HomeAbandonedLargest Abandoned Factory in the World: The Packard Factory, Detroit
Largest Abandoned Factory in the World: The Packard Factory, Detroit
Aug 15, 2011
Packard was a premier nameplate in the United States, mentioned in the same breath as Duesenberg, Cadillac, Pierce-Arrow, and Lincoln. The crown jewel for Packard was the Packard Factory, a 3.5 million square-foot complex sprawling across 35 acres.
In the years following World War II, the Packard Motor Car Company struggled to keep pace with the larger automakers that had purchased smaller companies to form “the Big Three.”
Those not part of the Big Three had to merge to stay competitive: Kaiser and Willys formed Kaiser-Willys, Nash and Hudson formed American Motors, and Packard joined forces with Studebaker. The experiment was short-lived, however, and Packard ceased to exist by the middle of the twentieth century.
During the 1950’s Packard endured an economic roller coaster, from being a premier auto manufacturer outselling Cadillac, to closing its doors within a decade.
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Entrance to the Packard factory: then and today
By 1957 Packards were no longer assembled at the Detroit plant. For the next two years a handful of Studebaker models continued to wear the Packard badge, but by the turn of the decade Studebaker began to pull the Packard nameplate from its models. In the early 1960s, Studebaker dropped the Packard name altogether.
Studebaker would also meet its demise several years later, believed to have survived longer due to the lower-price/higher-volume sales model.
Upon liquidation, the remaining pre-war Packard designs and tooling were sold to parties around the world. For decades Packard clones would continue to be built in Russia under the ZIL and ZIM nameplates, catering to the Communist elite. Post-war Packard designs in the Soviet Union lasted well into the 1970s.
The Packard name would survive. General Motors’ electrics division – later known as Delphi – was originally Packard Electric when the auto manufacturer purchased it in 1932.
Designed by Albert Kahn and opened in 1903, the factory was world-class in its day. The Packard factory occupied 3.5 million square feet of interior space across 47 buildings. It employed over 40,000 skilled workers on a campus that spanned 35 acres.
The facility was the most modern plant of its time, and the first to use reinforced concrete in industrial construction.
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early assembly at Packard Factory
row of finished cars
auto assembly circa 1920s-1930s
auto assembly circa 1930s-1940s
hand assembly on the floor
Packard factory assembly
assembly nearly complete
Packards in showroom circa 1950s
The plant was closed in 1956, leaving the factory vacant. The city lacked options; finding another tenant for the 3.5 million square-feet of space would be a difficult task.