Ford River Rouge Complex, photo submitted 1978
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Ford River Rouge Complex
3001Miller Road, Dearborn - Wayne County
Property Type automobile factory
Historic Use INDUSTRY/PROCESSING/EXTRACTION/manufacturing facility
Current Use INDUSTRY/PROCESSING/EXTRACTION/manufacturing facility
Architect/Builder Albert Kahn
Henry Ford
Significant Person Henry Ford
Narrative Description The Ford River Rouge Complex, one of the industrial wonders of the world and the only industrial area encompassing all the basic steps in automobile manufacturing, is situated west of Detroit in the city of Dearborn. Designed largely by noted industrial architect Albert Kahn and constructed for the most part between 1917 and 1927, the Rouge epitomizes Henry Ford's commitment to improved production methods and his dream of non-stop flow from raw material to assembled automobile. Because the complex was envisioned as constantly changing to take advantage of improved techniques, buildings were designed so that they could be easily modified. As a result, almost all structures have undergone some degree of alteration over the years, but a number of buildings like the Dearborn Assembly Plant, the Dearborn Iron Foundry and Power House still exhibit much of their original architectural vitality. Also, a number of additional buildings have been constructed in the complex over the years. Although Ford's "Fair Lane" Estate in Dearborn is already a National Historic Landmark and his Highland Park Plant is the subject of a separate inventory in this study, the River Rouge is signally worthy because of its unique nature and its vital contributions to improved manufacturing techniques.
Statement of Significance Although most Americans probably remember Henry Ford best for his Model T, his "unique achievement", according to distinguished historian Daniel J. Boorstin, "was less in designing a durable automobile than in organizing newer, cheaper ways to make millions of one kind of automobile. He transformed the making of automobiles from a jerking, halting process to a smooth-flowing stream". After the founding of the Ford Motor Company in 1903, Ford and his engineers made significant breakthroughs in improving and speeding up auto assembly methods by developing new machinery and placing men and materials on the factory floor in such a manner that bottlenecks were eliminated and production was increased.
Marker Name Ford Rouge Plant
Marker Text FORD ROUGE PLANT Henry Ford began construction of this complex on the banks of the River Rouge in April 1917. Here the Ford Motor Company built World War I submarine chasers known as "Eagle" boats. By the mid-1920s this plant was the largest manufacturing center in the world. The transfer of the assembly line from nearby Highland Park to Dearborn in 1927 fulfilled Ford's vision of an industrial complex which encompassed all aspects of automotive production. The first automobile to be completely assembled here, the Model A, was introduced in December 1927. The Ford Trade School operated at this location for twenty years until 1946. During World War II, massive amounts of material for air, amphibious and land transport were produced. Beginning with raw materials, the Ford Rouge plant makes component parts and assembles vehicles.
Period of Significance 1901-1930
Significant Date(s) 1915
Registry Type(s) 09/01/1977 Marker erected
06/02/1978 National Historic Landmark listed
06/02/1978 National Register listed
12/14/1976 State Register listed
Site ID# P620