Visiting the historic Ford Piquette Avenue Plant #FordNAIAS

Visiting the historic Ford Piquette Avenue Plant #FordNAIAS
17 Jan 2015

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When I found out the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant was on the itinerary for #FordNAIAS, I put my head down, and closed my eyes. I could picture plans for the Model T being sketched out, the workers assembling the vehicles… oh the history. To say I was excited was an understatement.

Arriving at the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant

The Piquette Avenue Plant is located in an industrial area known as Milwaukee Junction, at the corner of Piquette Avenue and Beaubien Street. The area around the plant was dark. The streets were lined with empty and graffiti covered buildings. Much like Detroit’s iconic Michigan Central Station, everything looked abandoned.

The birthplace of “Tin Lizzie”

Recognized as one of the most significant automotive heritage sites in the world, The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant is the second home of the Ford Motor Company, and the company’s first purpose-built factory.

Built in 1904 at a cost of $76,500, this three story Victorian style brick building was where the first 12,000 Model Ts were assembled. In 1910, Ford relocated to the Highland Park Plant, and sold the Piquette Avenue Plant to Studebaker in 1911. Studebaker used the plant for production until 1933. The plant was occupied by a couple other companies including Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M) and the Cadillac Overall Company over the next several decades, then sold to the Heritage Investment Company in 1989. In 2000, the Model T Automotive Heritage Complex purchased the building, and restored all the history that Henry Ford had created.

Kicking off #FordNAIAS in style!

When the digital influencers walked up the stairs and through the old doors of the Piquette Avenue Plant onto the 2nd floor, I don’t think they knew what to expect. We walked into a decorated warehouse room, filled with vehicles produced at this plant, so many years ago.

Everyone was stunned by all the vintage Ford models parked in the room. I quickly went around the room and took pictures of all the vehicles. I even got a picture with some of the attendees in one of the vehicles.

Angie Kozleski, Global Marketing and Digital Communications, Ford Motor Company, welcomed everyone to the Piquette Avenue Plant, and the #FordNAIAS Digital Summit. After a quick speech, she introduced Sheryl Connelly, Ford Futurist, and Dean Weber, Manager of Ford North American Archives, for their “lessons from the past to future innovations” session.

It was an awesome session. Hearing Sheryl interview Dean about Ford’s incredible history was truly special. Past meets present… which set the tone for my next few days in Detroit.

The Third floor

After the speeches, we went up one more flight of stairs to the 3rd floor.

Tables were set up with chairs for everyone to eat at.

There were food stations ready for us with delicious eats including hot beef brisket on a bun, chicken, pasta, vegetable and cracker trays, various cheeses and smoked meats, mashed potatoes, butternut squash soup and an incredible dessert assortment.

Being served with dinner was none other than Detroit Bold coffee.

There was also a conveyor belt, with Detroit Bold coffee bags coasting along for all the invitees to take home. Knowing how much Wendy loves her coffee, I grabbed her a bag.

Ford hired a band to keep us entertained during dinner.

Walking the halls of Henry

After dinner, I ventured around the third floor, taking it all in, and capturing as much as possible with my camera.

There were so many Ford models parked exactly where they were assembled. Ford didn’t introduce the moving assembly line until 1913, so everything before then was assembled by a process called “Stationary Assembly”. Workers brought the parts required to their work area, and assembled each vehicle where it sat. Each area was separated by huge pillars, which doubled as support for the building.

More than just the Model T were assembled at the Piquette Avenue Plant…

Although the plant is remembered as the birthplace of the Model T, there were also many other Ford models built at the Piquette Avenue Plant. Ford Models B, C, F, K, N, R, S, and T were also built in this historic building.

Henry’s secret “Experimental Room”

Although Henry Ford had the best selling car in the country (Model N), he was adamant about creating a newer, more improved vehicle that would revolutionize the automotive industry.

In order to accomplish this, Henry had a room built in the back corner of the third floor. The secret room was filled with a drafting table for producing blueprints, a few essential tools, a chalkboard, and Henry’s mother’s old rocking chair.

Henry’s hand-picked team, all in their twenties, would work privately on developing new ideas for the evolution of the Model N.

Prototype parts for the Model N’s predecessor where actually test on the Model N, to reveal any imperfections. The team had to go back to the drafting boards many times, until they got everything to Henry’s liking. In the Spring of 1908, a few complete Model Ts were built for testing. This new model was everything Henry Ford had hoped for, and fulfilled the requirements he gave his team: it was light weight, it was affordable to the working man, it was easy to drive and repair, it performed well on bad roads, and it seated five.

Production of the Model T began with a huge success. They had worked up to 200 models by the end of 1908.

All engine parts for the Model T were assembled on the ground floor. Some sub-assembly was done on the second floor, and the third floor is where the Model Ts were fully assembled on the chassis. 12,000 Model Ts were assembled at the Piquette Avenue Plant in the first 15 months of production. But increasing demand on the Model T, and more production space required to fill that demand, would have Henry Ford searching for a newer, much larger plant to produce the Model T.

In what would become the second home for Ford Motor Company, the Highland Park Plant was born. All production or automobiles by the Ford Motor Company was transferred from Piquette Avenue Plant to the new Highland Park Plant in January of 1910.

Deep in history

The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant’s has been historically recognized by the following:

• U.S. National Register of Historic Places, 2002
• Michigan State Historic Site, 2003
• U.S. Historic District Contributing Property, 2004
• U.S. National Historic Landmark, 2006

Day one was a success!

What an amazing way to kick off the #FordNAIAS Digital Summit. The Ford team really turned it up a notch this year, by giving everyone a taste of Ford’s historic past. This was truly an experience that will remain with me forever.

Cheers,
Big Daddy

If you would like me to review your product, service or travel destination, please send me an email at craig@bigdaddykreativ.ca or find me on “the twitter” at @BigDaddyKreativ


Craig Silva

Craig is a passionate and seasoned travel, food, and lifestyle writer, whose words paint vivid pictures of the world's most captivating destinations. His work not only inspires others to embark on their own adventures but also fosters a deep appreciation for the beauty and diversity of our world. He captures the essence of each locale, offering readers a glimpse into the cultures, landscapes, cuisine, and experiences that make travel so enriching. Craig is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). If you are a PR agency or brand and would like Craig to review a travel destination, vehicle, restaurant, product or service, please send him an email.

Comments

  1. I was in complete “awe” of the Piquette Plant. Not only was it rich in history, but the building itself was stunning.

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  3. Such a great post! We went in the secret room, but didn’t get to hear what was so secret about it! You got some amazing pictures. I could go back and photograph that plant all day long!

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