In early industrial America, fires were frequent and feared. That was particularly true in Detroit, where fire had destroyed the automobile factory of Ransom Olds.
So Henry Ford took particular care in installing the latest fire-protection systems when he built the Piquette Avenue plant, which is patterned after New England textile mills, according to Jerald Mitchell, one of the investors who owns the plant.
Ford built floors of multiple layers of wood with little air space between. He used special timber - one tree per column - that supposedly would not burn the whole way through. He installed fire doors between sections of the building with metal alloy links that melt at low temperatures, drop and automatically close. The Piquette Avenue plant had what is believed to be the first industrial sprinkler system.
It is believed the sprinkler head was invented in Detroit, though it has not been verified.