Tour and Lecture Explore Impact of Ford Innovations

Nov. 9 lecture, Nov. 11 tour examine Ford’s legacy in Indianapolis

In November, Indiana Automotive—an affinity group of Indiana Landmarks—will stage two related events that highlight the legacy of the Ford Motor Company in Indianapolis.

On Nov. 9, author Russ Banham will give a talk at Indiana Landmarks Center on the Ford’s historic innovations, including the assembly plants the company built around the country.

Indiana played an important role in the early automotive industry, mainly in the manufacture of hand-built, high-end cars like Stutz, Cord and Duesenberg. The Depression sank most of these manufacturers by the 1930s. In Detroit, Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company famously banked on the assembly line and automated processes that lowered the cost and time to produce automobiles, making them affordable for the average American and changing the way we live today.

Russ Banham, author of “The Ford Century,” will discuss the company’s historic innovations, including its regional assembly plants like the one that opened in 1915 on Washington Street in Indianapolis, and the auto maker’s massive cultural impact. The late Paul Newman wrote the foreword to Banham’s lavishly illustrated book, a high-wattage endorsement from a film celebrity and celebrated car guy.

After an early career as an actor, Banham concentrated on journalism, writing for The Wall Street Journal,  Forbes,Inc., The Economist, Euromoney, Financial Times, Chief Executive and other business publications. Among Banham’s 23 books, in addition to “The Ford Century,” is “Higher: 100 Years of Boeing,” a history of the aerospace giant.

Banham’s talk, with support from Capitol City Ford, takes place on Thursday, November 9, at Indiana Landmarks Center, 1201 Central Avenue in Indianapolis. The doors open at 5:30 p.m. for light refreshments with a cash bar. At 6 p.m., Indiana Automotive holds a brief annual meeting to elect the affinity group’s directors. Banham’s illustrated talk begins at 6:15 p.m. and concludes at 7 p.m., followed by a 15-minute Q&A session.

The lecture is $10 per person, available online at or by calling 317-639-4534. Tickets will also be sold at the door.

On Nov. 11, the Ford “Before” Tour will give people a chance to see the vacant 1914 assembly plant on East Washington Street before TWG Development restores and repurposes it as apartments, office and retail space.

In 2016, Indiana Landmarks listed the Ford Assembly Plant on its annual 10 Most Endangered list. Indianapolis Public Schools owned the plant, using a fraction of the space for storage. Huge industrial windows that once flooded the interior with natural light have been boarded or removed. Roof leaks leave standing water on upper floors.

The four-story plant at Washington and Oriental produced 600,000 cars and trucks between 1915 and 1932. It opened with civic fanfare in 1915 as 350 Fords transported the business and political elite from a Chamber of Commerce luncheon to tour the plant. While Indianapolis Mayor Joseph Bell was addressing the crowd outside the plant, workers inside reportedly built a Ford that ferried him back to city hall. After 1932, Ford used the plant for parts service and auto sales into the 1940s.

The 10 Most Endangered listing caught the attention of TWG Development which bought the factory and is allowing Indiana Landmarks to stage the tour before work begins to restore the site. Indiana Automotive expects many Model T, Model A, and other vintage Ford owners to bring cars to the tour.

The Ford Plant “Before” Tour on Saturday, November 11, takes place from 10 to noon at 1301 East Washington Street in Indianapolis. The tour will be self-guided, with volunteers stationed to interpret the spaces and answer questions, including representatives of TWG who will talk about the renovation.

Tickets are $10 per person, available only in advance online at or by calling Indiana Landmarks, 317-639-4534.

With a reservation in advance, both the lecture and the tour are free for members of Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Automotive. There will be no at-the-door ticket sales for the tour.

Indiana Landmarks cautions that the historic Ford factory is a musty, dusty place without working plumbing or elevators.


Media contacts:

Tina Connor, Indiana Landmarks Executive Vice President, 317-639-4534, cell 317-946-3127,;

Jen Thomas,, 317-441-2487


Indiana Landmarks, a private nonprofit organization, has worked for more than half a century saving historic places and using preservation as a catalyst to revitalize communities. What started as a small, all-volunteer group has grown to the largest statewide preservation group in the U.S., with 6,200 members and a staff of 35 in nine offices around Indiana. For more information on Indiana Landmarks, call 317-639-4534, 800-450-4534, or visit

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