Of the five stations that make up the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, Station One is the Legacy Theatre – or, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-the-Rouge in a 13-minute movie.
Now, that would be an innovative feat for sure – and, I’m quite sure, impossible – considering the rich history that surrounds the industrial marvel that is the Rouge Plant (known to many as simply “the Rouge”). That said, the short film does a great job whetting your appetite for the other stations that make up the tour.
The movie provides a brief history of Henry Ford’s early efforts in the automotive industry and the start of Ford Motor Company. It chronicles the company’s growth, Henry Ford’s vision for vertical manufacturing and the building of the mighty Rouge. The film also gives a look at the complex now and provides an overview of the other stations on the tour. It ends with the sentiment that the Rouge’s past legacy of innovation in manufacturing is just the beginning of its exciting story yet to come.
Construction of the Rouge began in 1917 and was completed in 1928. At the time – and for many years – it was considered a model of manufacturing and was the largest integrated factory in the world. (The site remains Ford Motor Company’s largest manufacturing center, and the complex is still one of the largest manufacturing sites in the world. According to the National Historic Landmarks Program, the Rouge is considered “one of the industrial wonders of the world.”)
The story is narrated over rare film footage and photographic images, all set to an outstanding original soundtrack recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The three-screen theater is a cool effect, and it adds to the film’s impact. Visitors get a look at the contributions Henry Ford and the Rouge have made, not only to the automotive industry – but to all industry. The film includes a glimpse at some of the Rouge’s triumphs and tragedies of the past. It also touches on the complex’s present significance when – at the beginning of the millennium – Ford Motor Company “reimagined” the aging complex. The Rouge is again considered a model of manufacturing – this time because of its advances in environmental sustainability.
I went on the tour with my family, and we all agreed that the film got us geared up. We left the theater with a clearer understanding of the profound impact the Rouge has had – and continues to have – on the art of manufacturing. We also looked forward to what else we would learn on the tour.
We all found the film an exceptionally meaningful foundation for the rest of the tour. When visitors arrive at The Rouge Factory Tour, they are invited to take the tour in any order they desire, but it is recommended that they take it in order. We agreed after completing the entire tour that the Station One film was an important introduction. It was especially interesting to see the many photographs of the site from its beginning until present day – giving us a better understanding of what we saw while visiting the Observation Deck at Station Three. I knew my children were engaged in the film because when they were looking out the deck windows, they wanted to identify some of the older buildings they had seen in the movie. The youngest child in our group that day was our 10-year-old son, but the quick-moving film certainly would have kept the interest of our five-year-old daughter.
Kristine Hass is a writer and a long-time member of The Henry Ford. She frequently blogs about her family’s visits to America’s Greatest History Attraction.