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Nouha Odeh

Professor Erik Mortenson

Honors 1000

7 November 2017

Fort Piquette Plant: The Beginning of the Motor City

In October of 1908, Henry Ford declared, "I will build a car for the great multitude. It

will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for...But

it will be low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one-and enjoy

with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces (Murphy 2010).

With this promise, Henry Ford introduced the Model T, the first mass-produced car, which was

built at the Piquette Plant. The Ford Piquette Plant represents Detroit very well since it was the

mass production of cars that lead Detroit to eventually be referred to as The Motor City. The

plant represents where the city was going at the time in terms of technological advancements,

and also represents where we are going now for the same reason. Those best served by the site

were the everyday people in Detroit, both back then and today.

Detroit was, and still is, a rapidly changing, growing city where innovations reshaped its

urban form and people. The Piquette Plant had a very similar effect on the city in terms of

shaping ways of seeing and, eventually, the urban form. By mass-producing vehicles, Ford

changed the common view that automobiles were a luxury item available only to the wealthy

(Murphy 2010). Detroits way of seeing changed as thousands of cars were produced, and cars

eventually became a necessity to the general public. As a result of this changed way of seeing,

the city itself began to change as more roads and highways were created. It was because of the

Piquette Plant that Detroit eventually was named the Motor City; thus, the plant is a proper
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representation of Detroit as its output shaped the city and its people. Though the Piquette Plant

does not have the same effect today, it represents the start of Detroit as the Motor City, and

shaped the way other car companies operate. Nowadays, every car company mass produces its

automobiles, which people continue to purchase, and the city will continue to change to

accommodate this.

F1 F2

F1 F2

As illustrated in figure two above (F2), the Piquette Plant, though large in size, was not

big enough to support the massive increase in demand for automobiles. As the sign reads in

figure one (F1) above, Ford was dissatisfied with the output of the Piquette Plant and shut it

down to relocate to the Highland Park Plant, which was much larger in size (Casey 2011). What

can be drawn from this is that the Piquette Plant closing does not represent the failure but rather

the success of Ford and the movement towards a future where greater production of new

technologies and automobiles are becoming high in demand. Though this was a success for Ford,
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it was a loss for his workers, who were left without jobs as a result of the relocation of the car

production plant. Unfortunately, this movement towards a future of more technologies includes

the loss of some jobs, which is often seen today. As the demand for certain products and

technologies increases, more and more companies are relocating their factories outside of the

country, where it is cheaper and faster to produce. As a result, many people who worked in the

factories in the United States are now left jobless. Currently, we are moving towards a future

with more technologies that people demand, but at the cost of peoples jobs as a result of

relocating companies to maximize profit.

The Piquette Plant is very representative of Detroit as a forgetting machine. With the

peoples collective desire to abandon the past and move towards the future, the Piquette Plant is

overlooked. However, its existence is evidence that though people attempt to forget the past, they

cannot escape it. The Piquette Plant has been turned into a museum to remind the city that the

plant is where major changes in Detroit started (Gannett Co. 2008). It also represents where we

are going as a city, as we are trying to preserve parts of our past by maintaining the existence of

the Piquette Plant rather than attempt to erase it as we did before. We are moving to a future that

will acknowledge its past.

At the Piquette Plant, my group interviewed a historian named Sarah Schultz. Upon being

asked How do you view the plant? Schultz responded, I don't see it as a plant or a museum. I

see it as a monument that represents Detroits beginning and a reminder to everyone in Detroit

that they should not forget that this is where it all started. Her response represents the way the

plant can be used to bring people together. Those living in the city of Detroit have a shared past

and, by preserving the history that they have in common, the people can be united. In the past,

the site was not something that was shared by all people, as there was some degree of
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discrimination in the plant, where African American people were given jobs that were more

dangerous and had more requirements before they could be hired (Cliometrics). Nowadays,

though the plants function has changed, everyone is welcome equally into the workplace and

into the site. As we move towards a future that provides equal opportunity for everyone

regardless of race, people will be more united because no one is left behind.

In conclusion, the Ford Piquette Plant is a proper representative of the city of Detroit as it

produced automobiles that shaped Detroit into the Motor City we see today. The plant also

represents the city as a forgetting machine because the plant is not busy but still stands to remind

the city that it cannot escape its past. Back then, those best served by the site were the people

who bought the cars or worked at the plant as it provided them with a means of transportation

and or a job. This was the general public, though some minorities did not get equal opportunities

in the Piquette Plant. Today, it does not matter who you are because the plant is open to everyone

equally and no one is left out. The change in who the plant is open to from past to present

represents how the city is progressing towards a future of equal opportunities, and this in turn

can be used to unite the people in Detroit. We, as in the people and the city of Detroit, are

moving towards a future with equal opportunity and a greater degree of technological innovation.
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Works Cited

Casey, Bob. Henry Ford - Visionaries on Innovation. The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research

Center, 20 Jan. 2011,

www.thehenryford.org/explore/stories-of-innovation/visionaries/henry-ford/.

Employment Segregation in the Early Twentieth Century. Cliometrics Society,

cliometrics.org/conferences/ASSA/Dec_90/Whatley-Wright_Abstract/.

FORD PIQUETTE PLANT. ProQuest, Gannett Co., Inc, 26 Apr. 2008,

search.proquest.com/docview/436919624/abstract/B72E1B27BAC343C7PQ/1?accountid

=14925.

Murphy, Sarah. Encyclopedia Of Detroit. Where Past Is Present, Detroit Historical Society,

2010, detroithistorical.org/learn/encyclopedia-of-detroit/model-t.

Odeh, Nouha H, and Sarah Schultz. What is the Piquette Plant. 27 Oct. 2017.

Our History. Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, Woodward Avenue Action Association,

fordpiquetteavenueplant.org/?page_id=21#building.