More than 130 years after it was originally used to construct horse-drawn carriages, General Motors Co. today opened the restored Durant-Dort Factory One in Flint, considered to be the company’s birthplace.
Once home to the Flint Road Cart Co., established in 1886 by William Crapo Durant and business partner Josiah Dallas Dort, the red brick structure includes event space and a modern archive where future generations can learn about the history of personal transportation.
“Factory One sparked the global auto industry and was a catalyst in the formation of General Motors,” says Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president of global product development and purchasing and supply chain, who championed the project. “It preserves the stories of the early visionaries who built a brand-new industry in this city, within the very walls of where it happened.”
The restoration preserved a significant aspect of the history between GM and Flint, while creating a community space to help further economic development in the city.
Factory One’s archive can be used at no cost and contains more than 100,000 historical documents, photos, and other artifacts related to carriage-building and early automobile manufacturing in the Flint area, as well as GM history. The facility also can be rented out for events.
The new research library relocates extensive archives from nearby Kettering University (formerly General Motors Institute). Gregory M. Miller, Kettering’s director of special collections and archives, will oversee them from his new office at Factory One. The move makes the collection more accessible to the public, and it complements other historical assets at Kettering, the University of Michigan-Flint, and Sloan Museum in the nearby College and Cultural Area.
Located on the Flint River near downtown Flint, parts of the factory dated to 1880, when it was built by Flint Woolen Mills as a venture in the textiles business. In 1886, Durant and Dort leased the then-empty building to build horse-drawn carriages, eventually merging with Buick Motor Co. to create GM in 1908 and forming Chevrolet in 1911.
GM purchased the building in 2013 and stabilized it with the goal of purchasing and preserving the original architecture.