On my drives home from Detroit (in the days when I physically worked downtown), I would constantly seek out new routes, partly to avoid the godawful commutes on I-75, I-94 or the Lodge, but also to see what I could find of Detroit’s automotive past. Sure, these buildings haven’t been in operation in my lifetime, but they were the foundations of what created the Motor City, and I was always delighted to at least see them for myself.
Unfortunately, not all of these relics and links to the city’s past are meant to survive far into this 21st century. While some automakers are investing in or making moves to return to Detroit, many have left or are defunct. And some of the buildings those companies left behind remain derelict–awaiting their total demise.
Now on the chopping block for demolition, as reported by The Detroit News, is the American Motors Corporation’s corporate headquarters.
According to this building biography from Architectural Afterlife, the 56-acre site and 1.5 million-square-foot building was originally built for Kelvinator back in the late 1920s as a three-story factory and office complex (which you can see clearly from the road)—with a power plant in the back.
The headquarters actually remained in operation until 2009, when Chrysler (which bought AMC in 1987) moved the final 900 employees to offices in Auburn Hills, a Detroit suburb. Like a lot of these buildings, the AMC headquarters was operational more recently than I thought.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is not a fan, saying the old headquarters is a contributing “ruin porn” site that the city is “sick of looking at.”
Considering the building’s massive size and the sweeping acreage it occupies in the city, I get it. It was built to house massive, booming manufacturing operations. Detroit has no shortage of factory space, no shortage of cool old buildings that would require massive investments to be made operational again. But absent a resurgence in manufacturing, what would you even do with a building like this?
Unfortunately, the old Packard Plant is also in line for demolition, with Duggan saying an announcement is coming soon.
It’s a shame, especially considering Ford’s ongoing efforts to rescue and rehabilitate Michigan Central Station. Other automotive buildings like The Rouge plant and The Cadillac Place still find ways to continue operating.
Hopefully some of these other old buildings can hold on long enough to be made useful again.