“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Alexandria, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

The Alexandria Ford Plant


—Ford's Landing Park —

The Alexandria Ford Plant Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, October 30, 2013
1. The Alexandria Ford Plant Marker
One of the last and most architecturally important of the industrial facilities constructed on the waterfront was the Alexandria Branch of the Ford Motor Company. Designed by Albert Kahn (1896-1942) and built on wood pilings over the Potomac River in 1932, it served as a wholesale distribution and service facility for automobiles until 1942, when the U.S. Navy put it into temporary service as a munitions factory.

Kahn is internationally known as a pioneering architect of modern industrial buildings. He designed more than 2,000 factories worldwide. Emphasizing function and efficiency over aesthetics, his structures were designed for adaptability to rapidly evolving manufacturing methods. Kahn’s Ford Plant in Alexandria was composed of two dissimilar buildings visually united with simplified Art Deco detail. The bulk of the facility, along Union Street, was a nearly two-acre, one-story, steel-frame service building. Kahn created large, unobstructed spaces using his hallmark sawtooth-shaped butterfly road trusses which contained skylights to bring sunlight into the interior. The pavilion you are standing under reflects this design. A traditional administration building with a large “Ford” sign on its roof was oriented to the river instead of the City, its primary façade extending 204 feet along the Potomac’s edge.
The Alexandria Ford Plant Marker in Ford's Landing Park image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, October 30, 2013
2. The Alexandria Ford Plant Marker in Ford's Landing Park
The visitor was greeted by a lobby and offices paneled in exotic woods and fitted with custom-built furnishings created by Walter Dorwin Teague (1883-1960), one of the most influential industrial designers of the 20th century. These buildings were long an Alexandria landmark, prominently visible from the Maryland shore and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Cook Inlet Region, Inc., bought the Ford Plant property 1985 and planned to create here a residential development to be named “Ford's Landing.” Eakin/Youngentob Associates purchased the property in 1996, intending to preserve the Ford Plant. After extensive analysis, they determined that the wood pilings which supported the building and its piers were dangerously unsound. The structure was demolished in 1996.

The new townhouses and boardwalk that stand on the property today were constructed in accordance with a new plan approved by the City Council and Board of Architectural Review in 1996. The site design recreates the Old Town grid pattern, with all streets ending at the waterfront and 18th- and 19th-century industrial–style buildings lining the waterfront boardwalk. Eakin/Youngentob Associates began construction in September of 1996 and completed construction in early 1999.

The exhibit panels on the history of the Ford’s Landing site were underwritten by Eakin/Youngentob.

Close-up of the "Ford's Landing Park, 1996-1999" cornerstone image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, October 30, 2013
3. Close-up of the "Ford's Landing Park, 1996-1999" cornerstone
in the retaining wall below the steps at the end of Franklin Street - looking west (see Photo No.2)

Albert Kahn (1896-1942) designed many buildings for the Ford Motor Company and other manufacturers. His flexible industrial designs were well suited to Ford’s assembly line production. (Illustration: Albert Koton Associates, Inc.)

The Alexandria Ford Plant, designed by industrial architect Albert Kahn, was constructed over a pier in the Potomac River. The building’s ornate administration wing and rooftop sign faced the river. In the assembly area, to the rear, butterfly trusses run north and south, allowing light into the building from above. (Illustration: Alexandria Library, Special Collections)

Ford’s Landing, a residential community, was designed by the Dessard Architectural Group to reflect the Alexandria waterfront’s rich industrial heritage. (Illustration: Eakin/Youngentob Associates)

This detail, taken from the original blueprints for the Ford Plant, shows the design of the butterfly trusses which were a pioneering feature of the building. The sky-lit trusses allowed daylight into the assembly portion of the plant. This truss design can be seen today in the pavilion directly overhead. (Illustration: City of Alexandria Archives and Records Center)

On October 29, 1996, Alexandria City Councilman William C. Cleveland, Councilman David G. Speck, Mayor Kerr J. Donley, and Councilwoman Rededa S. Pepper, joined LeRoy Eakin, III, and Robert Youngentob at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ford’s Landing residential community (Illustration: Eakin Youngentob Associates)

(List of the seven historical markers on display in Alexandria's Ford's Landing Park): Earliest Inhabitants 1000 BC - 1600 AD • Early Alexandria 1700-1800 • The Federal District 1791-1846 • The Civil War Battery Rodgers 1861-1865 • The Alexandria Marine Railway Company 1849-1900s • Battery Cove New Shipyard 1911-1922 • The Ford Plant 1932-1996.
Erected 1999 by Eakin/Youngentob Associates. (Marker Number 7.)
Location. 38° 47.826′ N, 77° 2.406′ W. Marker is in Alexandria, Virginia. Marker can be reached from Ford's Landing Way east of Franklin Street, on the left when traveling south. Click for map. This marker is the northernmost of the seven panels on display in Alexandria's Ford's Landing Park. Marker is in this post office area: Alexandria VA 22314, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Civil War and Battery Rodgers (a few steps from this marker); Guarding the Potomac (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Fitting-Out Dock (approx. 0.2 miles away); Battery Rodgers (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Race to Build Ships on Jones Point (approx. 0.3 miles away); A Tale of Three Jurisdictions (approx. 0.3 miles away); Wilkes Street Tunnel (approx. 0.3 miles away); World War I-Era Rudder (approx. 0.3 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Alexandria.
Also see . . .  Ford's Alexandria Assembly Plant. (Submitted on October 31, 2013, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Categories. Industry & CommerceRoads & VehiclesWar, World II
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 568 times since then and 94 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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