To comfort those of us pining for something — anything — to go up instead of coming down, the demolition crew at the Ford plant has laced the chain-link fence around the property with green tarpaulin. Nothing to see here, move along. Technically, it is the Twin Cities Assembly Plant, but Fords were manufactured there for almost 100 years, and we all know it as the Ford plant.
We understand what is going on in there. It is being torn down, I imagine with precision, as I am sure there are companies in America that specialize in getting rid of things as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
What industrial might the place was, with smokestacks and train tracks and assembly lines and paint booths and the clamor of air tools and hydraulics. Old Henry Ford, when he was starting out, could see to it that a load of iron-ore pellets was delivered at one end of a building and a car would come out the other end. At the Twin Cities plant, he made his own glass and generated his own electricity. We tend to forget that cars were made there for most of the plant's life.
Only more recently was it the home of the Ranger pickup truck. There are great archival photos of, say, 1955 Ford sedans liveried for police or patrol work with officers standing at attention outside the cars, their collars crisp, their ties knotted sharply.
And going farther back, I have seen photos of Model T's getting loaded onto barges on the beach below the dam. Those T's looked as rickety as buggies, but they got the job done for a country getting a sense of itself on the move. Just as air conditioning is the invention that allowed the federal government to expand in steamy Washington, D.C., the Model T allowed the country to expand and farmers to finally get someplace more than five miles from home.
In any event, behind the fence, claws are systematically chewing the place up and it is insufferably sad because we have lost so much so recently. I am trying hard to embrace the excitement of real estate developers who see great things in store for the property, although nobody knows yet what might become of the 122 acres.
If only our most urban of automobile assembly plants could still accommodate the needs of the consumer. But the Ranger is done and Ford is making its more nimble and user-friendly vehicles elsewhere — all over the world, really. We just didn't make the cut. Ford thought about it, long and hard. They understood perfectly well that they were surrendering what was probably their most uniquely located and handsome plant in their system, commanding not only 122 acres of prime urban land and a rail spur, but also that long sweeping vista above the Mississippi River, a site Ford himself chose.