Ford Long Beach Assembly Plant Office Building
The Office building, which lies at the extreme northwest comer of the plant, is a brick structure of about 14,530 square feet. A partial second floor of 5,230 square feet completes the building. The offices have been substantially remodeled since the building opened, both by Ford and subsequent occupants of the building. Much of the subsequent alterations appear temporary and cover many existing elements of the original design.
As originally conceived by Albert Kahn, the Office Building served not only as the management and administrative heart of the plant operation, but also as the formal public face of Ford Motor Company in Long Beach. The main part of the office structure is a two-story brick pavilion twice as long as it is deep. This strong asymmetric massing effectively shields the enormous bulk of the buildings beyond. Set back more than three feet from the front elevation is an additional office wing which in its design sets up the rhythmic pattern to be repeated in the Assembly Building, which connects to the south. On the north side, the building again steps back more than five and one half feet, to the original service garage. It is interesting to note that this most public comer contained the automobile showroom. Much of the architectural detail of this corner has been lost through later remodeling efforts and the addition of a one-story Dynamometer Building to the immediate north of the original Office Building.
The original, two-story Office Building was divided into five bays on the west, with the main entrance in the fourth bay. On the north the building is constructed in two bays. These bays are separated by three and one half foot brick piers. The corners of the building are defined by five foot eight inch wide articulated pylons. The windows, which are slightly recessed behind the pylons and piers, were originally divided into three sections by metal mullions. The central light was twice as wide as its two facing sides. The sill was a simple slab of limestone. Above the windows and their articulated wooden header were four equally sized hinged wood transoms with wood mullions. On the second floor, the windows continue the rhythm set up by the transoms. Here they are equally divided into four wood-sash, double-hung windows. Again the sills are limestone. To the south of this two-story pavilion are an additional four bays of offices. The first bay, set back almost three and one half feet, contains four wood windows, and the remaining three bays have five. These windows are detailed the same as the second floor. Today, the large metal frame windows are gone and have been replaced with four equally sized wood sash windows, matching the windows above. The windows on the upper floor have been screened with aqua-colored expanded metal. The spandrel panel, which separates the two rows of windows and framed by the piers, contains a complicated pattern of red and green tiles. These tiles, set at 45 degrees, and composed of both rectangular and square tiles, is a major decorative element on this facade. The piers have a simple articulated limestone capital, which in turn supports a plain limestone frieze that completely surrounds the building. Each pier has a low granite base, and there is a granite base beneath the windows. The decorative panels which separate the first and second floors are formed by a soldier course of buff-colored brick above the windows. The panels are framed In soldier coursing, with square tiles In each corner. The second floor windows have a limestone sill, supported by bricks set to resemble a Greek dental key. The roof is red Spanish tile. The silhouette of the original sign, "Ford Motor Company," can be seen on the limestone frieze, on the west side of the building. The front door, which appears to be original, Is protected by a shallow steel awning with a decorative filigree along the edge. The awning is painted. The front door is on the west side of the Office Building. For the most part the office interiors are straight forward and utilitarian. On the ground floor is a double-loaded corridor with managerial offices against the exterior wall. Support staff shared larger offices on the interior wall, with wire glass windows looking into the Assembly Building. The hall partitions have a wood base and wood wainscoting, up to a height of almost four feet. Above that are glass partitions to a uniform header of nine feet. Above the header are glass transoms. The doors to the offices have a glass panel above and wood below, in line with the wainscot. The office interior walls continue the wood wainscot with plaster above. The partitions between the offices are of the same wood dado and glass assembly as the corridor walls.
It is in the public spaces that the architect engaged in a bit of fantasy. In the Office Building lobby and especially in the large showroom, the design inspiration appears to be Italian Renaissance. The ceilings of the showroom and of the lobby are highly articulated. The piers support three-foot steel beams, which have been clad in plaster. Between the beams are one-foot wide by six-inch deep plaster beams, three feet on center. These joists are not structural. The walls are coated in 3/4 inch plaster, and there is a tile base. The original architectural drawings indicate a highly ornate wood and leaded glass door with wood and glass side lights at the entrance to the sales office at the south end of the showroom. The doors and side lights had carved panels below with thirty small glass panes in the door and twenty on each side. An intricately carved wood header with four urn-shaped finials was set against a plaster half-round above. Similarly detailed doors, but without the crown molding and plaster detail, provide an entrance to the lobby.
The lobby is a rectangularly shaped room formed by the two southernmost bays of the two-story pavilion. The entrance is in the center of the left bay. A pink marble stair rises centered on the middle pier. The stair is designed in three bays. The central bay rises from the ground floor to a landing against the back wall. From here, the stairs divide, going up each of the outside bays.
To the south of the stair on both floors are toilet rooms. On the first floor, there is a small women's toilet room, and a larger men's toilet room. On the second floor there is a men's toilet room. In all of these rooms, the toilet partitions, urinal screens, and splashes are detailed in the same pink marble as the lobby stair.
The second floor of the Office Building was originally one big open room. Although there is a series of temporary partitions in the space today, the open feel is still evident. In addition to the men's room on that floor, there is an eleven by nineteen foot vault and a stationery supply room of the same size. The open office had a linoleum floor, the stationery room and vault had cement floors, and the men's toilet room was terrazzo.
The ratio of women's toilet facilities to men's indicates the shift in the ratio between men and women In the workplace. In the original Office Building, there were two toilets and two sinks for women, and there were five toilets, five sinks, and four urinals for men. Interestingly, the women's facilities were located on the first floor, with no women's facilities on the second.
The Office Building, as well as the entire plant exhibits a fire-sprinkler system. The public rooms (i.e., the automobile showroom and the lobby) appear to be heated through floor-mounted bronze registers, symmetrically located at the center line of each window.
Today, most of -the decorative detail of the Office Building's interior is lost. Reorganization by Ford and subsequent users have altered much of the interior of the building. Although the structural integrity of the building remains intact, much of the decor is gone, and there was little evidence of original hardware or fixtures. Small amounts of panelling remain, but much of the glass has been replaced. On the exterior of the building, the brick and decorative tile are in good condition, conveying a clear picture of the original structure. Most of the ground floor windows appear to have been altered and replaced, and the second floor windows are veiled behind expanded metal panels. Individual air conditioning units have been placed in many of the transoms. Although the front door is original, its side lights have been changed to aluminum frame windows.
ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES WITH SHOWROOM AT GROUND LEVEL. VIEW TO SOUTH-SOUTHEAST.
SOUTH END OF TWO STORY OFFICE STRUCTURE. VIEW TO EAST.
STAIRCASE, LOBBY OF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES. VIEW TO SOUTHEAST.
HEAD OF STAIRCASE, SECOND FLOOR, ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES. VIEW TO SOUTH-SOUTHEAST.
CASHIER & BILLING OFFICE, LOWER FLOOR, ADMINISTRATIVE AREA. VIEW TO WEST.
CONFERENCE ROOM, SOUTHWEST CORNER OF SECOND FLOOR OFFICE AREA. VIEW TO SOUTHWEST
OFFICE AT NORTH END OF SECOND FLOOR, ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES SECTION. VIEW TO SOUTHEAST.