Ford’s Folly is a fascinating abandoned dam in Sudbury, Massachusetts which was built for, renowned businessman, Henry Ford.
The story of this dam dates back to 1923 when Henry Ford came to Sudbury, Massachusetts to build a colonial town. He wanted to create a village where residents could live like our pilgrim predecessors. Ford choose Sudbury because of the Wayside Inn, which was built around 1686. It was the oldest operating inn at the time and it holds this title today too as it is still operational. Ford was able to purchase the Wayside Inn along with 2,800+ acres of surrounding land in 1923.
After securing the Wayside Inn and surrounding land, Ford began developing the village of his dreams. He had all buildings built using local materials and traditional methods. The Grist Mill was built by Henry Ford in 1929 and Hop Brook powers its red water wheel. Today, it continues to grind corn and wheat used in The Wayside Inn’s baked goods. The Martha-Mary Chapel was built in 1940 by Henry Ford and students from Ford’s Wayside Inn Boys School. It was constructed using wood from trees felled during the great hurricane of 1938. It is a traditional white, New England-style, nondenominational church, that is named after Ford’s mother and mother-in-law. Other structures built by Ford include The Cider Mill, The Gatehouse, Longfellow Memorial Gardens, and Ford’s Folly.
Ford’s Folly was built soon after Henry Ford acquired The Wayside Inn. After acquiring the inn, Ford noticed the need for a reservoir for his planned village. He tested the water quality of Hop Brook, the small brook on the property, and found it to be pure. Ford then went about building a dam that would allow for a reservoir to form. The dam was constructed using local stone, oxen, and manpower. Ford believed everything should be done by hand and refused to use modern tools. When finished, the dam stretched 900 feet long and stood 30 feet tall.
After the painstaking process of crafting the dam, Ford and his fellow workers eagerly waited for the reservoir to start forming. Sadly, the project began to look like a failure. Water was not staying in the proposed reservoir. Ford soon found out that the dam was sited on “incompetent” fractured rock. Essentially, the bedrock in the area was too weak and porous to hold water. The Wayside Inn property manager, John Campbell, attempted to fix the dam from 1930 to 1946. Ultimately, his efforts were not successful. The dam was officially abandoned in 1946 after no solution was found to fix the project.
Today, the massive dam still holds no water and it can be found abandoned in the middle of the woods. It truly is a unique place to see and amazing to think it was just built by oxen and manpower! Watch out for cars when exploring! Local kids used to push old cars off the dam before the fences were put up.
- Trail Length: 1.17 miles
- Trail Difficulty: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 128 feet
- Route Type: Loop
- Dog Policy: Allowed