The Packard Automotive Plant in Detroit Michigan is said to be the largest abandoned factory in the world. It is the abandoned plant of the former car manufacturer Packard Motor Car Company and later Studebaker-Packard Corporation.
There is no shortage of abandoned factories and abandoned everything in Detroit. The population of the city has fallen by around two-thirds from its peak. But what is special about the Packard plant is its sheer size. It stands as a somber reminder of what has happened to America's once-prosperous Rustbelt. Detroit is now one of the once-popular American cities that people now avoid.
History of the Packard Automotive Plant
Packard Automotive Plant is located on 40 acres of land on the East Grand Boulevard over on Detroit's east side. When it first opened in 1903 it was considered the most modern car factory in the world and was modern, efficient, and massive (but was destined to get more massive).
- Opened: 1903
- Size: 3.5 Million Square Feet
- Land: Around 40 Acres
By 1908 a further enlargement was announced even though it was already by then six larger when it was first built. At its peak, some 40,000 people were employed here with the factory pumping out automobiles from 1903 to 1956 - excluding the war years.
- Peak Employment: Employed Around 40,000 People at its Peak
- Packard: Once A Luxury Car Maker, Failed to Compete In The Age Of The "Big Three"
During World War II, America's economy shifted dramatically to a war footing and the nation's output was in a state of total war. Almost no civilian cars were manufactured during these years.
In the war years, the plant produced war material - particularly the engine Packard V-1650 Merlin used in the iconic North American P-51 Mustang fighter plane.
Closing And Abandonment
By 1957 Packards were no long assembled here, although a few Studebakers would continue to be produced here for a couple more years. Packard (along with Studebaker) just couldn't make it in the new world order they found themselves in.
The factory complex shut down in 1958, although some other businesses continued to operate on the site and use it was storage until the late 1990s. Some of the outer buildings were continued to be used up to the early 2000s with the last tenant leaving in 2010.
- Closed: Shuttered In 1956
In the 1990s its ghostly buildings hosted infamous "underground" raves and techno parties.
- Magnet: It Has Been A Magnet For Raves, Graffiti Artists, Urban Explorers, and Vandals
Since being forsaken, it has proven a magnet for graffiti artists, urban explorers, auto scrappers, and paintballers. In one famous incident vandals even pushed a dump truck off from the fourth floor. As the buildings have been increasingly vandalized, they are getting more and more difficult to be restored (not just here but all over Detroit and the stricken Rust Belt).
Failed Plans At Repurposement or Demolition
Still, most of the buildings are reported to be mostly intact and structurally sound and only a few parts of the upper floors in small sections in various buildings have collapsed. A few have been demolished or partly demolished in aborted attempts at demolition over the years.
In 2010 it was reported that the City of Detriot was chasing Mr. Casab to either demolish the complex or hand it over to the city. But in the same article, it was also reported that Mr. Casab was denying having any ownership of the property.
- Legal Disputes: In 2010 Reports Suggested that There were Legal Disputes As To Who Even Owned the Facility
It was also reported in 2011 that the owners hadn't paid property taxes on the site since 1987.
In 2013 it was announced that AMC's Low Winter Sun would be filmed around there, while Amazon filmed their The Grand Tour first episode of Season 3 there in 2018.
- Filming Location: Used As A Filming Location For Amazon's The Grand Tour Episode 1, Season 3
In 2019 the bridge over the Grand Boulevard collapsed while a section of the plant owned by the city of Detroit was demolished in the same year.
- Current Plans: Sell The Complex And Demolish It
A plan for original redevelopment was abandoned in 2020 and it was announced that the property would go up for sale. It is expected that the land will be repurposed and the complex demolished.
So it would seem that if one would like to visit the world's largest abandoned factory, it may be more prudent to go sooner than later (although remember it is private property and trespassing is illegal). But still, given its track record of failed demolishing, it's possible it will be sticking around for a while yet.
If one is looking for a real treat, then visit the abandoned "Dome Home" in Florida now claimed by the sea and an unintended marine refuge.