Ford River Rouge Complex
The Ford River Rouge Complex (commonly known as the Rouge Complex or just The Rouge) is a Ford Motor Company automobile factory complex located in Dearborn, Michigan, along the River Rouge, upstream from its confluence with the Detroit River at Zug Island. Construction began in 1917, and when it was completed in 1928, it was the largest integrated factory in the world.
Ford River Rouge Complex
Aerial view of the Rouge Complex in 1927
|Area||900 acres (360 ha) (landmarked area)|
|NRHP reference #||78001516|
|Added to NRHP||June 2, 1978|
|Designated NHLD||June 2, 1978|
|Designated MSHS||December 14, 1976|
It inspired the GAZ factory built in the 1930s in the Soviet Union, and the later Hyundai factory complex in Ulsan, South Korea, which was developed beginning in the late 1960s. Designed by Albert Kahn, the Rouge was designated as a National Historic Landmark District in 1978 for its architecture and historical importance to the industry and economy of the United States.
The Rouge measures 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide by 1 mile (1.6 km) long, including 93 buildings with nearly 16 million square feet (1.5 km²) of factory floor space. With its own docks in the dredged Rouge River, 100 miles (160 km) of interior railroad track, its own electricity plant, and integrated steel mill, the titanic Rouge was able to turn raw materials into running vehicles within this single complex, a prime example of vertical-integration production. More than 100,000 workers were employed there even during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Some of the Rouge buildings were designed by architect Albert Kahn. His Rouge glass plant was regarded at the time as an exemplary and humane factory building, with ample natural light provided through windows in the ceiling. Since the late 20th century, several buildings have been converted to "green" structures with a number of environmentally friendly features.
In the summer of 1932, through Edsel Ford's support, Mexican artist Diego Rivera was invited to study the facilities at the Rouge. These studies informed his set of murals known as Detroit Industry, which have been on continuous display at the Detroit Institute of Arts since their completion in 1933.
The Rouge's first products were Eagle Boats, World War I anti-submarine warfare boats produced in Building B. The original Building B, a three-story structure, is part of the legendary Dearborn Assembly Plant, which started producing Model A's in the late 1920s and continued production through 2004. After the war, production turned to Fordson tractors. Although the Rouge's coke ovens and foundry produced nearly all the parts of the Model T, assembly of that vehicle remained at Highland Park. It was not until 1927 that automobile production began at the Rouge, with the introduction of the Ford Model A. Later Rouge products included the 1932 Model B, the original Mercury, the Ford Thunderbird, Mercury Capri, and four decades of Ford Mustangs. The old assembly plant was idled with the construction and launch of a new assembly facility on the Miller Road side of the complex, currently producing Ford F-150 pickup trucks.
The River Rouge Complex manufactured most of the components of Ford vehicles, starting with the Model T. Many of the vehicles were compiled into "knock-down kits", then sent by railroad to various assembly locations across the United States to be locally assembled, using local supplies as necessary. After the 1960s, Ford began to decentralize manufacturing, building several factories in major metropolitan centers. The Rouge was downsized, with many units (including the famous furnaces and docks) sold off to independent companies.
On May 26, 1937, a group of workers attempting to organize a union at the Rouge were severely beaten, an event later called the Battle of the Overpass. Peter E. Martin's respect for labor led to Walter Reuther, a UAW leader, allowing Martin to be the only Ford manager to retrieve his papers or gain access to the plant.
By 1987, only Mustang production remained at the Dearborn Assembly Plant (DAP). In 1987 Ford planned to replace that car with the front wheel drive Ford Probe, but public outcry quickly turned to surging sales. With the fourth-generation Mustang a success, the Rouge was saved as well. Ford decided to modernize its operations. A gas explosion on February 1, 1999 killed six employees and injured two dozen more, resulting in the idling of the power plant. Michigan Utility CMS Energy built a state-of-the-art Power Plant across Miller Road to replace the electricity and steam production, as well as the blast furnace waste gas consumption of the original power plant As it ended production, Dearborn Assembly Plant was one of six plants within the Ford Rouge Center. The plant was open from 1918 to May 10, 2004, with a red convertible 2004 Ford Mustang GT being the last vehicle built at the historic site. Demolition of the historic DAP facility was completed in 2008. All that remains is a 3000 place parking lot to hold light truck production from the new Dearborn Truck Plant.
Ford Rouge CenterEdit
Today, the Rouge site is home to Ford's Rouge Center. This industrial park includes six Ford factories on 600 acres (2.4 km²) of land, as well as steelmaking operations run by AK Steel, a U.S. steelmaker. The new Dearborn Truck factory famously features a vegetation-covered roof and rainwater reclamation system designed by sustainability architect William McDonough. This facility is still Ford's largest factory and employs some 6,000 workers. Mustang production, however, has moved to the Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Michigan.
Tours of the Rouge complex were a long tradition. Free bus tours of the facility began in 1924 and ran until 1980, at their peak hosting approximately a million visitors per year. They resumed in 2004 in cooperation with The Henry Ford Museum with multimedia presentations, as well as viewing of the assembly floor. The Ford Rouge Factory Tour had 148,000 visitors in 2017.
The management of Dearborn Truck has decreed that no vehicles from other manufacturers may park at the front of the main employee lot. Non Ford Family vehicles are required to park in the back 12 rows of parking spaces. Hourly workers from both Ford and AK Steel facilities at the complex are represented by UAW Local 600.
A fleet of three Ford-owned Great Lakes freighters initially named for the Ford grandsons and later renamed for top company executives, was based at the River Rouge Plant. When the ships were retired, one was scrapped, but the deckhouse of the SS William Clay Ford was relocated to a museum in the Belle Isle Detroit city park in the Detroit River and the deckhouse of the SS Benson Ford was transported by crane barge to Put-in-Bay, Ohio and placed on an 18-foot cliff as a private home above Lake Erie.
In 1999, architect William McDonough entered into an agreement with Ford Motor Company to redesign its 85-year-old, 1,212-acre (490 ha) Rouge River facility. The roof of the 1.1 million square foot (100,000 m2) Dearborn truck assembly plant was covered with more than 10 acres (4.0 ha) of sedum, a low-growing groundcover. The sedum retains and cleanses rainwater and moderates the internal temperature of the building, saving energy.
Current product madeEdit
- Ford F-150 (1948–present)
Former products madeEdit
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
- "Ford River Rouge Complex". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2012-10-06. Retrieved 2008-06-27.
- "NHL nomination for Ford River Rouge Complex". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-03-30.
- Ford, Henry; Crowther, Samuel (1922). My Life and Work. Garden City Publishing. pp. 81, 167. Retrieved 2010-06-08.
- Bryan, Ford: "Henry's Lieutenants", page 214, Wayne State University Press, 1993
- "Ford River Rogue". franklillandson.com.
- Frank, Annalise (January 26, 2018). "The Henry Ford's Attendance Down Slightly in 2017". Crain Communications. Archived from the original on January 27, 2018. Retrieved May 19, 2018.
- Spilman, Rick (August 18, 2014). "From Lakes Freighters to Lake Houses — Benson Ford & John W. Boardman". The Old Salt Blog. Old Salt Press. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-05-05. Retrieved 2007-06-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Architectural Record - News, Continuing Ed, Products, Green Bldg". archrecord.construction.com. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ford River Rouge Complex.|
- River Rouge Factory Tour
- Photos from the Rouge Steel mill
- "Big Generator for Auto Plant Adds to Giant Power" Popular Mechanics, September 1937, bottom-left pg 374
- A film clip "The Source of the Ford Car Part 1 ca. 1932" is available at the Internet Archive
- A film clip "Tour Through The Rouge Plant ca. 1939" is available at the Internet Archive
- Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. MI-325, "Rouge Steel Company, 3001 Miller Road, Dearborn, Wayne, MI"