Published on September 12th, 2021 | by Madhudvisa dasa
Does Ford Have a Better Idea? — Fisher Mansion Detroit becomes a Hare Krishna Temple
The grandson of Henry Ford and the daughter of the labor leader Walter P. Reuther purchased and restored to its original 1920’s splendor Detroit’s historic Fisher Mansion and converted it into a Hare Krishna temple.
The Fisher Mansion is buried deep in a neighborhood on Detroit’s crumbling near East Side, almost to the mouth of the Detroit River, a cream-colored stucco mansion built by the automobile magnate Lawrence Fisher, a reminder of the once-unlimited wealth of Detroit
This film shows the history of how the grandchildren of two of Detroit’s most powerful auto magnate families both became Hare Krishna devotees and together, as an offering to their spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, purchase and transform the Fisher Mansion into an elaborate Hare Krishna temple.
In 1975, Alfred Brush Ford and Elisabeth Luise Reuther Dickmeyer purchased the house for $300,000 with money they had inherited. Mr. Ford said that the founder of the Hare Krishna movement in the Western world, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhubada, on a visit to Detroit, had told him to purchase the mansion and make it into a showplace for Krishna consciousness.
Since then Mr. Ford has spent over $2 million in renovating the house, adding a small movie theater for multimedia presentations on the society and lending to it many pieces of Indian art, some of them priceless. Tonight, Mr. Ford and Mrs. Dickmeyer are hosts at the opening of the Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center, a ”cultural mecca of the Midwest.”
The house, whose value is estimated at over $9 million, is a Moorish-Italian design set on the Grayhaven Canal at the mouth of the Detroit River. Work on the estate was completed in 1927 and the world of the 20’s roared throughout the place when Mr. Fisher, who remained a bachelor until late in life, gave parties in the ballroom of the 40-room mansion. The ballroom now is the place of worship for temple members.
The local Krishna members, about 40 or 50 who are active in the temple, live nearby in middle-class homes that were built in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Elisabeth Reuther, who is still known as Lisa although her spiritual name is Lekhasravanti Dasi, married Bruce Dickmeyer in the temple in 1977. She and her husband and two children live in an apartment nearby.
She said she did not think her father, who was a major organizer of the United Automobile Workers in the 1930’s and who died with his wife in a plane crash 13 years ago, would have any problems with her life style today.
Nor does Mr. Ford think that his great-grandfather, Henry Ford, would mind. ”If anyone would object I guess it would be Lawrence Fisher,” he said, laughing. But he added seriously, ”I think he would probably have a personal sense of gratification that the Fisher Mansion is now being used to glorify God.”
So it seems that Ford does have a better idea–Krishna.
‘In my father’s house there are many mansions’.
Hopefully the first of many to be claimed for a higher purpose, rather than just palaces for the opulent satisfaction of the owners. After all, who do these places belong to ultimately?