Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Ford Rouge Complex

Henry Ford’s vision of a perfect industrial complex was realized with the construction of the Rouge Assembly Plant, or the Ford Rouge Complex. Ford hired noted architect Albert Kahn to design many of the Rouge’s buildings, with formal construction beginning in 1918. By the time the complex was completed in the 1940s, it would contain 93 buildings and would utilize its own railway system to distribute parts to each of the buildings on its campus.

Henry Ford’s obsession with efficiency spilled over into other areas of the plant’s operation, including its cleanliness. At the peak of its employment, the plant employed more than 5,000 workers just to keep the grounds and buildings clean, painted and well-maintained.

During its lifetime, the Rouge complex has turned out many of Ford’s most signature products, most notably the Ford Mustang and the iconic 1954 two-seater Thunderbird. During World War I, the plant churned out Eagle Boats for the U.S. Navy.

A tragic explosion at the plant in 1999 killed six workers and injured 24 others.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the Ford Motor Company embarked on a $2 million project to transform the Rouge complex into a plant featuring lean, sustainable and flexible manufacturing processes. The new complex, now called the Ford Rouge Center, boasts one of the world’s largest living roofs. The Henry Ford offers daily tours of the Center to the public through its Rouge Factory tours.



Aerial photo of Ford River Rouge Complex, 1950s

Ford Rouge Complex postcard, 1960s

View all items related to the Ford Rouge Complex