Highland Park Ford Plant, The First of Its Kind
An Auto Revolution Started Here
He was the Steve Jobs of his day— a visionary whose innovations changed the world. And it was here, at the Highland Park Assembly Plant, that Henry Ford’s success really gained traction. This is where Ford introduced the continuously moving assembly line that gave birth to modern manufacturing. Before this revolutionary process, each Model T Ford required more than 12 hours to assemble. After the moving line was introduced in 1913 assembly time was cut to just 93 minutes. And with the huge gains in productivity came the unprecedented wage of $5 per day for workers who turned out millions of these practical, affordable Model T automobiles.
The building itself was as innovative as the manufacturing processes deployed inside. Acclaimed architect Albert Kahn, who would become the foremost industrial architect of his time, designed the Highland Park plant. It set the standard for designing every manufacturing plant afterward: large, open floor plans to maximize efficiency, and walls of windows that provided an abundance of natural light. When it opened in 1908, Highland Park was the largest manufacturing complex in the world, with offices, factories, a power plant and foundry. Eventually Ford moved to an even larger complex at River Rouge. But the manufacturing principles developed here have impacted manufacturing and assembly to this very day.
While much of the complex has been demolished and the factory has largely been vacant for years, there are plans underway for redeveloping the plant as an automotive heritage site and welcome center that would celebrate the massive contributions the factory made to the auto industry and manufacturing worldwide.
Hot Spots in the Historic Neighborhood
A booming auto industry and Ford’s Highland Park plant in particular helped to create an upwardly mobile class of Americans with growing resources at their disposal. Demand for more and better housing spurred the development of residential neighborhoods near the plant. The Craftsman-style bungalow was the prevailing architectural style of the day, so perhaps not surprisingly Highland Park has a significant concentration of those homes to this day. A bit further south is another neighborhood of note, the Boston-Edison district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The neighborhood was once home to Henry Ford and many other influential Detroiters. Boston-Edison remains a desirable neighborhood with distinctive brick homes constructed between 1905 and 1925. Learn more about this historic neighborhood here.