Once the largest manufacturing facility in the world and still one of the most famous, the birthplace of the assembly line and the middle class is about to be restored. Though the factory was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1978 and parts of the factory floor are used today for the Henry Ford Museum’s overflow storage, much of it has been left to decay since the last cars were produced there in the 1970’s.
Directly north of Detroit on Woodward, Highland Park is a separate city that hasn’t seen as many recent positive changes as Detroit, and land value is still relatively low. There’s a modern shopping plaza nestled amid the administration building and where the Ford Motor Company sign is in the picture above, and the original factory floor remains privately owned and closed off to any visitors.
The administration building and its attached garage were sold and opened up for one final tour to a number of Detroit photographers before its crowdsourced renovation begins. It will become an Automobile Heritage and Welcome Center and museum, hopefully open to the public within the next five years.
Harriet Saperstein, chair of the Woodward Avenue Action Association that purchased the building and has been organizing the project, told Jack Lessenbury, “What makes this site fascinating to me is that the moving assembly line created the middle class. That’s under threat, and we need to remind people about the past to help them prepare for the future.”
Its predecessor, the much smaller Piquette Plant (located next to Fisher Body 21 and where the first 12,000 Model T’s were built prior to the company’s expansion) went through a renovation process similar to what is expected for Highland Park. Today, the Piquette Plant has regular visitor hours and tours, and you can even have your wedding there.
I look forward to seeing these changes in Highland Park. It’s about time! 🙂