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Wally Edgar Chevrolet -- One Of Summers Great Auto Road Trips
Henry Ford & The Rouge Plant in Dearborn Mi. A must see tour of the beginnings of putting America on wheels. Where the industry's roots blossomed on the road to today.
By: GORDY O'CONNOR
The creation of the Rouge River Plant began when Henry Ford started buying marshland along the Rouge River in 1915 eventually acquiring over 2,000 acres. Groundbreaking occurred in 1917 for the first Rouge building. Construction was completed in 1928 when it attained the distinction as the largest integrated factory in the world. The first product produced was the World War I Eagle Boat warship designed to hunt down German submarines. These were produced in Building B. This original Building B, a three story structure, is part of the legendary Dearborn, MI assembly plant’s history, famous for its Model A production line.
Henry Ford Created the Rouge River Plant in Dearborn, MI. Being the largest factory of its kind it was a city without residents. At its peak in the 1930’s more than 100,000 people worked at the Rouge. To accommodate them required a multi station fire department, police force, hospital and a maintenance crew of 5,000.
Some of the Rouge buildings were designed by the famous architect, Albert Kahn. His Rouge glass plant was regarded as a prime example of a humane factory building with its natural light sources and skylight windows. The complex had its own docks, interior railroad track, electricity plant and ore processing. The Rouge was able to turn raw materials into running vehicles within it’s’ walls. Over 1000,000 workers were employed there in the 1930’s. Although the Rouge’s coke ovens and foundry produced nearly all the parts of the Model T, assembly of that vehicle remained at Highland Park.
The River Rouge Plant opened for public tours in July 1924 and continued until 1980. These tours were reinstated in 2004 and today The Henry Ford offers tours every day but Sunday. The current tours are more than a walk along an assembly line they encompass an excursion into environmental innovation, a Legacy Theatre production, a bird’s eye view of the plant and a remarkable Legacy Gallery of Ford vehicles. The photo is a 1931 aerial view of the complex.
The public demand to see a real assembly line prompted the public relations venture of Public Tours to begin in July 1924. These continued until 1980 resulting in more than 7 million visitors before the tours ended. One of the main attractions of the early tour was the production of the Model A automobile, the first car to be built at the Rouge plant. Other famous Ford nameplates with star quality produced at the Rouge Plant were the Thunderbird (production began in 1954) and the Mustang (production began in 1964 for four decades) and the original Mercury.
1957 Rouge River Plant workmen at the Ford Motor company assemble a Thunderbird. Note workmen working on two levels, the main floor and the pit level. The artist, Diego Rivera, studied the facilities at the Rouge Plant during the summer of 1932 for his murals, Detroit Industry, painted in the main court at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Edsel Ford envisioned and supported this project.
Today the Rouge site is home to Ford’s Rouge Center. This industrial park includes six Ford factories on 600 acres of land as well as steelmaking operations. The new Dearborn Truck factory now is famous for its vegetation-covered roof and rainwater reclamation system designed by sustainability architect William McDonough. It is still Ford’s largest factory and employees some 6,000 workers.
Remember: This piece of American industry is available for tours. The Henry Ford Museum resurrected this viewing of the assembly line floor in 2004. The tour features a walking experience along the assembly line, a multimedia presentation and a stroll through memory lane of Ford products and vehicles called the Legacy Gallery. What a great family summer outing. If there is only one thing you do this summer the tour should be number #1 on your list.
By: Margery Krevsky
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