Two grist mills have occupied this site. The first was built between 1835 and 1842: the present was constructed soon after the Civil War. In 1918 Henry Ford purchased it as part of a plan to develop village mill industries along the Rouge and other small rivers. Equipped with a turbine generator, Nankin Mills produced engravings, carburetor parts, rivets, and bearings. Ford believed that farmers working in an atmosphere of cleanliness and tranquility would restore a proper balance between the industrialized city and rural communities. Although his experiment intrigued American and European planners, it proved unprofitable. After World War II, the mills closed. The Wayne County Road Commission acquired Nankin Mills and in 1956 it was given new life as a nature center.