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Shift Change: 1916

Shift Change: 1916

Detroit (Highland Park) circa 1916. "Four o'clock shift, Ford Motor Company." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Albert Kahn

It definitely was built to last. That's why Ford hired Albert Kahn to be the architect. A few years earlier, the Kahn-designed Packard plant opened in Detroit. It was the first industrial site to use reinforced concrete in the US. Kahn designed several auto plants and other industrial buildings in and around Detroit. A signature of his are the cylindrical columns that expand outwardly near the top and are loaded with steel rebar - some 2" in diameter! That's why the Packard plant and the Highland Park Ford Plant are still standing today - for the most part!!

Blue collar labor

I was born in and lived my first 22 years in a small totally industrial town in the Naugatuck Valley in Connecticut from 1939 until 1962 but like Detroit, the shift changes in the many mills and factories would cause an overwhelming surge of both foot traffic and auto congestion at every shift change. We also had very loud whistles, that could be heard throughout the town, that blew at 7 a.m., 12 noon (for lunch), 3 p.m., 5 p.m. (for supper) and 9 p.m. (I
guess that was our signal to go to bed). Eventually, one after the other, all the factories closed except two or three, and currently the town has been gentrified to be occupied by mostly boutique-like antique stores, tea rooms, specialty shops, craft booths, expensive condos, cafes, etc. more slanted toward touristy, quaint New England type storybook meccas, but we old timers know that it is not a true picture of the way things used to be there.

Fordism in Action

Note the permanent nature of the building; steel-framed masonry with plenty of architectural detail. Long-lived (although not energy-efficient!) steel window sash. etc. Ford built this structure to last, reflecting confidence in the long-term future of the company.

So much more room for activities

A wee bit less congested now

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