Ford Authority

1913 St. Paul Ford Building Is The Center Of A Dispute

In St. Paul on the corner of Rice Street and University Avenue sits an old Ford building that was once a busy commercial hive. The building was once home to a Model T assembly plant when the cars were built by hand rather than on Henry Ford’s famed assembly line. Workers at that time shuttled 5,000 parts up and down the three floors of the building.

The building opened in 1913, a notable year for Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company as that was the year Henry and his team realized that a long and linear assembly line was much faster. In the 1920s, Ford opened the Highland Park campus in St. Paul, and the original Ford building was converted into a dealership and maintenance site.

The building has now set vacant for a long time and has so far survived repeated attempts to tear it down. There is still a possibility that the building will be destroyed, but the State Historic Preservation Review Board recently voted unanimously to nominate the building for the National Register of Historic Places.

While some are trying to get the old Ford building onto the historic places register, others want to tear it down. The state Department of Administration has reissued a budget request for $1.7 million to fund an eventual demolition of the site and prepare it for an unknown future use. If the old Ford building does make it onto the National Register, it won’t prevent the building from being demolished, but it would make it more difficult.

Developers are unable to get any federal funds for redeveloping an entire site if they are demolishing a National Registry property. The state says that it has accrued nearly $1 million in debt since it was vacated in 2004. There have been no tenants to pay the debit or maintenance costs. The state wants to destroy the building and find a better use for the site. Another former Ford site in St. Paul is ready for redevelopment.

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Shane is a car guy with a fondness for Mustangs and off-roading.

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  1. Charles

    All they want is to erase history for short term profit.

    1. The Retired Viking

      If we kept every building that had some peripheral connection to history, or because some local committee or another want to keep it, we’d have a stock of buildings that are difficult to heat and cool, have little useable space vs their footprint, and other things.

      You have a group who wants to preserve it? Whip out your checkbooks and pay for it. Don’t saddle others with expenses because of your feelings.

  2. GuyNoir

    A shame. Would do Minnesota well to keep something historical there. Seems like an expensive proposition to tear it down anyway…

  3. martin

    Really, it should be Ford buying up all the old sites and revamping them as heritage centers and showrooms. I understand that Ford can’t really open corporate dealerships but Key regional offices with a minor showroom or maybe a banquet hall?? In any case, I think Ford really should buy them up and keep them in the family. If would end up being relatively cheap PR if it were used as a corporate office of sorts. There is one in my city of Toronto which i pass at least twice a week. Its owned by a coffee machine import company FEAMA. The guy got it for a song about 25 years ago as the area wasn’t considered the best at the time (train tracks behind it) but now it’s a hot community and the building is worth about $70 million. the building has also been restored to its former glory and is now surrounded by low rise condos. All the vented wired glass have been replaced with new windows. Oh and there is a Model T inside it on display facing a window for all the world to see.


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