JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Sixteen years after the first Model-T was produced, Henry Ford expanded his mass production down to Jacksonville, building an assembly plant on Wambolt Street in 1924.
"We have a photograph of Henry Ford watching the first car come off the assembly line. And, he was very proud of this building. He was the master of mass production," said architectural historian Wayne Wood.
Wood says the building was designed by Ford's friend, Albert Kahn, who designed more than 1,000 buildings for Ford. And, it's huge. It was originally 200 feet wide by 576 feet but about a year after it was done, an addition was put on, expanding it to 800 feet. There are huge skylight panels and giant windows that had multiple uses back in the early 20s.
"The workers in those days, when lighting was not as good as it is today, could see the cars as they turned them out. and it also gave natural ventilation and warmth in the wintertime," said Wood.
When the plant opened, half of the cars in the world were Ford's Model-T. The 800 employees helped this plant churn out more than 200 cars a day. According to Reclaiming Jacksonville, cars were assembled at the Jacksonville plant until 1932, when the Great Depression eliminated the need for the local facility. After that, Ford used it as a parts warehouse, making use of the railroad access.
"Once the Ford Motor Company ceased its operations there in the 1960s, there are various companies that have gone in for storing pallets, storing lumber," said Wood.
Today, it's a storage facility. Those beautiful skylight panels are all broken. But, Wood says there's still hope for the building. At one point there were talks of turning it into a cruise terminal, because of its location.
"Our hopes are that some creative new use can be made for this building. Which is one of Jacksonville's precious architectural landmarks. It's a difficult building because of its location, and because of its enormous size. But there are so many things being done with old abandoned warehouses and industrial buildings like this. that we feel like this could be the jewel of restoration, renovation, and architectural reuse," said Wood.