Ford Assembly Plant Building

700 Fairview Avenue N

Ford Assembly Plant Building, Seattle, August 13, 2019, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Ford Assembly Plant Building, Seattle, August 13, 2019, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Ford Motor Company assembly plant, ca. 1928

The Ford Motor Company opened this five-story plant for the assembly of Model T cars. Plant workers began assembling cars in March 1914, using engines and other parts shipped from Detroit. The assembly-line process started on the top floor and ended on the ground floor with a production of about 600 cars per month.

Designed by architect John Graham Sr, the building was one of Seattle’s earliest large-scale reinforced-concrete buildings and one of Ford’s earliest regional assembly plants. Graham designed many Seattle landmarks including the Joshua Green Building, the Seattle Yacht Club, and the Exchange Building. Henry Ford chose Seattle as a Model T assembly point after visiting the city in 1909 during the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. By the late 1920s Ford needed a larger factory and in 1932 moved production to a one-floor plant at 4730 East Marginal Way. Plunging automobile sales during the Great Depression forced Ford to end production at that plant less than a year later.

In 1935, Fuller Paint Company purchased the building on Fairview, added a loading dock, and installed four 25,000-gallon tanks at the southeast corner of the site to store linseed oil and turpentine. Craftsman Press, for many years Washington’s largest printer, acquired the building in 1965. Until 1995 the Burlington Northern Railroad ran across Fairview Avenue to a spur on the south side of the building. After this service ceased, Craftsman sold the building to Shurgard Storage, which had its corporate offices on the building’s top floor; mini-storage units filled the lower levels. In August 2006, Public Storage Inc. of Glendale, California, purchased Shurgard. On August 17, 1998, the Ford Assembly Plant Building was designated a City of Seattle landmark.

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