Ford Motor Company Edgewater Assembly Plant, 309 River Road, Edgewater, Bergen County, NJ
Significance: This complex is an excellent example of Albert Kahn's achievement in industrial architecture, standing midway between the early multi-story plants built in Detroit for Ford and Dodge, and the late 1930's - early 1940's broad assembly plants at Willow Run, Michigan, and Baltimore, Maryland, for Ford and Glenn L. Martin. This plant is a landmark in the industrial development of the west bank of the Hudson River and represents a change in the production policies of the Ford Motor Company from industrial concentration in Detroit to decentralization on the East Coast.
Survey number: HAER NJ-53
Building/structure dates: 1931 Initial Construction
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.