“Old Ford Building” Timeline – Manchester, Michigan
• Soule Sawmill is built in the extreme east end of Manchester (the area was called Soulesville, in honor of early settler James Soule) at the site of the Premium grist mill.
• Premium’s miller, J.H. Kingsley, is awarded a ten-year franchise to supply electric power to the Village of Manchester.
• Mill turned over to the Village for electric power generation.
• The dam washes out.
• A new concrete dam is built.
• Due to power shortages, the Village imposes a .50 cent fine on all residents who do not turn off their porch lights by 1:00 AM.
• Consumer’s Power is awarded a franchise to provide electric service to the Village of Manchester.
• The Premium grist mill is demolished.
• Henry Ford inquires to purchase a water power site in Manchester. Ford preferred to restore old mill sites for his small plants. He wanted to preserve their historic appearance. Ford’s smaller water power projects, like the one planned for Manchester, were part of his Village Industries concept, by which farmers could work in a small local factory most of the year and also care for their farms. These village plants were noted for their high standards of craftsmanship and for their friendly hometown atmosphere.
• The price of Manchester Mills, in the center of town, is considered too high
• Henry Ford purchases 88 acres at the site of the old Premium Grist Mill for $38,979.
• Ford obtains water rights to and eliminates the middle dam, one of the three dams that exist in Manchester at the time.
• Ford spends $203,000 for land improvements (mainly the dam), $192,000 to build the plant, $152,000 on machinery, $104,000 on tools and $88,000 on power equipment. All totaled-$831,000 is spent on the plant. Manchester is the fifth and last plant constructed on the River Raisin and Ford’s sixteenth village industry.
• The Manchester Village Ford facility opens. The opening is delayed due to trouble obtaining equipment for the new plant. The water wheel turns two electric generators. Both, made in 1939, are 14 head Leffel Turbines, one is 50 horsepower and the other 125. Back-up power is provided by a steam engine.
• Production starts. 150 employees work at assembling oil, fuel temperature and ammeter gauges into dashboard clusters for Ford Motor Company cars, trucks and tractors. Initially the gauges were only tested in Manchester, but in November, the ammeter operation at Highland
• Park was transferred to Manchester. A soybean based plastic was used.
• Regular production stopped due to World War II. Operations were switched to produce rate-of-climb instruments for the B-24 airplane.
• Henry Ford retires. His successors steadily phase out his rural plants. Only five continue into the mid 1950’s.
• WWII ends, ammeter gauge production returns to Manchester.
• Ford Motor Company production is moved to its plant in Rawsonville, Michigan and the Manchester plant is closed.
• The building is sold to Ray F. Thornton, an inventor and admirer of Henry Ford. Thornton invented and developed the Spicer Thornton Powr-Lok Differential used by Packard in 1956 and later produced by Dana Corporation. In Manchester, he and his company, Manchester Products, studies safety devices for cars and other processes.
• Thornton’s death forces the plant to be abandoned until it is leased to the Economy Baler Division of American Hoist Company who manufactures compressors for paper balers in the building.
• Due to a depressed market American Hoist foregoes its lease.
• Brooklyn Products makes wax applicators out of polyurethane foam.
• Brooklyn Products abandons the plant.
• Hoover Universal acquires the property. Hoover, a plastics and bearings manufacturer based in Ann Arbor, converts the plant to an office and training facility. The $1,000.000, award winning refurbishment retains much of Ford’s design and equipment. The generators are overhauled and provide electricity for the plant. The iconic window walls are retained and the glass is replaced with thermo-paned reflective glass. A mezzanine was constructed in the assembly area retaining the overhead assembly line from the Ford era. Water from two wells in back of the plant is sold to the Village. Through the years, Hoover Universal is acquired by Johnson Controls and then Uniloy-Milacron. The plant is the world headquarters for Uniloy-Milacron’s Plant Machinery Group.
• Uniloy-Milacron completes a new Research and Development facility and sells the 18,000 sq. ft. original building, the attached 7,320 sq. ft. metal building and 3.9 acres to the Village of Manchester for $1.2 million. The Village taxpayers vote to pass a bonding proposal for the purchase. Uniloy also donates to the Village: two warehouse type buildings; the 1.9 acres they sit on; 9 acres across the River Raisin; the millpond; the dam and 13 rooms of office furniture.
• The Village renovates the building to accommodate administrative offices and library facilities. Renovations retain the generator room and equipment, the reflective windows, and the overhead assembly line. Village administrative offices are relocated from the previous Village Hall on Clinton Street to the “Old Ford Building”.
• The newly formed Manchester District Library leases and moves it’s collection from the previous library on Main Street to the “Old Ford Building.”
• An elevator is added to the building to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
• The Municipal Building now houses the Village of Manchester administrative offices, the Manchester District Library, the local substation of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department, Washtenaw County Community Support Treatment Services, the Western Washtenaw Construction Authority and the Manchester Senior Center.