Detroit’s Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant


In my previous blog I discussed the abandoned buildings of Detroit along with the renewal of the city and the great signs of recovery in certain areas. Of the abandoned sites dotted all around the city the most colossal one is the old Packard Automotive Plant. This is a place you have to see to believe!

Detroit The Packard Automotive Plant in its heyday aerial view
The Packard Automotive Plant in its heyday
The Packard Automotive Plant today Detroit Aerial View
The Packard Automotive Plant today (photo source: Detroit Free Press)

This was once a state of the art,  3,500,000-square-foot (325,000 m2) factory that produced luxury Packard vehicles. It was a place that helped build the Detroit Motor City legend. The factory commenced operations in 1903 but by 1958 it was closed.

Vehicle testing at the Packard plant in 1905  Detroit
Vehicle testing at the Packard plant in 1905 (Photo Source: National Automotive History Collection; Detroit Public Library)
Car production at the Packard Plant in 1910 Detroit
Car production at the Packard Plant in 1910 (Photo Source: National Automotive History Collection; Detroit Public Library)
1930 Packard Model 745
Luxury cars like this beautiful 1930 Packard Model 745 used to run off the assembly lines of the Packard Automotive Plant

What happened to Packard, a once successful car company? During World War Two the company built aircraft engines for the war effort. At the end of the war the company was in a good financial position and switched back to car production. In 1954 Packard merged with Studebaker to form the Studebaker-Packard Corporation.

Packard Plant Garage in the 1940's
Packard Plant Garage in the 1940’s (Photo Source: Detroit News)
Detroit The Packard Plant in 1952
The Packard Plant in 1952 (Photo Source: Detroit News)

By the late 1950’s the demand for large luxury vehicles was declining and the Packard brand was struggling to compete with other major car manufacturers like Ford, GM and Chevrolet who were making smaller more economical cars and sales were dropping. Packard made mid range vehicles but they compromised in design and were not as modern in styling as their competitors. Sales continued to struggle.

Packard 1951 ad
Poor old Packard (source: oldcaradvertising.com)
1953 Packard Ad
1953 Packard Ad (Image Source: oldcaradvertising.com)

By 1958 the Packard Automotive Plant was no longer sustainable and hence it’s closure. By 1959 no further cars produced by Studebaker-Packard Corporation in their other factories were called a Packard. By 1962 Packard was also removed from the corporation name along with a real piece of Detroit motoring history.

1956 Packard ad
1956 Packard ad (source: oldcaradvertising.com)

Despite the factory closure in regards to car manufacturing, the Packard Automotive Plant site remained in use by various companies and also for storage until the late 1990’s (in 1958 parts of the site were sold, others were leased out). By the early 2000’s a few companies still operated in the outer buildings. Today the place has been stripped and laid to waste. It is sad to see but also a fascinating place to visit from an urban explorers point of view. You have to take care wandering about the plant though as there as parts of the floor and roof that have caved in and stairwell rails are long gone.

The walkway that joins the two separate parts of the Packard Automotive Plant
The walkway that joins the two separate parts of the Packard Automotive Plant
Packard Automotive Plant Detroit
Packard Automotive Plant
Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Abandoned
Welcome to Packard!
Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Michigan
The Packard plant towers above you
abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit
Enter the abandoned Packard Automotive Plant
Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Michigan
The Packard plant is almost like urban canyons
Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Michigan
The scale of the plant is amazing
Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit
This part of the building has car ramps going all the way up
Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Abandoned
In a number of areas the roof has caved in
Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Abandoned
Here the roof is totally gone!
Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Abandoned
The place is a mess but fascinating to explore
Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit
Watch out, no rails!
Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit
A burnt out car wreck within the plant
Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Abandoned
Where cars were once made junk and debris remain today
abandoned buildings packard plant detroit
Row after row of abandoned buildings
car ramp packard plant
Car ramps go all the way to the top of this building
Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Abandoned
Light in the shadows
Packard Automotive Plant Abandoned Detroit Michigan USA
Not sure why someone would want to knock this door down but they did!
Packard Automotive Plant Abandoned Detroit Michigan USA
Its hard to imagine now that this was once a bustling factory
Packard Automotive Plant Abandoned Detroit Michigan USA
One wrong step and…
Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Michigan USA
Long gone are the days of the Packard Motor Company
Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Michigan USA
But there is light at the end of the tunnel for the old plant
Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Michigan
Once a bustling place now nothing but rubble

Wandering the old buildings you can not help but be overwhelmed by the scale and the destruction of the site, especially when you walk down the long halls that were once the centre of car construction. It’s hard to imagine how it got to this stage. Neglect, vandalism, people taking parts of the buildings for their own use and just the passage of time have really taken a toll on the old plant.

Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit
Remnants of the floor boards
Packard automotive plant detroit
This used to be part of the manufacturing hub of the plant
The Packard hand assembly line (Photo Source: National Automotive History Collection; Detroit Public Library)
The Packard hand assembly line – It’s hard to believe today that the plant once looked like this (Photo Source: National Automotive History Collection; Detroit Public Library)
abandoned packard plant detroit
Building after building in disrepair
Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Michigan USA
Take a seat
Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Michigan USA
Nature slowly overcomes all
Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Michigan USA
You are not the only one
garage area packard plant Detroit USA
Old garage area of the plant
Old packard plant Detroit Graffiti
A place for urban explorers and graffiti artists today
Packard Automotive Plant Abandoned Detroit Michigan USA
This place once meant everything to the people who once worked there
Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Michigan
Everything is trashed from office areas to the plant itself
Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Abandoned
Some colour in all that grey
Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Abandoned
Graffiti and rubble
Packard Automotive Plant Abandoned Detroit Michigan USA
No one there to play
Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Michigan
It feels like there are endless buildings when you wander about the plant
Abandoned Packard Automotive Plant Detroit Michigan
Interesting art

The days of urban exploring the automotive plant may well be over very soon though. The site was purchased on December 12th, 2013 by a Brazilian developer Fernando Palazuelo for $405,000. Over the next 10 to 15 years he plans to turn the site into a multipurpose development for residential, commercial (offices, retail, light industry), entertainment and arts use. It will be interesting to see what happens there. In the meantime he has one huge environmental cleanup to do!

fernando sold Packard plant detroit
Sold to Fernando Palazuelo! (Photo Source: Detroit.Curbed.com)
Packard Plant Detroit Abandoned
Humour abounds!
Abandoned packard plant
Rubble and garbage abound
rubbish at abandoned packard automotive plant
Its amazing what people have dumped at the old plant! What’s with all the boats?
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