All about the Bowling Alley

The preservation and conservation team at Fair Lane is pleased to share that work has begun to restore and stabilize the original Brunswick Bowling alley, one of the many highlights of the estate’s extensive restoration. This remarkable space once boasted a classic Brunswick ball return, ball rack, and score board. We will be recreating those features so the alley is fully functional and a beautiful reflection of its original appearance. As always at Fair Lane, our team does extensive research on the original room and its contents before restoration begins. Our restoration and reproduction work will be based upon period receipts, construction orders, and trade catalogs.

When Fair Lane was being built in the 1910s, having a bowling alley in a private residence would have been a rare recreational feature. Expensive and difficult to build, only the wealthiest of families would have even considered installing one. Ten laborers would have been required to build the lane itself onsite. The structure of the lane would be assembled on its side, with men hammering long, thin strips of wood together one piece at a time, allowing the lane to grow in width. When the lane was constructed, it would be laid out on the ground and gutters installed on either side to complete the installation.

The bowling alley here at Fair Lane also came with a few additional features:

Pin Spotter- Pins would be lined up using metal rods that would emerge from the lane when a lever was pushed. Called a Pin Spotter, this was a relatively new mechanism in the 1910s. Clara and Henry Ford likely would have seen this feature in one of the trade catalogs published by Brunswick Bowling and other vendors. The pin spotter still works and will be fully restored for use.

Ball Pit- Balls and pins would land in the ball pit at the back of the lane, consisting of a maple floor topped by a rubber mat and a leatherback cushion to provide both cushion and sound suppression.

Ball Return- Used to bring the ball back to the head of the lane, the Brunswick ball return that was originally installed at Fair Lane was removed in the 1950s. We will be replicating this feature in order to return the entire lane to full functionality.

Wall Mounted Water Fountain- Made of recessed white marble, this fountain would have provided refreshment to bowlers during games.

Today, the Bowling Alley is not in the best shape. The space is afflicted by moisture issues and much of the original bowling equipment is missing, leaving the room mostly bare. Work in the Bowling Alley is currently focused on addressing the moisture and related preservation problems, to stabilize the area for years to come. When these pressing issues are resolved, we will turn our attention to recreating the room and its contents, as close to the original as possible.

We invite you to stay tuned in the coming months to watch as this space is returned to its original glory.