Detroit, MI (CBS Detroit) - The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, is located within the Milwaukee Junction area of Detroit. Built in 1904, it was the second center of automobile production for the Ford Motor Company after the Ford Mack Avenue Plant. At the Piquette Avenue Plant, the company created and first produced the Ford Model T, the car credited with initiating the mass use of automobiles in the United States.
"The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant is considered the most significant auto heritage site in America by the Department of the Interior because this is really where the Model T was born," explains Nancy Darga, Executive Director of Ford Piquette Avenue Plant. "That's the car that really transformed everything and definitely changed how business was conducted and how products were released to the world."
Before the Model T, several other car models were assembled at the factory. Early experiments using a moving assembly line to make cars were also conducted there. "They produced 45,000 cars out of what is basically a 67,000 square foot textile mill," adds Darga. "It was also the first factory where more than 100 cars were assembled in one day."
The factory was used by the company until 1910 when its car production activity was relocated to the new, more significant Highland Park Ford Plant. Studebaker bought the factory in 1911, using it to assemble cars until 1933. The building was sold in 1936, going through a series of owners for the rest of the 20th century before becoming a museum in 2001.
"The plant hasn't stopped innovating, it still continues it's legacy by inspiring the next generation," explains Darga. "We get thousands of people a year here looking where it all started." Indeed, the Piquette Avenue Plant is the oldest purpose-built automotive factory building open to the public. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, became a Michigan State Historic Site in 2003, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.
"Ford Piquette Plant was actually saved by volunteers, and all of the improvements in this building have been made by volunteers, and we currently have a floor team that is replacing sections of the floor. This floor is a century and a half old, and some sections are starting to give."
"We saved this building from the wrecking ball, and we have people who are interested in saving the legacy and the history of this building so that it can live on."
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