Packard Motor Car Company
When it opened in 1903, Packard's Detroit plant was the most advanced auto factory in the world. Designed by renowned architect Albert Kahn, the plant was located on a staggering 35 acres of land and boasted over 3.5 million square feet of space. It also was the first industrial site in Detroit to use reinforced concrete in its construction. The Packard Motor Car Company built an excellent reputation not only for innovation (introducing the modern steering wheel and 12 cylinder engine) but for luxury, attracting some of the wealthiest auto buyers across the world. During WWII, the Packard plant produced engines for P-51 Mustang fighter planes, but afterward their legacy as a status symbol was slowly diluted by their introduction of cars aimed more at the middle class. Losing their upper class market and not finding footing as a middle class manufacturer because of heavy competition from the Big Three, their last car model, simply titled the 'Packard', was produced in 1958 though the Detroit plant ceased manufacturing in 1957. Several attempts were made to resurrect the brand, but to no avail. The labyrinthine plant in Detroit still stands vacant, now a status symbol of a different sort.
The Packard Motor Car Company is hard to fathom, even when one is inside of it. Stretching for blocks upon blocks, it feels like entering a maze you may never find your way out of. Even when you make your way to a roof to survey the site, from certain vantage points the factory sprawls out over the horizon as though it has swallowed the entire world. Because it has been abandoned for quite some time and is located in a city that is fairly efficient as stripping its buildings of things of worth, there isn't a lot left to give you an idea of how it was in the past - mementos are few and far between, and vandalism and graffiti have taken quite a toll. We did see several other people exploring the factory and they seemed not to be threatening sorts, but there is always the concern about running into someone who will try to murder you to steal your equipment - I was perhaps never more happy for the companionship of others than I was in Detroit, where the four other explorers I was with helped provide a sense of being buffered from most violence.
What Packard lacks in terms of remaining untouched, it more than makes up for in scope. We walked through corridor after corridor, through huge rooms, crumbling stairways, a paintball splattered administrative section, and across the elevated walkway. We went up through the substantial parking structure attached to it, and gazed out from the roof over the twisted remains of what was once a widely respected luxury automobile manufacturer. Trees are starting to overtake the structure in some places, and I find odd comfort in that. It will be a pile of indistinguishable rubble one day - whether due to the elements and time or because it has been razed - but today, it is still something of a spectacle, a site to be seen, but more importantly, a site to be considered.
If you'd like to learn more about this location, it is a featured chapter in the new Abandoned America book Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences. Signed copies are available through my website, or you can find (unsigned) copies available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online booksellers across the globe.
Photographs and unattributed text by Matthew Christopher. For more images click the thumbnails below.