Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Ford Piquette Avenue Plant

On April 1, 1904, approximately 10 months after Ford Motor Company was launched, stockholders authorized the purchase of 3.11 acres on Piquette Avenue for $23,500. The site encompassed a city block, bounded by Beaubien Street on the east, Brush Street on the west, and Piquette Avenue on the south. On the north, the property abutted the Michigan Central Railroad.

The next day, the Board of Directors authorized Henry Ford and board member John Dodge to plan a suitable building, the cost of construction not to exceed $76,500. Plans were drawn immediately by the Detroit firm of Field, Hinchman & Smith.

Construction started two months later. The New England mill style factory was approximately 402 feet long, 56 feet wide and three stories tall. The building's exterior was load-bearing brick masonry walls with 355 windows. The long, narrow building with many large windows provided maximum daylight and ventilation. The interior framing was wood columns and beams with double-decked floors, the finished floor mostly of maple. A powerhouse measuring 36 feet by 57 feet was also built.

Because of the disastrous fire at the Olds Motor Works factory Ford’s new factory had three firewalls. Each section was equipped with fire escapes, and the entire factory was protected by an automatic sprinkler system fed by a 25,000-gallon water tank on the roof.

By the end of 1904, the new factory was finished. The building offered a level of spaciousness that prompted one employee to express doubts to Mr. Ford about the still-small company ever being able to fill all of the space!

The main entrance to the factory was on Piquette Avenue with business offices located on the first floor and Henry Ford's offices on the second floor, closer to the Experimental and Design Departments. The first products assembled in the building were the Ford Model C, F and B, which were discontinued by 1906. In April of that year production began on the new, larger Model K, then in July, Ford launched the significant Model N. The derivative Model R, S and S Roadster followed.

In the late winter of 1908, plant retooling began for the launch of the Model T. On September 27, 1908 the first Model T emerged. Even before the production launch of the Model T, Henry Ford began construction on a new Ford factory in Highland Park. Model T production continued at Piquette through the end of 1909 and was transferred to the new Highland Park plant in January 1910. Ford’s support offices remained at Piquette through 1910 then Ford sold the building to the Studebaker Corporation in January 1911. The company built an attached Albert Kahn designed parts storage and service building in 1920. Subsequent owners were the 3M Corporation, Cadillac Overall Company and Heritage Investments.

In April 2000, the building was acquired by the present owners, the Model T Automotive Heritage Complex, Inc. With numerous historic designations, the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant has been preserved and is open as an early automotive museum.



Ford Piquette Avenue Plant Postcard - 2016.001.081


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