The Ford residence at Lake Drive, circa 1931.

2163 Lake Drive


The Ford family moved to 2163 Lake Drive after a chain of events that led to Jerry Ford becoming the owner of his very own business. Sales of furniture, Grand Rapids' major export, had begun to drop throughout the 1920s, and companies started to branch out from their primary products. The company that Ford worked for, the Grand Rapids Wood Finishing Company, was doing just that. With dreams of financial independence, Ford had instilled enough confidence in his sales abilities that his boss, Albert Simpson, opened up an interior paints division and put Jerry Sr. in charge of the new operation in 1928. Carl Schumann, a chemist with a few paint patents to his name, was made technical director, and with Simpson looking towards retirement, the operation was spun off into its own separate company as Ford Paint and Varnish. It was ready for business in October 1929.


Despite the downward turn in the economy following the stock market crash, the company was establishing itself, and Jerry Ford Sr. wanted a house that would be fitting for a man who was his own boss. In the summer of 1930, he found a pre-war house in East Grand Rapids. It was in need of repairs, but it was large and the location was right. He put money down on 2163 Lake Drive, and every weekend that summer, Jerry Sr. and his sons worked to fix up the newly purchased home. The Ford family moved into the new residence that September.


Moving to East Grand Rapids brought up the issue of how Jerry Ford Jr. was to continue his enrollment at South High. The suburb had a school of its own, but, as captain of the football team, Jerry felt he had an obligation to finish with his present team. Having received permission from the city school district to remain at South, the next task was to figure out how to make the three mile commute from his new home. The summer before his senior year, Jerry worked three jobs: one working ticket stands at Ramona Park, one filling paint cans for his father’s business, and another flipping burgers and working the register at Bill’s Place. By the time school started, the seventy-five dollars he had saved was enough to buy an old 1924 Ford coupe.


Though the car got him through football season, it would not last the winter. On a cold and snowy night in December, Ford arrived home from basketball practice. Noticing steam rising from under the hood, he opened it up and saw that the engine was glowing red and then remembered he had neglected to put antifreeze in the radiator. It was common practice to drape blankets over the hood on cold nights to prevent the engine from freezing, so Jerry went a step further and put a blanket around the engine itself. Less than an hour later, as the Ford family was eating dinner, they heard sirens just outside the house. Rushing to see what the matter was, they saw that Jerry’s car was ablaze, It was too late for the fire department to save the vehicle. What made matters worse was that Junior had not taken insurance out on the car—he commuted by streetcar for the remainder of his senior year.


The Ford family was not on Lake Drive for long, taking up residence at 1011 Santa Cruz Drive in 1933. But by then, Jerry had left Grand Rapids, his athletic and academic careers taking him to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.