Opened in 1903, the Packard Automotive Plant was once the ultimate symbol of Detroit’s American dream.
The state-of-the-art facility was considered the most modern of it’s kind and produced luxury Packard cars and even manufactured aircraft engines for the US military during WWII.
Over 30,000 people, skilled craftsmen from 80 different trades, came to work here every day. Sprawled across an impressive 40 acres (0.142 square kilometers), the various buildings span 3,500,000 square feet (325,000 square meters).
The Packard Automotive Plant’s Demise
Sadly, the Packard Motor company could not keep up with their competition and were forced to close their doors in 1958. Long afterwards, buildings continued to be used by various companies until the early 2000’s.
Since that time, the entire plant has remained empty and unused, making it the largest abandoned building in the entire world and just another addition to Detroit’s 78,000 abandoned buildings.
The Packard Automotive Plant Today
The Packard Automotive Plant is now a home for vagrants, a canvas for graffiti artists and a playground for paintball enthusiasts and ardent urban explorers. It’s even a treasure trove for collectors and other do-it-yourself types who come there to take unused materials like scrap metal. A local artist even stole a large door which was used as part of a community art installation called the Heidelberg Project.
The place is regularly set on fire, further contributing to the apocalyptic setting which attracts filmmakers from all over – part of Transformers 3 was filmed there.
After exploring the Abundant Life Christian Church, I was super excited to get a chance to see the Packard Automotive Plant for myself and have the opportunity to photograph this incredibly extraordinary setting.
The Future of the Packard Automotive Plant
The building which remains unowned is more or less structurally sound. However, it remains a burden to the now bankrupt city of Detroit. Local officials would either like to see the buildings razed to the ground or restored to their former glory.
A Chicago businessman who was set to buy the plant grounds last month, promised a bold project that would see the site revitalized. However, his attempt fell through and the Packard Automotive Plant is due to go on auction this month, with the starting bid being set at a mere $21,000.
For now, the plant remains in it’s abandoned state sitting as a painful and obvious reminder of the city that went once was.
An Interesting Story
Watch this short film about a man who lived in the abandoned site for quite some time.
Good to Know
- The site is in a remote area. As far as I know, the public transit system in Detroit is pretty dismal so it’s best to arrive by car. As the site is so large, you can drive to different parts of the property.
- Don’t come alone as vagrants live in the facility and might not be happy with your presence. My friend and I found out about this the hard way and ended up leaving in a hurry.
- Bring a flashlight as parts of the building are dark. Use your torch to light the way and detect dangerous holes in the floor or potentially unsafe surfaces.
- As so many tourists come to visit this site, local thieves target them accordingly. Lock your car doors and don’t leave any valuables (like expensive camera equipment) inside the car at all. A better idea is have someone remain in the car at all times.
- For more about what to see and do in Detroit, visit my Detroit archive.
- To learn more about the Packard Automotive Plant, visit Detroit Urbex and Detroit Curbed.
The Packard Automotive Plant
Detroit, MI 48211