Jump to content

Highland Park Ford Plant

Coordinates: 42°24′38″N 83°05′59″W / 42.4105°N 83.0996°W / 42.4105; -83.0996
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Highland Park Ford Plant
The Highland Park plant in 1922
Highland Park Ford Plant is located in Michigan
Highland Park Ford Plant
Highland Park Ford Plant is located in the United States
Highland Park Ford Plant
Location91 Manchester Street at Woodward
Highland Park, Michigan
ArchitectAlbert Kahn; Edward Gray
NRHP reference No.73000961
Significant dates
Added to NRHPFebruary 6, 1973[1]
Designated NHLJune 2, 1978[2]
Designated MSHSApril 17, 1956

The Highland Park Ford Plant is a former Ford Motor Company factory located at 91 Manchester Street (at Woodward Avenue) in Highland Park, Michigan. It was the second American production facility for the Model T automobile and the first factory in history to assemble cars on a moving assembly line. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1978.[1]



The Highland Park Ford Plant was designed by Albert Kahn Associates in 1908 and was opened in 1910. Ford automotive production had previously taken place at the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, where the first Model Ts were built. The Highland Park Ford Plant was approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) northwest of the original Dodge Brothers factory who were subcontractors for Ford, producing precision engine and chassis components for the Model T. It was also approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) northwest of the former Brush-Maxwell plant, which later became Highland Park Chrysler Plant the headquarters for the Chrysler Corporation.[citation needed]

The complex included offices, factories, a power plant and a foundry[3] as part of Ford's strategy of integrating the supply chain.[4] About 102 acres in size the Highland Park Plant was the largest manufacturing facility in the world at the time of its opening. Because of its spacious design,[citation needed] it set the precedent for many factories and production plants built thereafter.

External images
image icon Ford Model T price/volume curve, 1909-1923
image icon Ford statistics, 1910-1931

Using division of labor, relentless cost-cutting and process optimization, the factory went through an experience curve to reduce price and increase volume.[4] On October 7, 1913, the Highland Park Ford Plant became the first automobile production facility in the world to implement the moving assembly line.[5][6] The new assembly line improved production time of the Model T from 728 to 93 minutes.[7] The Highland Park assembly line lowered the price of the Model T from $700 (equivalent to $22,890 in 2023) in 1910 to $350 (equivalent to $8,324 in 2023) in 1917, making it an affordable automobile for most Americans.[8] On January 5, 1914, Ford announced that factory wages would be raised from a daily rate of $2.34 (equivalent to $71 in 2023) to $5.00 (equivalent to $152 in 2023), and that daily shifts would be reduced from nine hours to eight.[9] After the increase in pay, Ford claimed that the turnover rate of 31.9 percent in 1913 decreased to 1.4 percent in 1915.[10] Ford offered nearly three times the wages paid at other unskilled manufacturing plants.[11][4]

In the late 1920s, the open Model T went out of fashion and Ford moved automobile assembly to the River Rouge Plant complex in nearby Dearborn to focus on improving quality with the Model A.[4] Automotive trim manufacturing and Fordson tractor assembly continued at the Highland Park plant. The 1,690 M4A3 Sherman tanks built by Ford from June, 1942 to September, 1943 were assembled in this factory, as well.[citation needed]

During the 1940s through 1960s, the Highland Park plant was a principal location for Ford U.S. tractor manufacture. In the 1970s, the Romeo, Michigan, plant increasingly displaced it for that role.

Ford sold their building and began leasing the space in 1981.[12] Throughout the 1980s parts of the factory were dismantled and torn down, including a large factory building, the boiler building and the administrative building.

By the mid-1990s neither plant was producing tractors or tractor parts, as Ford had sold off its tractor and implement interests in stages during the 1990-1993 period.[citation needed]

During the 2010s large portions of steel-framed warehouse buildings were scrapped in favor of a stock yard for tenants. Other companies occupying this property included a scrap yard and a cement plant.

By 2011 it was being used by Ford Motor Company to store documents and for artifact storage for the Henry Ford Museum. A portion is also occupied by a Forman Mills clothing warehouse that opened in 2006.[13]

Current status


The Woodward Avenue Action Association has a purchase agreement with the complex's owner, National Equity Corp., to pay $550,000 for two of eight buildings at the historic Ford manufacturing complex: a four-floor, 40,000-square-foot sales office and the 8,000-square-foot executive garage near it. The center would include a theater with continuous videos, informational kiosks, interpretive displays on automotive history and a gift/coffee/snack shop. It could also be a place where visitors could pick up historical automotive tours, such as the current tour offered by the Woodward group, "In the Steps of Henry".[14]

The former factory is now a mall, named Model-T-Plaza; the mall features architectural similarities, hinting to the location's origin.

The remaining buildings W, X, Y, and Z at Highland Industrial Center occupy about 1.3 million square feet, and 10 parcels of land go to this site, which was formerly owned by the Woodland-Manchester Corp, and is now currently leased by a security company. No more businesses occupy the lot behind the factory building as of 2021.

In the media


The plant was used as a location for director Shawn Levy's 2011 Disney/Touchstone Pictures film Real Steel.[15]


See also



  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. ^ "Highland Park Ford Plant". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on October 6, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2008.
  3. ^ "Ford Motor Company Highland Park Plant". National Scenic Byways Program summary listing. National Scenic Byways Program. Retrieved January 23, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d Abernathy, William J.; Wayne, Kenneth (September 1, 1974). "Limits of the Learning Curve". Harvard Business Review. Ford's objective was to reduce the price of the automobile and thereby increase volume and market share.
    Constant improvements in the production process made it more integrated, more mechanized, and increasingly paced by conveyors.
    The rate of capital investment showed substantial increases after 1913, rising from 11 cents per sales dollar that year to 22 cents by 1921. The new facilities that were built or acquired included blast furnaces, logging operations and saw mills, a railroad, weaving mills, coke ovens, a paper mill, a glass plant, and a cement plant .. coal mines, rubber plantations, and forestry operations
  5. ^ "Ford's Assembly Line Turns 100: How It Changed Manufacturing and Society". New York Daily News. October 7, 2013. Archived from the original on November 30, 2013. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
  6. ^ "Preserve Ford Highland Park". Woodward Avenue Action Association. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
  7. ^ "Highland Park Ford Plant". Archived from the original on October 16, 2007.
  8. ^ William Wright. "Highland Park Ford Plant". Nps.gov. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
  9. ^ Rosenthal, Phil (January 5, 2014). "Ford's Visionary Move to Raise Wages Has Lessons Today". Chicago Tribune. p. 1. Archived from the original on April 17, 2018. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  10. ^ Rosenthal, Phil (January 5, 2014). "Ford's Visionary Move to Raise Wages Has Lessons Today". Chicago Tribune. p. 2. Archived from the original on April 17, 2018. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  11. ^ "A Future for Ford Highland Park" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 3, 2013. Retrieved September 13, 2013.
  12. ^ "Highland Park - Ford Corporate".
  13. ^ "Forman Mills discount clothing opens Highland Park warehouse store in former Model T factory". Model D. August 8, 2008. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  14. ^ "Ford's historic Michigan plant moves closer to reopening as tourist attraction". Autonews.com. July 15, 2013. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
  15. ^ Hinds, Julie (October 1, 2011). "Michigan locations in 'Real Steel'". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on October 4, 2011. Retrieved October 4, 2011.

42°24′38″N 83°05′59″W / 42.4105°N 83.0996°W / 42.4105; -83.0996