We’ve all heard the story of how Henry Ford started Ford Motor Company, at least I think most have. For those who haven’t, Ford with $28,000 in cash from investors, two of which were John and Horace Dodge, started Ford Motor Company on June 16, 1903.
Between 1903 and 1908, Ford produced the Models A, B, C, F, K, N, R, and S, selling no more than a few thousand per year. Things changed in 1908 when he introduced the assembly line and mass-produced the Model T and selling millions.
Ford was inspired by the design of Packard’s assembly plant in Detroit, Michigan, and commissioned Albert Kahn Associates to design the High Park Plant. Working with his brother Julius, they developed reinforced concrete walls replacing the wood walls, roofs, and supports, which gave better fire protection and allowed large volumes of the unobstructed interior.
Completed in 1910, the High Park Plant included offices, a power plant, and a foundry. With over 120-acres, it was the largest manufacturing facility in the world at the time.
On October 13, 1913, the High Park Plant was the first automotive company in the world to implement the moving assembly line. The production time of the Model T went from 12 hours and 8 minutes to an hour and a half. With the cost of the Model T being lowered from $700 to $350, by 1917, most Americans were able to afford one.
In order to keep up with the demand for the Model T, Ford commissioned Albert Kahn to design the River Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan as well as 17 smaller ones throughout the world. Jacksonville was chosen to house one of the satellite plants.
Ford purchased the former Bentley Shipyards property from the city of Jacksonville for $50,000 and began construction on the 115,200 square-foot building on January 23, 1924. With a $2 million-dollar price tag, it was completed in just six months. The Jacksonville plant still could not keep up with demand, and a 50,000 square foot building was added in November 1926. By the end of 1927, the plant had produced nearly 75,000 automobiles, and nearly 15,000 trucks.
The building had to be retrofitted in 1928 when the Model T was replaced by the Model A. Operations continued at the Jacksonville plant until the Great Depression in 1932. Production stopped but Ford continued to use the building as a parts distribution center until 1968.
Since then, the building has become home to various companies, with most recently a storage facility for a wooden pallet manufacturer.
Now abandoned, no one knows what is going to happen to the old Ford plant. In February 2015, Amkin Hill Street LLC bought the building for $4.4 million but has not said what they plan to do with it.