The Ford Motor Company opened its four-story, Indianapolis Branch Assembly Plant (known as Plant 215) at 1315 East Washington Street in the fall of 1914. Production of Ford cars and trucks continued unabated for nearly two decades, except for a period during World War I and model changeovers.
In May 1924, the new Car Delivery Unit was erected at the rear of the site fronting on South Eastern Avenue. The plant layout was expanded twice in the mid-1920’s to allow more space for assembly operations. These expansions increased the plant’s capacity to 300 assembled cars per day. With this capacity, the Indianapolis assembly branch had the highest output of any Indiana auto manufacturing site in its era.
Ford body assembly and finishing operations commenced at this plant in 1929. The Great Depression, however, also took its toll on Ford. As a result, Ford discontinued production operations in December 1932. Limited operations resumed at the site as a Ford parts service and automotive sales branch in July 1934. The plant operated on this basis into the 1940’s.
Over the course of its operations, Ford Motor Company produced over 581,000 automobiles at this site. The Ford Indianapolis Branch Assembly Plant operated during Indianapolis’ heyday of automotive manufacturing in the first part of the Twentieth Century. This plant’s production led all of the city’s other 97 auto producers from 1915 to 1932.
The Ford Indianapolis Branch Assembly is meaningful to Indianapolis automotive history for its location along the National Road – Washington Street as the gateway to the city.
In article in the Indianapolis Star June 19, 1922, ranked the city of Indianapolis as third nationally in manufacturing automobiles. Indianapolis had an output of $75,000,000 a year, employed 11,000 men and women, and had an annual payroll for city auto producers was $2,000,000. The approximate annual payroll of the Ford plant was a little over $1,100,000.
Like the Ford Motor Company Cleveland Ohio Branch Assembly Plant that is now the location of the Cleveland Institute of Art, the Ford Indianapolis Branch Assembly could serve as the cornerstone for redevelopment for SEND area. This site is underutilized and with renovation could highlight Indianapolis’ growth in the twenty-first century. Possibly a portion of the building could be set aside to celebrate Indianapolis’ automotive history.
I celebrate the story of the Ford Indianapolis Branch Assembly with a facebook page.
I invite you to help revitalize this Indianapolis landmark as a cornerstone of neighborhood development and celebration of our history.
For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.