RICHMOND HILL, GA (WTOC) - The City of Richmond Hill fought for nearly two years to save and restore Henry Ford’s Bakery built in 1941.
It was almost torn down, but today, it’s a new story and a new beginning.
When they open the doors on Saturday, it won’t be a bakery. It’ll be the new Richmond Hill Visitor Center, giving tourism a place to thrive, but even long time residents say this spot makes Richmond Hill feel even more like home.
With an almost $400,000 budget, the old bakery looks brand new, but with the same floors and walls from 1941. A fellow bakery owner, Kimberley Jardine, says it only adds to the efforts the Downtown Development Authority is doing to revitalize the Ford Avenue Corridor.
“We’ve watched the Ford bakery just be revamped, and it’s so cool to see it change every single day and it’s aesthetically so pleasing to us now when we look out our front door. It’s beautiful," Jardine said.
In the beginning, executive director Christy Sherman didn’t know this day would ever get here.
“It was a little contentious for a while. We were worried. We were really worried that it was going to get torn down," Sherman said.
Starting Saturday, it will house the Richmond Hill Visitor Center and a studio for arts on the coast.
“Some people may be camping at Ft. McAllister and drop in, some people may be staying in our hotels and drop in. We do a lot of advertising and marketing to get people out of town to come here, so we hope this will be one of their first stops."
Despite not being a bakery, guests will still find some sweet treats inside. On top of that, they will be the same recipes that were used in the bakery back in 1941.
Ford's Baker, Ira Womble Sr. moved back to Claxton to start the Georgia Fruitcake Company. His grandson now owns and operates the family business.
“Of course, he has all of those original recipes and makes them just like his grandfather did, so he is going to be supplying us with some baked items that will be for sale here.”
One of the biggest priorities of this project was preserving Henry Ford’s legacy. Many residents are happy to share that history on full display.
“I think it’s also just giving us a better sense of who we are because before it’s just like, we’re Richmond Hill, we are near Savannah, but now we’re Richmond Hill and we are a Henry Ford town, and now there’s a place we can go to learn more about the start of the city and how we came to be what we are today," said Richmond Hill resident, Mary Vanderheyden.
Right now, Christy says they are in the process of finding volunteers and workers to help out with the visitor’s center, but for now, the plan is to have it open five days a week.