Something about that plant has me guessing for years!
Lets take the third floor as an example. If one starts to count "bays" from the front (at Piquette Ave) to the back (the railroad tracks), one will find "28 bays". Perhaps I should explain a "bay" as the distance between columns.
It appears to me that the first firewall is 6 bays from Piquette Ave. Then there are 11 bays before the next firewall, and only 5 bays before the next firewall and then 6 bays to the railroad end of the building.
Since there were 28 bays why not have a 3 firewalls but 7 bays between each firewall to make in uniform? Did Ford design the building to have an unequal number of bays between firewalls for a reason? If so what was it?
Another thing I perhaps remember incorrectly was when I was a youngster in the 1970's I thought I saw a garage door on the Beaubien side of the plant that was open and another door was on the west side of the building, such that one could drive into the "courtyard" area. This was the vacant land just west of the building where there were sheds and material was stored for automobile production. Did this drive through the first floor of the building actually exist, or is just my forgetful mind operating?
Ford leased the Piquette plant. It was I believe (from memory) a carriage works originally. The first plant that Ford had specifically designed for autto production was the Highland Park plant.
Oops - I am thinking of the Mack plant. Here's the Piquette history from their website:
The Ford Piquette Avenue plant in Detroit may be the most significant auto-heritage site in the world. Built in 1904, the plant is the birthplace of the Model T. The New England mill-style structure is the first building built for Ford Motor Company. Here is where Henry Ford and his team built the first 12,000 Model Ts.
Prior to the Model T, Henry Ford produced a series of "letter" cars including the Model N - perhaps the most underrated car in Ford Motor Company history. The Model N made the three-year old firm the highest volume producer in America. And it served as the prototype for the Model T.
The plant is located in an area known as Milwaukee Junction, the emerging auto industry's central location after the turn of the last century. By the 1920's, Milwaukee Junction was Detroit's industrial heartbeat.
Henry Ford was 40 years old when he built his Piquette Avenue plant. He was a simple, friendly man, who spent most of his time in the shop, the experimental department, the drafting room or the power plant. He was at work frequently before eight and would return after supper, often laboring late into the night on mechanical problems.
More from Hemmings Motor News:
Construction of the plant began on the site within two months, and was completed by the end of 1904. The three-story New England mill-style building was designed by the Detroit architectural firm of Field, Hinchman & Smith, and is constructed of brick load-bearing walls with timber post-and-beam framing and thick wooden floors. The 402- by 56-foot building used 355 double-hung windows to admit natural light and ventilation. Because of his shareholders’ awareness of the Olds Motor Works fire a few years earlier, Mr. Ford had his building equipped with the latest fire prevention and control technology – three firewalls with double steel doors dividing the building into four sections, fire escapes in each section, an automatic sprinkler system, and fire-resistant frame and floor construction. At the time of its completion, some people wondered if the company could ever fill the plant’s space, but history soon proved that concern to be unfounded! Besides the main plant building, Ford also built a steam power plant on the site, and in the next few years, a number of outbuildings were added for various manufacturing purposes.
More from Hemmings Motor News, interesting part regarding the dislike by Henry ford for the Model K:
The business offices were on the ground floor at the front (south) end of the building, but Henry Ford’s office was at the southwest corner of the second floor, amid the “real” business of the factory – designing and building automobiles. Mr. Ford was usually to be found in the production areas, the power plant, the design department, etc., and paperwork tended to lie ignored in his office. The plant layout was constantly changing, as happens in automobile plants today, but at Piquette, the changes occurred at a very rapid pace. Initially, the company produced the C, F and B models, all of which were discontinued by 1906. In April 1906, production commenced on the larger, more powerful Model K, which was championed by major shareholder Alexander Malcomson, but totally contrary to Mr. Ford’s product instincts. In July 1906, Ford began production of the Model N; a simple, light vehicle to suit Mr. Ford’s design philosophy, and which proved to be a commercial success, validating his own instincts.
Well, there's a little contradiction here: Ford states that he didn't remove money from his working capital to build the Piquette Ave Plant until 1906.
Source: "My Life and Work" H. Ford
It could be a typeset error, but I would assume that Ford would have at least proofed his own words.
Does anyone know the answer to the questions posted in the original posting?
I think we are getting off the original topic!
Getting off topic? That would never happen here?
No, I don't know the answer to the original question, but would remind that the building was being built at the time the little model A was being built and nobody really knew what was coming about in only a few years. Spacing the construction of the building for future uses would have involved too many unknowns.
I hope for more good early history and discussion to follow. I also have some interest in the Piquette plant because the 1915 Studebaker I used to have may have had a connection to it.
Notorious topic drifter, W2
For those that have not been to Piquette, here is the third floor a few years ago.
Thanks for posting the photo. It shows a typical fire door. However it is difficult to see the unequal space between the three fire doors.
There was a comment that it would be hard to predict what cars would be made there in the future. I certainly agree, but in 1904 what would have been the reason to have large and smaller areas protected by the fire doors?
I know that Olds had a fire and perhaps the fire doors were a result of the Oldsmobile plant fire in Lansing, MI. My question still remains, why were they not an equal 7 bays apart? Perhaps someone in the Detroit Model T clubs would have an answer, as they may have had that question in the past, since they are close by!
Bruce, is that picture taken looking north and the arched window is in the front facade?
Here is my take
There is a sprinkler system.
The floors are two layers thick. One oriented north and south and the other oriented east and west, so that fire could not spread through the floor.
The 11 bay area is the production area.
The 6 bay area in the front was for storage of completed cars before they were taken down to the ground floor.
The back bays were for storage of parts and production. I cannot remember if there is a freight elevator in the rear or if the only elevator is in the front.
Jerry might be able to explain better. He almost lives in the plant.
I know in the Master Mechanic's office on the railroad site I worked at in a previous life, the fire doors protected the house stores, tools, and parts. It separated the offices which were considered expendable. But that would have destroyed the payroll records, but not the vault which was fire-proof.
Fire doors and fire walls will not protect anything from a fire. It just delays the time it takes for the building to be consumed.
It is my understanding that originally there was an elevator at the front and at the rear of the building. The elevator at the front was relocated when Studebaker bought the plant and made a passage way to the building that was built to the west of the original Ford building. Studebaker made the passage way on the second floor so that a driveway was still available under the bridge to go into the courtyard.
In the original post the question was if there was another way into the courtyard off Beaubien St., as this would then be another possible entrance into the "courtyard" area, if indeed it did exist. I bring this up as many years ago as a youngster I seem to remember looking from Beaubien street directly into to building and into the courtyard from two open garage doors, one on the east side and one on the west side. But please do not accept this as fact, as this is just my failing memory of a possible situation that existed (or may not have) many years ago.
Yes, I was hoping that Jerry might make some comments. Perhaps he has not read this yet. After all it is the weekend and he deserves a rest!
The Front area, we call it 3A, was used by the drafting room and the pattern shop.
If you look at the picture with Clara Ford and the first Model N (circa 1906), you will see a pair of spidery racks coming out of the first two windows on the west side of the third floor. These were used by the draftsmen to make reproductions of their drawings using natural light to expose the treated paper. The tracing (drawing) was placed on top of the treated paper, a glass was placed on top to squeeze the two together, and run outside. After an interval of exposure to the Sun, the drawing was retrieved and the treated paper developed.
You are correct that there is a door on the east side or Beaubien side. These two pictures are from the Ford Motor History website.
This door is presently boarded up for security of our first floor tenant.
In the pictures, you will see the door on the Beaubien side matches the second door back on the west side of the building (the 1906 view). They are both 7 bays from the front.
There were two freight elevators in the plant. As mentioned, Studebaker removed the front one and replaced it with a larger elevator. That one is still in use in the plant. The other, original, elevator is still there at the north end. It is in the same corner as the water tower. It needs major repair work to be usable.
Thank you for responding. So my mind was correct! I think at one time many years ago I went by the plant and at that time both doors were open, such that one could see the courtyard! That answers that question!
Do you know why the fire doors were made to close off unequal areas of the plant? I was able to check the second and third floors and the fire doors were in the same positions. That is the fire doors on the third floor were directly below the fire doors on the second floor. Perhaps the fire doors on the first floor are also in line with the second and third floor, but I was unable to check that. I would think there must have been some reason for doing this when the plant was built. Most of the exterior of the plant is symmetrical, but I am at a loss as to why the fire doors were not at the 7 bay positions for each of the four sections of the interior since there is a total of 28 bays?
When Henry commissioned the building to be built, he requested the firewalls be offset. The reason given was, He knew a long time down the road a guy named Arnie would come along and wonder why. He figured he would drive Arnie nuts wondering about those doors.
(Knowing Arnie personally, I like to rib him whenever I can.)
I thought you would catch "the fire doors on the third floor were directly below the fire doors on the second floor"! With the word fire and directions mixed up, perhaps you might think hell is the place for me!
P.S. Bring the club literature back to the next meeting!!