GM Debuts Its Refurbished Birthplace
General Motors Co. has opened the plant where the company was created 109 years ago: the Durant-Dort Factory One in Flint, Mich.
The building, built as a woolen mill in 1880, was leased six years later by Josiah Dort and William “Billy” Durant to house the Flint Road Cart Co., a maker of horse-drawn wagons that was renamed Durant-Dort in 1895. But Durant was intrigued by the potential of automobiles.
Durant invested in Buick Motor Co. in 1904 and took control of the company in 1908. He also created the General Motors Holding Co. that year. By the end of 1909 Durant had acquired Oldsmobile, Cadillac and Oakland (later renamed Pontiac—and failed in a bid to buy Ford Motor Co. for $8 million.
Durant-Dort stopped making carriages in 1917. Factory One never made automobiles for GM, but it was briefly used to produce cars for the short-lived Dort Motor Co., which went out of business in 1924.
The Durant-Dort building was declared a national history landmark in 1978. GM acquired the building in 2013 and has been restoring it since then. Updates include repairs to the roof, installing historically accurate windows and doors, replacing 17,000 bricks color-matched to the original and 20% of the mortar on the building. The foundation, damaged by flooding and grade changes, was repaired and waterproofed.
The remodeled Factory One will be open to the public by appointment and will be used to showcase historic GM vehicles and host new-car introductions. GM also plans to use the 30,000-sq-ft site, which can accommodate as many as 300 people, for special events.
In addition, Kettering University (formerly General Motors Institute) relocated the Richard P. Scharchburg Archives to the building from its nearby campus. The more than 100,000 historical documents, photos and artifacts about carriage-building, early automobile manufacturing and GM’s history can be viewed for free.
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By James Gaffney, Product Engineer, Precision Grinding and Patrick D. Redington, Manager, Precision Grinding Business Unit, Norton Company (Worcester, MA)