Henry Ford is often viewed as a visionary. After all, the automobile manufacturer installed the first moving assembly line, instituted manufacturing principles such as interchangeable parts that were adopted by innumerable other industries, and created model company towns to go along with his famous Model T [source: PBS]. But not all of his moves were wise ones.
In the early 20th century, English and Dutch rubber barons controlled the industry. This didn't suit Ford who needed lots of rubber for his car tires. So in 1927 he decided to create his own source by establishing a plantation and company town in the Amazon, where rubber trees thrived. Soon workers were dispatched down to the new town, dubbed Fordlândia. Despite Ford's many earlier successes, Fordlândia was a flop, largely due to Ford's ego. The locals didn't care for many of his dictums, which included eating American-style food, working during the heat of the day and prohibiting alcohol. Worse, Ford didn't properly research how to create his rubber plantation, and the trees suffered from leaf blight, pests and fungi. After spending $20 million (the equivalent of $200 million today), the project was abandoned [sources: NPR, Bellows].
When you visit Fordlândia today, you can stroll among its ruined American-style bungalows, rotting buildings and vine-covered fire hydrants. Many structures are still impressive in appearance, including the sprawling Princess Isabel school, established in 1931, and the golden-domed Sacred Heart church. The town is marketed as a stop on certain tours of the Amazon and is a six-hour boat ride from the city of Santarem [sources: Coldwell, Bellows].