Four panels, in two sets of two, describe the pre- and post-war history and uses of the Ford Assembly Building: 1930-1939 Ford Model A
"Quality means doing it right when no one is looking." — Henry Ford
The Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant in Richmond, California was constructed in the 1930s to produce the new Ford Model A. The factory influenced the development of the inner harbor and port, and as the largest automobile assembly plant on the West Coast, it boosted the local and regional economy during the Great Depression.
Designed by the renowned 20th-century industrial architect Albert Kahn, the 525,000 square foot Ford Assembly Building utilizes natural light from a vast array of windows and skylights (Kahn's trademark "daylight factory"), and has the open-space environment typical of his structures.
Sometimes called 'the architect of Detroit', Albert Kahn worked on more than 1000 commissions from Henry Ford and hundreds from other automakers. The Ford Assembly Building is one of approximately sixty Albert Kahn buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
"Architecture is 90% business, 10% art." — Albert Kahn
1940-1945 The War Years
During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt banned production of civilian automobiles. To support the war effort, the Ford Assembly Plant was retooled to assemble jeeps and process tanks, armored cars, half-tracks, personnel carriers, and other combat vehicles. Named The Richmond Tank Depot, the plant became one of only three tank depots in the entire United States. In just three years, approximately 49,000 jeeps were assembled here, and 91,000 other military vehicles underwent modifications before being shipped overseas.
On the Home Front, women and men, African Americans, minorities and whites, worked side by side of the first time in American history to meet the monumental production demands essential to winning the war.
After World War II, the devastation to the local economy as a result of the closing of the Kaiser Shipyards would have been crippling, had it not been for the continued production of the Ford Assembly Plant. However, the last car rolled out in 1953. Due to inability to accommodate increased productivity demands, the facility closed in 1956 after Ford transferred production to a new San Jose plant.
The building served briefly as a film set, book depository, and lab, and was largely underused for decades.
In 1989, the Loma Prieta Earthquake severely damaged the Ford Assembly Building. Demolition was contemplated, as developers failed to find a financially viable way for its reuse while adhering to preservation standards set for the historic landmark site. It remained abandoned and condemned until rehabilitation began in 2004.
Today: Iconic Destination
Orton Development, Inc., with Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects completed the rehabilitation of the 525,000 square foot Ford Assembly Building in 2009. Today, research & development, office, retail, and industrial tenants enjoy state-of-the-art amenities in the historic building. The original south-facing sawtooth roof supports a one-megawatt solar power plant.
The project has won multiple design and sustainability awards, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation Design Award in 2008, and the AIA Honor Award for Architecture in 2011.
The 45,000 square foot bay front Craneway Pavilion, the southernmost portion of the complex, now offers the finest event space in the Bay Area, with stunning architecture and breathtaking views. A 100-seat restaurant is stationed amongst the restored original equipment of the historic Boiler Room. The former Oil House is home to the NPS Rosie the Riveter World War II.Home Front Visitor Education Center.