The Buildings Left Behind

Part of my work as an archivist here at The Henry Ford involves making improvements in our ability to search our archives, and one of the ways I test this ability is to look for material related to cities I’ve traveled to recently. Many times the results of those searches include references to buildings constructed by the Ford Motor Company.

Ford is of course best known for their automobiles and trucks. But in order to manufacture, sell, and service those vehicles, the Ford Motor Company needed to construct a vast infrastructure of buildings not only in the Detroit area but across the country.

Assembly and service buildings, power plants, sales offices, showrooms, airplane hangars, and exhibition halls were among the wide array of construction projects undertaken by Ford in the years between 1910 and 1950.

Over the years the need to add capacity or relocate operations, or the need for more modern facilities meant that many of these buildings were shuttered. Some have survived, and as illustrated here, have found new life serving as apartments, storage facilities, shops, and in at least one case, a museum.

Ford Motor Company Plant Construction, Atlanta, Georgia 1914 (Object ID: 64.167.721.28; Image ID THF226128).

Ford Motor Company Plant Construction, Atlanta, Georgia 1914 (Object ID: 64.167.721.28; Image ID THF226128).

Atlanta, Georgia
The former Ford Assembly Building at 699 Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta was constructed in 1914 and served as Ford’s southeastern operations headquarters from 1915 to 1942.

Ford Motor Company Plant Construction, Atlanta, Georgia 1914 (Object ID: 64.167.721.85; Image ID THF227941).

Ford Motor Company Plant Construction, Atlanta, Georgia 1914 (Object ID: 64.167.721.85; Image ID THF227941).

Today, the building has been adapted for use as both apartments and retail stores (Ford Factory Lofts, last visited Sept. 20, 2013; Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant (Atlanta), last visited Oct. 7, 2013) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (National Park Service. Atlanta: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary. Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant, last visited Sept. 20, 2013).

Ford Motor Compan Plant Construction, New Orleans, Louisiana 1922-1923 (Object ID: 64.167.721.88; Image ID THF228117).

Ford Motor Compan Plant Construction, New Orleans, Louisiana 1922-1923 (Object ID: 64.167.721.88; Image ID THF228117).

New Orleans, Louisiana
Located on the edge of St. Bernard Parish, about 3.5 miles down the Mississippi River from New Orleans’ Jackson Square is the former Ford Assembly Building at 7200 N. Peters Street.

Constructed along the north bank of the river during 1922 and 1923, the building was designed by Albert Kahn (last visited Sept. 20, 2013) and was the last two-story assembly plant built by Ford Motor Company.

Ford Motor Company Plant Construction, New Orleans, Louisiana 1922-1923 (Object ID: 64.167.721.112; Image ID THF228246).

Ford Motor Company Plant Construction, New Orleans, Louisiana 1922-1923 (Object ID: 64.167.721.112; Image ID THF228246).

Operations at the plant came to an end in 1933, but the building still stands and continues to be used as warehouse space.

San Diego, California
This iconic gear-shaped building located in San Diego’s Balboa Park was originally constructed to serve as the Ford Exhibition Building during the 1935-1936 California Pacific International Exposition. The adjacent amphitheater hosted concerts during the Exposition.

Aerial View of Ford Building, California Pacific International Exposition, 1935 (Object ID: 64.167.232.214; Image ID THF210434).

Aerial View of Ford Building, California Pacific International Exposition, 1935 (Object ID: 64.167.232.214; Image ID THF210434).

Amphitheater of the Ford Bowl, California Pacific International Exposition, San Diego, 1935 (Object ID: 64.167.232.252; Image ID THF205382).

Amphitheater of the Ford Bowl, California Pacific International Exposition, San Diego, 1935 (Object ID: 64.167.232.252; Image ID THF205382).

Today the building houses the San Diego Air & Space Museum (History of the Museum. San Diego Air & Space Museum, last visited Oct. 7, 2013), while the amphitheater is known as the Starlight Bowl Starlight, (last visited Oct. 8, 2013).

Learn More
You can learn more about these buildings and others built by Ford Motor Company by following the references and links below or by contacting the Benson Ford Research Center.

Images drawn from these archival collections at The Henry Ford

World’s Fair Photographs series, 1933-1964

More images of the buildings can be found here and here.

Brian Wilson is the Digital Processing Archivist at The Henry Ford. And yes, he has already looked in the Archives for material related to his upcoming trips to New York City, San Francisco and Dallas.

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