Home > Businesses > Manufacturing Plants > Ford Motor Company

Old Chester, PA: Ford Motor Company
Front & Lloyd Streets • Chester, PA
August 1927 - February 1961

Ford Administration building; Daily Times photo courtesy of Harry Clark, Chester, PA

Chester Times photo above courtesy of Harry Clark, Chester, PA

More recent pictures of the Chester Ford Plant courtesy of Harry Clark, Chester, PA

ford_aerial.gif (151888 bytes)

"Aerial view of the Chester plant area, showing the main assembly plant on the Delaware River and its overseas shipping facilities.  Huge parking lots are provided."

Scans compliments of Michael Murphy, irish.genealogy@att.net

Plant History | Historical Highlights | Chester Plant Facts | Pictures
Ford Assembly Plant Building Layout
Former Employees


The Ford Assembly plant was built in 1925 on the 50-acre site of the former Roach's Shipyard and Merchant Shipbuilding Corp. on Front Street from Fulton to Pennell streets.  In 1925 the Chester Times reported that a ferry boat line (the Chester-Bridgeport Ferry) would be established because due to a shortage of housing in Chester, many Ford workers would have to live in New Jersey.

The plant employed 1,750 hourly workers in 1949.  In February of that year demand for their cars was so great that the assembly line workers went to a nine-hour work day.

Among its most notable employees was Lee Iacocca who later became CEO of Chrysler Corporation.

Harry Clark adds,

"The Ford plant closed in Feb 1961. I have the clipping from Chester Times. It did not close in 1958, it is possible that the export division closed in 1958, but the assembly plant closed in 1961. My dad helped close it."

The following information, compliments of Paul Crowther who once worked at the Ford plant:

The Ford plant in Chester was an assembly plant only. All components were shipped in [most all by rail] for assembly.  Another part of the plant was involved in export.  Many components were shipped to Chester [by rail] and crated in large wooden crates. These crates were big enough to hold  6 complete engine assemblies and many other parts. They were then shipped by boat to other assembly plants overseas.   The plant was closed in 1958 and operations were transferred to Mawah, New Jersey. At one time it was producing 60 cars an hour.

 John,
         I know all this from the fact I worked there in 1957 &58. I was there when it closed. I also nailed shut those crates in addition to working at many other jobs in the plant.

 

History The following history along with the plant brochure and floor plans was provided by Pamela Przywara, the Project Archivist with Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. Thanks to Michael Murphy, irish.genealogy@att.net, for sharing it with us.

History of Chester Branch
Reported March 20, 1941

In 1906 the Ford Motor Company operated a Sales Branch at the southeastern corner of Broad and Buttonwood Streets in Philadelphia.  In 1907 the branch was removed to a new location at 250 North Broad Street, and remained in this location five years.  In 1913 it was removed to a new location at 16th and Washington Avenue (southwestern corner.)

On July 4, 1914, the branch was removed to Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue.  The first assembly branch opened in this area, and started assembly operations in November, 1914.  During the first month 385 units were assembled.  This building, located at northwest corner of Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue, is situated in a semi-industrial neighborhood of some 500,000 inhabitants within a range of 40 city blocks.

The building and ground takes the form of a trapezoid with a basis of 20 feet on Lehigh Avenue and 261 feet on adjoining property; at north the depth of 370 feet on Broad Street running at right angles to Lehigh Avenue.  The rear of the property runs south at an approximate angle of 45 degrees for 450 feet, 5 1/2 inches along the Reading Railroad.

The plant has one spur siding, single track, with a capacity of four cars inside and three cars outside of the building, branching off on a short lead from the Reading Railroad line.  The Reading Railroad abuts the property on the west, with the North Broad Street Station located directly across the street.   Within two blocks is located the North Philadelphia Station of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Port Richmond, 35 blocks from the plant, affords excellent water shipping facilities.  The building is a ten-floor reinforced concrete and faced brick structure with net floor space of 366,513 square feet.  It has six elevators: on of 6000 pounds' capacity, two of 5000 pounds', two of 1 1/2 ton and one passenger elevator.  Assembly operations were discontinued at this branch in June, 1927.   During its period of operation between November, 1914, and June, 1927, 625,949 units were assembled.  The best year was 1924, during which 98,465 units were assembled.

Moved to the new Chester, PA, Branch Buildings during August, 1927, and with the exception of a short period during the early 1930's when truck and commercial units were assembled there, the buildings have been used principally for storage purposes.  Truck, commercial and passenger cars...


Historcial Highlights The following history along with the plant brochure and floor plans was provided by Pamela Przywara, the Project Archivist with Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. Thanks to Michael Murphy, irish.genealogy@att.net, for sharing it with us.

Physical Description
Acres in Plant Site: 60
Dimension Domestic Assembly Building: 850' x 450'
Dimension Export Building: 638' x 238'
Total Floor Area Assembly Buildings: 476,968.20 Square Feet
Total Floor Area All Buildings: 723,432.72 Square Feet

History - Reported May 14, 1952

1906 - The Ford Motor Company established a sales location on the corner of Broad and Buttonwood Streets in Philadelphia, PA

1907 - The plant moved to 250 North Broad Street and remained there for the next five years.

1913 - The plant was again relocated at the corner of 16th and Washington Avenue.

1914 - July 4 - The plant moved to a new location at Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue.

1914 - November - Assembly operations were started.

1927 - June - Assembly operations were discontinued

1927 - August - The plant moved to Chester, PA.   Note: With the exception of a short period during the early 1930's when trucks and commercial units were assembled there, the buildings at Broad and Lehigh were used principally for storage purposes.

1928 - March - Assembly operations started at the Chester Plant.

1941 - June - The old Philadelphia Plant was sold to the Mack Warehouse Corporation.

1942 - February 11 - A contract for a period of 18 months was signed with the Ordnance Department of the United States Government, to modify and prepare for export 10,000 tanks or other military vehicles, using the Export Building with an area of approximately 150,000 square feet.

1942 - The Service Stock Department, which occupied a portion of the Export Building, was moved to an area in the Domestic Assembly Building.

1942 - October 2 - The Navy "E" Aware for merit was presented to Mr. Edsel B. Ford.

1942 - November 10 - A supplemental contract for an additional 10,000 military units was signed.  The original contract was completed in nine months.

1943 - January - The Export Department, which handled parts on Treasury Contracts, together with "Jeep" production, was transferred to the Edgewater plant.  This made available 400,000 square feet of space for the handling of the Ordnance Contract.

1946 - The Service Stock Department moved from the DOmestic Assembly Building into a new one-story building erected east of the Export Building.

1948 - The Chassis Extension Building, a one-story addition, was erected for major and minor repair prior to delivery.

1952 - April - The boat pier was reinforced with steel piling to overcome an existing pier movement defect.

General Information

The Chester Assembly Plant is located on the Delaware River.  Two sea-going ships can be berthed at the pier.  The boat pier is equipped with two steel loading masts used for transferring cargo from conveyor and railroad gondolas on pier to ship-holds.

The plant has approximately 3 miles of standard gage railroad track with facilities for handling 36 cars inside of the buildings, with 169 on the outside, and has trackage tieing in to both the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroads.

This plant was laid out to handle the export shipment of K.D. stock to assembly plants all over the world, as well as building cars for distribution in one-half of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, all of Delaware, the eastern shore of Maryland, Washington, D.C., and the northern section of Virginia.


Ford Chester Plant Facts The following history along with the plant brochure and floor plans was provided by Pamela Przywara, the Project Archivist with Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. Thanks to Michael Murphy, irish.genealogy@att.net, for sharing it with us.

The Chester assembly plant of the Ford Division, Ford Motor Company, is one of 15 operated by the division throughout the United States.  It is an integral part of the area's business, industrial and civic structure and an important Ford production unit.  A sales branch was opened in Philadelphia in 1906 and assembly of cars began in November, 1914.  The Chester plant has been in operation since March, 1928, and export operations began eight months later.  Average daily production is about 280 cars and trucks.  The plant assembles vehicles for 215 dealers in the Chester sales district.  It also supplies some cars for about 200 dealers in other districts.  The plant is located on the Delaware River and is easily reached.  Daily guided tours of the plant are offered for visitors.  Main source of finished automobile parts for the Chester plant is the giant River Rouge manufacturing center in Darborn, Michigan.  In keeping with the Ford Motor Company's system of decentralized purchasing, however, the Chester plant buys supplies from its own locality to help feed its assembly lines and conveyor network.  But major chassis and body parts for Ford Cars and Trucks come from the Rouge plant, the world's largest single privately-owned industrial unit.  The Rouge spreads over 1,196 acres of the Detroit suburb and is composed of many factory units.  These include blast furnaces, coke ovens, docks, assembly lines, machine and repair shops, a foundry, paper mill, glass plant and other units employing 70,000 men and women.


Pictures of the
Chester Ford Assembly Plant
and the Workers
Ford Assembly Operations Brochure

People from the Chester Ford Assembly Plant

More recent pictures of the Chester Ford Plant courtesy of Harry Clark, Chester, PA


 

Former Employees: Click here for known former employees of Chester's Ford Assembly Plant.

Managers:

R. S. Abbott (? - 1928)

William W. Mitchell (1928 - ?)

Campbell, John "Scotty"

"There's a "John Campbell" listed among the various names associated with the former Ford Motor Co. Assembly plant that was in Chester from 1927 thru the early 60's...that was probably my father "Scotty" Campbell who was the carwasher for the sales and management cars at the plant from 1927 until he retired in 1955...when I was a kid, I heard about this hot 'road man' (as the sales guys were termed) named Iacocca, I heard a lot about Mr. Mitchell, the plant manager for many years and a later plant manager whose name I can't recall this moment, but who later became Director of Marketing for Ford and brought along all the guys like Iacocca who became the "Chester Gang" that ran Ford for some time. One of my father's close friends was Dave Davis who was the driver for the plant manager for all those same years - we lived up on West 8th street and the men often walked down Lloyd St. to work. I lived in Chester until I joined the Navy in 1950 during the Korean conflict - later moved to NYC after the Navy, went to Columbia, but that's another story."

Thanks to Roy Campbell, Gold Canyon, AZ

Davis, Dave

"One of my father's close friends was Dave Davis who was the driver for the plant manager for all those same years - ..."

Thanks to Roy Campbell, Gold Canyon, AZ

 

McNamee, Alfred

 

 

 

 

If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about Ford in Chester, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com


2000, 2003, 2006 John A. Bullock III.

GDPub2.JPG (7902 bytes)

This page last updated 02/11/06