Transcribing of the markers continues. The working title of my book is, “A Walking Guide to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia: Featuring Over 275 Historical Markers.” To get folks interested, I’ve been posting the occasional note about a marker.
I’m currently working on the waterfront and a set of seven markers located by Ford’s Landing, a set of townhomes in the southeast corner of Old Town, a rather tony place that features one of the nicer waterfront walks in town and situated beside the dog park by Union and Gibbon. Perhaps you’ve wondered about the origin of the name.
One of the interpretive markers (some call them way-finding signs) provides the answer. The Alexandria Ford (remember “Fix Or Repair Daily?”) Plant was located there from 1932 to 1942. Here is an excerpt.
One of the last and most architecturally important of the industrial facilities constructed on the waterfront was the Alexandria Branch of the Ford Motor Company. Designed by Albert Kahn (1896-1942) and built on wood pilings over the Potomac River in 1932, it served as a wholesale distribution and service facility for automobiles until 1942, when the U.S. Navy put it into temporary service as a munitions factory.
Kahn is internationally known as a pioneering architect of modern industrial buildings. He designed more than 2,000 factories worldwide. Emphasizing function and efficiency over aesthetics, his structures were designed for adaptability to rapidly evolving manufacturing methods. Kahn’s Ford Plant in Alexandria was composed of two dissimilar buildings visually united with simplified Art Deco detail. The bulk of the facility, along Union Street, was a nearly two-acre, one-story, steel-frame service building. Kahn created large, obstructed spaces using his hallmark sawtooth-shaped butterfly roof trusses which contained skylights to bring sunlight into the interior. The pavilion you are standing under reflects this design. A traditional administration building with a large “Ford” sign on its roof was oriented to the river instead of the City, its primary façade extending 204 feet along the Potomac’s edge.
The visitor was greeted by a lobby and offices paneled in exotic woods and fitted with custom-built furnishings created by Walter Dorwin Teague (1883-1960) one of the most influential industrial designers of the 20th Century. These buildings were long an Alexandria landmark, prominently visible from the Maryland shore and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.