About the Project
The Twin Cities Assembly Plant was one of the principal economic engines of the East Metro for 86 years. It was a catalyst for the development of the Highland Park neighborhood and the Ford Bridge. And it was an immense source of pride for the thousands of men and women who built cars, trucks and military vehicles in the capital city for four generations. The plant’s closure in December 2011 marked the end of an era for automotive production in Minnesota.
The plant may be gone, but its legacy lives on in this 2019 documentary film, “Made in St. Paul: Stories from the Ford plant.” Narrated by Cathy Wurzer, the film explores the colorful history of the plant as told by the people who worked there, from assembly line workers to skilled tradesmen and plant engineers. Their stories, combined with archival photographs and historical commentary, help to preserve and acknowledge the plant’s significant history as the community prepares for new development where Model T’s, Galaxies and Rangers were once produced.
When the Twin Cities Assembly Plant opened in 1925, it was the largest of Ford’s branch plants outside of Detroit. Henry Ford was personally involved in designing the building, siting it on a scenic national river in a part of the city that was largely undeveloped. The location offered everything Ford wanted: rail connections, river navigation, a hydroelectric plant to power the machinery, and silica sand that could be mined for glass manufacturing. Ford was adamant that the plant be compatible with its beautiful natural environment, so he built it far back from the river bluffs and created a wide, green buffer zone between the plant and the river. The building, designed by noted architect Albert Kahn, was considered by many to be the most beautiful industrial plant in the world.
While the plant’s engineering and architectural features were the big story in the 1920s, they were eventually overshadowed by other issues: the Great Depression; autoworkers’ struggle for humane working conditions and union representation; the impact of Japanese imports on the U.S. auto industry; the introduction of women and minorities into the workforce; and the integration of new technology. Despite the impact of strikes, economic upheaval and other challenges, the Twin Cities Assembly Plant was always ranked number one or two in quality among all of Ford’s domestic plants.