The Ford men sitting on the front step of 649 Union, 1927. Left to right: Thomas Gerald Ford, Gerald R. Ford Jr., Richard Addison Ford, Gerald R. Ford Sr., and James Francis Ford seated on his father's lap.

Home Life


Ford’s first boyhood home stood at 716 Madison Avenue, in an established neighborhood in southeast Grand Rapids. His father was prosperous during this time, and eventually earned enough money to put money down to build a house on Rosewood Avenue in the affluent East Grand Rapids suburb. The Fords moved into that newly built house in 1922, but they were not able to enjoy it for long. The owner of Heystek and Canfield, the paint and varnish business that employed Gerald Ford Sr., had died, and the new management made a series of poor choices that led to many managers losing their jobs in the company. Ford Sr. was one of the unfortunate employees. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to work harder,” he told his wife.


Though Ford quickly found work at another company, it was at a lower salary. The family realized that they would be unable to maintain the payments on the new house and consequently moved to a more modest location at 649 Union in a diverse neighborhood just southeast of downtown. A two-story house built in 1907, it would serve as the home where Junior would live out some his most formative years as a youth.


The Fords resided at Union Avenue until the summer of 1930, when Jerry Sr., at this point finding success in running his own business, wanted a home to show his rising economic prosperity. The family spent that summer fixing up a house at 2163 Lake Drive, once again in East Grand Rapids. Jerry Ford, Jr., spent his senior year of high school on Lake Drive before moving on to college in Ann Arbor. The Ford’s journey from their small home on Madison Avenue toward the more upscale house on Lake Drive was a testament to the strong work ethic and honest values of his father, whose principles would remain a strong influence on Gerald R. Ford throughout his life.


The Ford household rules were straightforward, framed by parental expectations and grounded in firm principles. “Whatever happened, you were honest,” Ford would later write.  “Dad and Mother had three rules:  Tell the truth, work hard, and come to dinner on time. Woe to any of us who violated those rules.”