It was one of those days when the first location is a fail, the second boring & the third a no go so my partner in crime & I decided to try something new. We had been talking about the Ford plant for a while but never thought it was possible to get in. Seeing as the day was already a bust we figured why not give it a try. Situated on 635 acres in Southwold Ontario, St. Thomas Assembly Plant was a massive 2,600,000 square feet of factory that was built in 1967 at a cost of $65,000,000. The plant employed 1,590 workers & the first car produced was the Ford Falcon. Through the years a variety of cars were made here under the Ford, Mercury & Lincoln brands which included: Pinto, Maverick, Fairmont, EXP, Crown Victoria, Bobcat, Zephyr, LN7, Grand Marquis, Marauder & Town Car. The plant also produced the last Mercury vehicle which was the Mercury Grand Marquis After circling the property, we agreed upon a place to park which was roughly 1.5 kilometers away. Shortly in our hike through the tall grassy fields the skies opened up & it began to rain, fairly heavily too. After a long, wet hike we finally arrived at the back of the plant. The sheer size of this place is staggering! We knew there was security as we had saw them in the front of the plant in a booth so we quickly started looking for a way in. Freaktography went to the closest door & to both of our surprise it was unlocked!
Shocked, we slowly creep inside & stare in awe at what we had entered. The two of us, soaked to the core were standing inside a massive automotive assembly plant! It took a few moments for us to regain focus & get down to business. The power was still on & the incessant buzz of transformers filled the air. As we moved cautiously in the shadows looking for better cover we came across something right out of a sci-fi movie.
The paint booths!! The long tunnels & tracks the cars moved along were an incredible site. Robots still in place & for whatever reason they decided to leave the lights on which made for some amazing photography. As we worked our way around the plant we could clearly see well worn paths that a golf cart has been taking. With security outside confirmed & now seeing the tire tracks we now knew they patrolled inside, but how often?
That question would soon be answered. After 3 hours inside we felt we needed to find a good place to hide as we were close to the path security seemingly took. We back tracked & headed into the shadows. Just then a golf cart rounds the corner. We drop to the ground but it was too late. “Hey!”, shouts security. Knowing we were caught we stand up. He then shouts “What the f%@K are you doing??” & immediately gets off his cart & lights up a cigarette. Clearly we startled him as he did us. We began to explain that we were there simply to take photographs of this amazing place. He then gets on his radio & calls to the main office & asks his supervisor if we were allowed to be inside. Puzzled, the supervisor asked him to escort us to the office. We ask if we can pack up our gear which he had no issue with. At this moment we quickly swap out our memory cards as there was no way I was losing 3 hours of shooting an amazing location. He tells us to hop on his cart & go for a ride. Both Freaktography & I were relaxed & even took a quick selfie or two while being toured through the plant. As it turned out, the guard was a former employee & told us all about the different parts of the plant as we were driven through. We asked him other questions to gain further intell on security patrols which he had no problem telling us he drove around about every hour. We finally arrive at the front of the building where we were instructed to go to the security booth. Once inside we met the supervisor, also an former employee. He asks us the usual questions: What are you doing here? How did you get in? and why the hell would you want to take pictures of an old factory? We explained ourselves & he advised us that we can be charged with trespassing which we said we were aware. Seeing as we were honest, didn’t run away & had great attitudes they decide to let us go & even drove us back to our car!
Although we were caught, we gained valuable information & left with our pictures. It was a great day! In total I visited the plant 8 times over two years. It was an instant fave & it got to a point where I would be exploring houses that weren’t very interesting & I would say to myself, “Forget it, just go to Ford!”. In 2015 they began demolition on the plant which although posed risks, it allowed me to visit areas that were previously too dark to shoot. After it closed, Ford tried desperately to sell the vacant land to industrial developers however nothing ever came of it so they decided to demolish the plant in hopes this would help with the sale. A solar farm has been proposed for part of the land. I went by the plant on the weekend & would estimate that 98% of it has been demolished with only some of the front facade remaining as well as a small section where the paint booths were. The booths them self are gone with just a bit of the structure around them remains. Hope you enjoy my photos as much as I enjoyed visiting this place.