Ford Richmond Assembly Plant - Design & Construction of Richmond Plant

The Ford Motor Company's 1930 plans for expanding its system of branch assembly plants around North America and elsewhere in the world would cost an estimated $60,000,000. The plan included the construction of a new facility on the waterfront of San Francisco Bay. A tide water location would allow delivery of parts to the assembly plant and the delivery of finished autos to Pacific Coast ports, Hawaii, and foreign countries by ocean-going ships. As described here, the Ford Motor Company signed an agreement with Fred Parr in 1926 to purchase 72 acres on Richmond's Inner Harbor, giving the company access to shipment both by rail (the Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe) and by water. Ford did not begin construction, however, until 1930. The new plant would be capable of producing up to 400 cars per eight-hour shift, twice what Ford's existing San Francisco plant could assemble in a full day. To maintain that full production at the Richmond plant, though, an additional shift was necessary in the body shop. Employment at full production would be 2,600.

The Ford company awarded the contract to build the new Richmond plant in July 1930. Clinton Construction Company of San Francisco was the successful bidder for the $3,500,000 contract. According to B.R. Brown, who had charge of awarding contracts, the Ford Motor Company usually tried to rely on local contractors. He also recalled that Ford did not always award contracts to the low bidder. Brown was confident enough in his ability to estimate costs that if he received a bid that was too low, he would award the contract to another bidder whose bid was more in line with his estimates. The Ford Motor Company always insisted on including a clause in the construction contract that assured the construction project would be an open shop, i.e., that the contractor would not discriminate between union and non-union workers. City officials, delegates from neighboring cities, and many of Richmond's citizens celebrated the beginning of construction on July 30. Albert Kahn Associates of Detroit designed the shell of the building, but Ford's Power and Construction Department designed the layout of the automobile assembly equipment for the plant.