In May 1904, after less than one year in operation, the board of the Ford Motor Company approved construction of a New England mill-style building, on a lot at the corner of Piquette and Beaubien Streets in Detroit, Michigan. The Detroit architectural firm of Smith, Hinchman, and Fields designed the building, which is three stories tall, 56 feet (17 m) wide, and 402 feet (123 m) long. The structure served the new firm for only a few years, yet it played a most important role in realizing Henry Ford's dream of an affordable car for the masses.
During the time Ford occupied the Piquette Avenue plant (1904-1910), the company assembled Ford Models B, C, F, N, R, S, and T there. In many ways, the Ford Model N was a precursor to the Model T in that it was an inexpensive, reliable, and innovative automobile. Ford first used vanadium steel extensively in the Model N.
The first production Model T was built at Piquette on September 27, 1908. Peter E. Martin was plant superintendent and production manager, while Charles E. Sorensen was Martin's assistant and handled production development. Only 11 cars were built there the following month. However, demand quickly grew, and it soon became apparent that the facility could no longer keep up with increasing output.
In January 1910, after assembling nearly 12,000 Model Ts at the Piquette Avenue plant, Henry Ford moved production to his new complex in Highland Park, Michigan. There, he introduced the moving assembly line in 1913-1914 and would eventually produce 15 million Model T Fords.
The Piquette Plant was sold in 1910 to Studebaker, who had recently acquired the E-M-F Company, located one block west on Piquette. Studebaker used the building for automobile production until 1933. The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company occupied the building from 1936 until 1968, when the Cadillac Overall Company purchased it. Heritage Investment Company purchased the building in 1989 and then sold it in 2000 to a non-profit organization known as the Model T Automotive Heritage Complex, which has been operating the building as a museum since 2000. The plant was spared disaster in June 2005, when the Studebaker / E-M-F plant next door burned to the ground.