58 Bagley Avenue revisited

Earlier at Mac’s Motor City Garage, we took a look at the second car built in the city of Detroit, Henry Ford’s quadricycle. Now we pay a visit to the often-cited address where the car was built, 58 Bagley Avenue. 


If you’re a fan of automotive history, you’ve probably seen the above photo countless times. It’s the famous coal shed behind Henry and Clara Ford’s house at 58 Bagley Avenue where Henry built his first automobile.

Here’s a less frequently seen photo—the double house at 56 and 58 Bagley where Henry and  Clara were tenants. The coal shed was directly behind it. Henry worked a short distance away as a powerhouse superintendent at the Edison Illuminating Company. Clara was a homemaker caring for son Edsel, not quite three years old when the quadricycle was built. The Fords soon moved from the Bagley address and Henry set up an experimental shop next door to the Edison plant.


Of course, the double house and the coal shed are gone now, as is the address in old downtown Detroit. The city later changed the street numbering system and today the location is the 200 block of Bagley—and the site of another well-known building, the Michigan Theater, also known as the Michigan Building, constructed in 1926. The theater portion of the 13-story building is now a parking garage.

Here’s the Michigan Building in Autumn of 2012. Next to the front door in this photo can be seen a historical marker, shown in closeup below.

Possibly out of respect for his exaggerated historical claims, the marker states that Ford’s automotive experiments at the Bagley address began in 1892. However, it is well established today that the quadricycle did not run  until 1896.

If you’d like to visit the spot yourself, it’s a few blocks off Woodward Avenue near Grand Circus Park, between Clifford and Grand River Avenue on Bagley. Comerica Park, the home of the Detroit Tigers, and Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play, are a half-mile northeast. The principal owner of the Lions is William Clay Ford, grandson of Henry Ford I.

Above: At Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Henry Ford’s historical theme park, there’s a recreation of the Bagley Avenue coal shed, which houses a quadricycle replica and other artifacts. The Greenfield Village shed was built from bricks taken from the house on Bagley, reportedly. Below: Ford himself drops in for a visit.


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2 thoughts on “58 Bagley Avenue revisited

  1. Thanks for this great story. The next time I am around downtown I’m going to go check it out. MCG, I attended a historical talk you gave at our plant. It was fascinating to learn the automotive history around all us. I hope they have you back soon.

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