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Despite History, the Highland Park Plant Gets Very Little Love

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[Photography by Chris and Michelle Gerard]

The Packard Plant is undoubtedly Detroit's celebrity factory. It was Albert Kahn's first use of reinforced concrete, creating buildings that were amazingly sturdy and nearly fireproof. Hence the property's continued relevance despite decades of arson, scrapping, and Winnebago dropping. Yet the Packard was sort of a rough draft for another, greater Albert Kahn factory that would come just a few years later.

Henry Ford had wanted a Packard Plant of his own, but asked Albert Kahn design a factory with one major difference: large, open rooms that allowed cars to continuously move while being assembled. He built the Highland Park Plant. Those rooms gave birth to the modern assembly line, which inspired the $5/day wage, which supercharged Detroit's middle class. Many of the country's factories followed suit.

Despite its place in American history, the Highland Park Plant is relatively obscure, and closed to the public. Most of its buildings are used for storage by Greenfield Village. Over the last couple of months, the Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3) has been attempting to crowdsource the purchase of just one building and a garage to renovate as a museum, but the effort appears certain to fall short.

As of Tuesday—the campaign's final day—only about a quarter of the $125K goal has been raised.