There it sits, on the eastern side of Woodward Avenue in Highland Park, just north of Detroit. Today it looks almost like any other abandoned factory building in the area, but that might be set to change. The former Ford Model T assembly plant, via an online prize contest, could be transformed into a museum if the Woodward Avenue Action Association has anything to say about it.
The Highland Park plant arguably changed the world, thanks to Ford instigating a $5 dollar daily wage and the world’s first moving assembly line. It resulted in the creation of the modern American middle class and during it’s heyday around 1917-1920, employed more than 60,000 people, many who flocked not only from other parts of the US but also from overseas to work there. The plant was considered a model for equality at the time with workers of all backgrounds and races receiving equal pay for equal work. The plant also helped standardize the eight hour day and 40 hour work week, which still remain staples in the job market to this day.
In later years, the plant also proved to be a major asset in the World War II years, producing tanks, ambulances, aircraft components and even helmets. With a shortage of manpower at home, many women were brought in to work on the assembly line, allowing them to work and live independently from men for the first time.
Given it’s rich history, the Woodward Avenue Action Association, if it was awarded the $25,000 grant from the This Place Matters prize, would use the funds as part of a larger project, to turn the plant into a historical site, incorporating a museum and visitor center. In addition, a spokesperson for the association, Deborah Schutt said, that should the project get the green light “the Henry Ford Museum is interested in bring in some exhibits.”
Given that many of Detroit’s historic buildings have fallen into disrepair, saving an iconic structure such as the Model T factory is a noble endeavor. Let’s hope it pays off.
[Source: Detroit Free Press]