Ford Motor Company Building, 451-455 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, District of Columbia, DC
Significance: The Ford Motor Company Building is an early example of reinforced concrete construction in Washington. It was designed by Albert Kahn Associates of Detroit, Michigan, one of the country's foremost architectural firms during the early 1900s. In this building, Kahn combines industrial with Neoclassical detailing. This building signifies the grand scale development that began to transform Pennsylvania Avenue in the late Nineteenth Century.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: FN-43
Survey number: HABS DC-375
Building/structure dates: 1916 Initial Construction
Building/structure dates: 1979 Demolished
Henry Ford built his first automobile, which he called a quadricycle, at his home in Detroit in 1896. His first company called Detroit Automobile Company, founded in 1899 but failed soon. On June 16, 1903, the Ford Motor Company was incorporated. During its early years, the company produced a range of vehicles designated, chronologically, from the Ford Model A (1903) to the Model K and Model S of 1907. In 1908, Henry Ford introduced the Model T. By 1913, Ford introduced the world's first moving assembly line that year, which reduced chassis assembly time from 12 1⁄2 hours in October to 2 hours 40 minutes (and ultimately 1 hour 33 minutes), and boosted annual output to 202,667 units that year. By 1920, production exceeds one million a year. Turnover of workers was very high. In January 1914, Ford solved the problem by doubling pay to $5 a day, cutting shifts from nine hours to an eight-hour day. It increased sales: a line worker could buy a T with less than four months' pay, and instituting hiring practices that identified the best workers, including disabled people, considered unemployable by other firms. Employee turnover plunged, productivity soared, and with it, the cost per vehicle plummeted. Ford cut prices again and again and invented the system of franchised dealers who were loyal to his brand name. Wall Street had criticized Ford's generous labor practices when he began paying workers enough to buy the products they made.