The Ford brand seemed destined for success. Founded in the early 1900s, it weathered high turnover and the Great Depression. It remains one of the most popular U.S. automakers, known for iconic models such as the Ford Mustang and F-150 truck.
As Ford continues to set new milestones (especially in the EV segment), the company has set its sights on building new production plants. However, that means there’s little use for outdated factories from the company’s humble beginnings. Local officials recently decided to demolish and bulldoze Florida’s only Ford plant.
A brief history of Ford’s early production days
When Ford produced its first Model A and Model T cars in 1908, it used a small rented factory in Michigan. Demand for the Model T quickly rose, so the Blue Oval had to shift production to two larger factories to accommodate every order. In 1913, Ford developed the first moving assembly line.
The brand’s popularity increased so quickly that many employees resigned due to the ensuing labor demands. But Ford kept turnover in check through higher pay, more hiring opportunities for workers with disabilities, and slightly shorter shifts.
Why is the Ford plant in Jacksonville, Florida, set for demolition?
Ford built one of its oldest production facilities in 1924 on the banks of the St. Johns River in Florida. The Model A and Model T rolled off production lines there until 1932. According to The Florida Times-Union, workers at the plant built an average of 200 units per day.
Though Ford survived the Great Depression, necessary budget cuts led to the factory’s closure. Once vehicle production ceased, the company continued to use the building as a distribution center into the late 1960s.
It sat abandoned for years afterward until being declared a National Landmark in 2003. But in mid-October, the Jacksonville City Council unanimously agreed the building should be torn down in 90 days.
The decision has concerned historical activists, News 4 Jax reports. Jacksonville Historical Society members say the plant was instrumental in developing local communities and roadways. They also believe at least part of the structure should be preserved.
However, the building is reportedly in significant disrepair after being abandoned for several years. A ship repair facility might be built in its place. That would create more jobs for residents in the surrounding neighborhoods, making the new structure arguably more beneficial than the defunct plant.
Before crews destroy the Ford plant, historians will document the structure through extensive photographs.
1 of the oldest Ford dealerships still stands
The Ford dealership in St. Cloud, Minnesota, has been open since 1903, when Ford Motor Company was founded. Tenvoorde Ford is named for its owner, Steve Tenvoorde.
He was reportedly St. Cloud’s first automotive dealer, opening a bicycle shop in 1899. Tenvoorde was the second person to sign up as an official Ford dealer after years of selling automobiles and bikes. He would later be authorized to sell vehicles from several other up-and-coming automakers, including Buick and Oldsmobile.
The dealership remains open today, passed down through the Tenvoorde family through five generations. Despite its age, the store carries all the latest Ford vehicles, including the F-150 Lightning, and certified pre-owned models. In addition, the dealership sells used cars from other brands and offers 100% online buying.
For some historians, it’s a shame the Jacksonville Ford assembly plant couldn’t outlast the Tenvoorde dealership. Though activists argue the factory’s preservation could boost local property values, the landowner remains hopeful about the building’s replacement.