GM Opens Restored Durant-Dort Factory One

The restored birthplace of General Motors includes a huge archive from Kettering University.

Main floor of the restored Durant-Dort Factory One, in Flint, Mi
Jason Robinson/GM

In 1886, William Durant and Josiah Dort leased a little factory in Flint, Michigan, where they would build their horse-drawn carriages. The Durant-Dort Carriage Company grew into one of largest carriage producers in the United States. Durant then took over the upstart Buick Motor Company in 1904. After building Buick into the best-selling automobile brand in the country, Durant expanded the business and, in 1908, formed General Motors.

More than a century later, GM has opened the Durant-Dort Factory One building as an event space and research center. The Durant-Dort Carriage Company ceased production in 1917. Dort who had left his partnership with Durant, used the factory for his Dort Motor Car Company, which folded in 1923 when Dort died.

Since then, the building was used by several other businesses. Like most of Flint, it fell into disrepair in the 1980s. GM purchased the property in 2013 and began an extensive restoration process. 

According to a press, GM's work on the building included "new, period-accurate windows and doors, as well as a new roofing system, with the goal of preserving and showcasing the original architecture. Contractors replaced 17,000 bricks color-matched to the original, as well as 20 percent of the mortar on the building. The foundation, damaged by flooding and grade changes over time, was repaired and waterproofed." As much of the building as possible was preserved while modern HVAC and electrical systems were put in place. 

Factory One also houses an archive and research library that was formerly housed at Kettering University. The archive contains over 100,000 documents relating to the early auto industry in Flint, as well as the history of GM. The facility will also be home to a small collection of early carriages and automobiles with connections to Flint.