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GM opens restored Durant-Dort Factory One in Michigan

In 1886, William Crapo Durant and Josiah Dallas Dort leased the factory to build carriages -- later becoming one of the largest horse-drawn carriage makers.

General Motors opened the Durant-Dort Factory One in Flint, Mich., after four years of restorations. 

The factory is considered to be GM’s birthplace and the “epicenter” for the worldwide automotive industry, the automaker said in a statement Monday.

It includes space to rent out for events, as well as a GM carriage-building and vehicle-manufacturing archive collection. Factory One is viewable to the public by appointment.

FROM OUR ARCHIVES: Automotive News tours the birthplace of General Motors

In 1886, William Crapo Durant and Josiah Dallas Dort leased the factory to build carriages -- later becoming one of the largest horse-drawn carriage makers. Durant went on to buy Buick Motor Co. and then used his successes to build GM in 1908.

In 2012, Mark Reuss, GM’s executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, and Kevin Kirbitz, the Factory One operations manager, became interested in restoring the building.

“Factory One sparked the global auto industry and was a catalyst in the formation of General Motors,” Reuss said in a statement. “It preserves the stories of the early visionaries who built a brand-new industry in this city, within the very walls of where it happened.”

After GM purchased the factory in 2013, it renovated and reinforced structural elements of the building while keeping certain “vintage architectural elements,” such as wooden beams and brickwork.

The automaker repaired and waterproofed the water-damaged foundation of the building. It installed “period-accurate” windows and doors and new roofing; replaced 17,000 bricks and 20 percent of the building’s mortar; and set up new utilities and plumbing.

“Factory One is part of the very fabric of Flint, and its reopening is as much about the future as it is the past,” Kirbitz said in a statement. “It is a tremendous community asset and academic resource that will educate and inspire generations to come.”

GM will also financially aid the Durant-Dort Carriage Company Foundation to help run the historic Durant-Dort office building across the street.

You can reach Stephanie Hernandez McGavin at smcgavin@crain.com

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