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Exploring The Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant

In an effort to promote the preservation of Jacksonville's historic Ford Motor Company assembly plant by Hill Street, LLC., DOCOMOMO US/Florida, AIA Jacksonville, and Old Arlington, Inc., the property was open on Saturday, Oct. 8 for public tours.

Published October 12, 2011 in History      15 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article






In 1923, Ford bought ten acres of the former Bentley Shipyards property from the City of Jacksonville for $50,000.  Dredging opened the channel, allowing Ford's fleet of oceangoing freighters to dock.  Overall construction and equipment cost approximately $2 million.  The assembly plant initially contained 115,200 square feet of enclosed space.  The adjacent powerhouse contained a 500-horsepower boiler to provide steam to the electric turbo generators.  The facility also provided fire protection through an adjacent water generation building that brought river water into a 75,000-gallon tank.  The front of the building housed a parts department along with a showroom for finished automobiles.  A 1926 addition added some 50,000 additional square feet to the east side of the structure.

The assembly plant is constructed on approximately 8,000 wooden piles.  The floor, a reinforced concrete slab, rests on raised concrete piers.  The ground plan of the plant is rectangular, and its massing is regular.  The exterior walls are curtain wall construction consisting of face brick in a running bond pattern, backed by structural brick.  The structural system is steel frame, consisting of H-beams and trusses.  Trusses are flat or angled in a butterfly pattern, a signature feature of factories designed by Albert Kahn.  The building's central roof monitors (popped-up extensions) are massive and rise noticeably above the roof plane.  They are covered with an interlocking ceramic roof tile.  The four flanking monitors have a lower profile and area sheathed with metal.

The plant remained operational until 1932 and subsequently was used as a parts warehouse until 1968.  With only eight years in operation as an assembly plant, the building was not subject to significant alterations necessary for different processes and different products.  The building is a remarkable and durable artifact of Jacksonville's industrial history, and it meets five of seven criteria for designation as a Jacksonville Landmark. The City of Jacksonville's Landmark Designation report for the plant argues it is one of the most significant industrial buildings in Florida, fulfilling five of the city's seven criteria for landmark designation.  The report notes, "Its construction between 1924 and 1926 was a major event in the history not only of Jacksonville but the state as well.  The arrival of the world's largest autombile manufacturer was a sign of the city and state's growing economic importance."


Plant Offices, Showroom, & Parts Department


The office complex sparkled in 1948.




The Showroom.


Plant offices.











Assembly plant images on the next page.



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15 Comments

Noone

October 12, 2011, 05:51:30 AM
Great information. I love that building. I hope they are successful in a sustainable existance in using our St. Johns River our American Heritage River a Federal Initiative.

dougskiles

October 12, 2011, 07:01:06 AM
Magnificent building.  The weather on Saturday added to the mystique - sheets of rain and wind howling through the empty building.  Great to see so many out photographing the building and treading through our history.  I had a chance to talk to Bill Bishop there and asked him his vision for the space - cruise terminal, but for ships that can clear the Dames Point.  He thinks there is a market for the smaller ships that we should pursue.  I hope it works out.

thelakelander

October 12, 2011, 07:23:45 AM
I spoke with Bill Bishop as well.  We both question the financial feasibility of restoring a building of such grand scale that has been allowed to rot for decades.

vicupstate

October 12, 2011, 08:33:15 AM
It would be great to get pictures of the Richmond CA project.

thelakelander

October 12, 2011, 08:40:53 AM
Here are a few.  It's about four or five times the size of our Ford plant.  We ran a story on it a year ago:








http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2010-mar-ford-assembly-plant-comes-back-to-life

Overstreet

October 12, 2011, 08:41:50 AM
Go ahead and build your vision. But be wary of deals with the city. They do not honor their agreements.

ben says

October 12, 2011, 09:36:32 AM
Cool building. Now let's preserve it and/or turn it into something really cool.

TheProfessor

October 12, 2011, 10:24:20 PM
Great space and location.  It could house so many things!!

Timkin

October 13, 2011, 12:53:31 AM
It goes without saying that I would completely be for seeing the Old building spared and transformed into something useful, and that I hope , obviously a reuse and sources to fund renovation can be identified.

I feel, as everyone knows, just as strongly that the Annie Lytle School deserves the same break and to me at least it is equally as important.

Where to get the funding, the investors?   What to do with the space is pretty easy, in both instances.. It is getting persons with the deep pockets to see that vision, and want to invest.

As Overstreet has posted...and this goes without saying . Our city does not honor their agreements..  There is no money for this or that.  There are positions being cut right and left, but SOMEHOW , SOMEWAY, Monies miraculously appear when it comes to getting the wrecking ball out.  When it is decided that a building is condemned and to be demolished, it seems that gets accomplished with lightning speed.  I personally think some historic houses and buildings get a little help to speed the process ( citing the "accidental" fire that sealed the demise of the historic Jewish Center and the various homes in Springfield that have been set on fire).

 When I look at the pictures of days gone by and the staggering numbers of beautiful buildings that, without any consideration for a reuse , were just leveled, and dirt lots or slabs replace them, and now look around to see what remains , and is endangered, coupled with our economic times and the mindset of some...In another decade or so, there will be NOTHING AT ALL left that was ever beautiful or historic.   I do not understand why this is the mindset of many in this city and I certainly hope it changes.

I have always been of the opinion that where there is a will , there is a way... and I think there is  SOME will , but not enough... Otherwise, projects like Annie Lytle and the Ford Assembly plant would now be destinations , instead of endangered , horribly neglected buildings.   If there is anyway I can help , it goes without saying I would love to ...

Timkin

October 13, 2011, 12:58:40 AM
I spoke with Bill Bishop as well.  We both question the financial feasibility of restoring a building of such grand scale that has been allowed to rot for decades.

 And I am curious, Lake,  what was your conclusion?

dougskiles

October 13, 2011, 05:45:20 AM
The office part of the building is most likely beyond restoration.  The larger warehouse part looked fine to me structurally.  In fact, it looks no different than any other large warehouse building under construction.  It would just need to be finished.

thelakelander

October 13, 2011, 06:21:19 AM
I spoke with Bill Bishop as well.  We both question the financial feasibility of restoring a building of such grand scale that has been allowed to rot for decades.

 And I am curious, Lake,  what was your conclusion?

To make something work with that space will most likely require someone with a great heart to put up the cash for the love of saving the building, over it being an investment opportunity (sort of like Beaver Street Fisheries' support of the farmer's market).  The other way around that is for the city to pour in a ton of cash. In the meantime, it should be properly mothballed.  Right now, the interior is just left open to the elements.

As for uses, I believe the Richmond, CA project provides the answer.  The most viable option is probably a mix of uses.  Other than the actual structure itself, the there's really nothing left on the interior to save.  So, subdividing the space shouldn't be an issue.

dougskiles

October 13, 2011, 06:48:42 AM
I agree - mixed use is the answer.  And it would likely only happen if it were community-owned.

Time to start 'Friends of Ford Plant'.

Timkin

October 13, 2011, 03:20:56 PM
Is the building /property for sale? How much ?

BackinJax05

April 13, 2012, 12:50:59 AM
It would make a great multi-modal distribution center for rail, water, and truck. Everything is already in place. All it needs is lots of TLC. A distribution center with good paying jobs - employing people in the neighborhood - would only help that now blighted area.
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