Bill Ford poses with a Ford Model T when he arrives in April 2017 at his great-grandfather Henry Ford's headquarters in Ballinascarthy, Ireland. Credit: Reuters

Ford Motor Co.'s purchase of a dilapidated former train depot in Detroit at the heart of an urban technology campus carries symbolism that likely went into the automaker's decision to undertake such an ambitious refurbishment project.

The depot abandoned 30 years ago is known in part of Detroit as Corktown, which is linked to the Irish heritage of company founder Henry Ford. Corktown is Detroit's oldest Irish residential neighborhood and thus a natural location for Ford Motor to play a role in revitalizing the city.

Bill Ford poses with a Ford Model T when he arrives at his great-grandfather Henry Ford's in Ballinascarty, Ireland, in April 2017. Photo credit: Reuters

Ford Descent

Most Henry Ford ancestors left Ireland in the early 1800s. Ford's grandfather, John Ford, and his father, William Ford, were among the 1 million US immigrants from Cork, Ireland, in 1847. Henry Ford, born in Dearborn, Michigan, in 1863, grew with a curiosity for machines amidst Detroit's industrial boom.

Henry Ford's legacy influenced even his early decisions in the automotive business. He selected Cork as the location for the first purpose-built Ford factory outside the United States in 1917.

Much of the Cork factory was dedicated to Ford tractor production. The last model ever built, Ford's most important contribution to the auto industry, came in the 1920s from the production line of the Cork factory, along with Model A, Model BF, Model Y, Prefect, Anglia, Escort, Cortina and Sierra. 19659003] Although the company name has since been officially changed by Henry Ford & Son, he still uses this moniker in Ireland – the only place in the world where he does so.

Ford also has the largest dealer network of any automaker in Ireland, the company said in a statement, with 52 dealers across the country. Bill Ford, CEO of Ford Motor and great-grandson of Henry Ford, celebrated the company's 100th anniversary last year in Ireland.

"Ford is deeply rooted in Cork, not only because of the historical connection of my family, but also because of the influence the Ford factory has had for many decades to fuel the prosperity of this area," said Bill Ford a statement during the family's trips to Ireland last April.

Neighborhood

Bill Ford spoke nostalgically Last year, Ford Motor revealed plans to relocate some 200 people to a former hosiery factory in Corktown, which he had bought and renovated.

More than 30 years after Ford closed Cork's factory in 1984, he emphasized his cultural heritage, but this time in Detroit.

"Henry Ford is synonymous with Detroit," former Detroit mayor Roman Gribbs once said.

The train depot Ford, known as Michigan Central Station, opened in 1914, 11 years after Henry Ford founded his car company. Both companies thrived in parallel during the 20th century, although Ford's success was to make cars more accessible to people, contributing to the eventual drop in train travel and station closure.

The station is not the only Corktown estate Ford has expressed interest. It has promised to disclose its plans for the area next week . The family, which owned the depot since 1995, said on Monday that it started talks with Ford in October.

Ford, whose headquarters are in Dearborn seven miles west of the depot, has many connections to Detroit, going well beyond Corktown. Henry Ford's Pikette Avenue Plant, known as Model T's birthplace, is located on the east side of the city. Detroit's Renaissance Center, a series of 1970s office towers along the Detroit River that today houses General Motors' headquarters, was designed by Henry Ford's grandson Henry Ford II and largely funded by Ford Motor.

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