and sewer system, a pair of schoolhouses, firehouse, church, twelve model houses with garages, a pond, and ample garden plots were a part of the plan. Surrounded by forest, the model village with its neat lawns and freshly painted houses had an unreal quality. The houses, all slightly different in design, are one-and-a-half- or two-story wood-frame buildings with gable roofs and enclosed porches. All were equipped to use heat, light, and water furnished by the mill operation. The mill was sited along Plumbago Creek, dammed to create a lake and water supply. Originally, the houses had clapboard siding and were painted white. The mill, whose smokestack rises above the forest, was kept spotlessly clean during the fourteen-year period when it produced up to fifteen thousand board feet of lumber per day. Today the mill houses the Ford Center museum and displays the original varnished interior, hardwood floors, and steam-driven band saw.
In 1954, shortly after Ford ceased milling operations at Alberta, Michigan Technological University acquired the sawmill, community, and thirty-five-thousand-acre Ford Forest for use as a scientific forestry management and forest products training, research, and conference center.
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