Secrets Revealed in the Secret Experimental Room

Posted April 1st, 2018

The Secret Room is open once more! Thanks to a grant awarded to the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant by the National Scenic Byway Program, through the Woodward Avenue Action Association, we have been able to accurately recreate the heart of the Piquette Plant—the room where it happened.

Using old photographs of Henry Ford in the Secret Experimental Room, combined with an industrial archaeological investigation conducted by Richard K. Anderson, Jr. in 2005, we were able to determine just what items were in the room as well as the materials they were made of.

In the Seret Experimental Room, Henry Ford and his team began the covert work designing the Model T. Ford and his team would start their work at the end of the business day to avoid prying eyes, and on some nights didn’t leave the secret room until after midnight. His mother’s rocking chair was moved into the room, and Henry Ford would sit and rock for hours and hours, discussing the design of the new automobile and talking about new ideas with his engineers.

Piecing together how the room was made was challenging, but the Exhibits Team discovered several telltale remnants revealing what was in the room. Holes in the floor indicated the spot where a drill press was mounted. While working on the ceiling beams, the team found the last remaining piece of the bead board that Henry Ford installed as the outside covering of the walls around the room. Finding this original piece of bead board helped us to know exactly what the room looked like and how to recreate it. We took this historic sample to a saw mill in Lapeer, Michigan, and they were able to replicate exactly the pattern and style of the bead board. Other wood in the room, made of white oak and white pine, was cut at a Hartland, Michigan sawmill with the same attention to historic detail.

When the Secret Experimental Room was finally re-opened to the public last fall, visitors were delighted to get a glimpse of the secret workings of the geniuses of the Ford Piquette Plant, both the past designers and the present dedicated team that recreated their work and dedication!

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