A parting glance at Dodge Main, just before the wrecking ball swung – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


Roughly 40 years ago, Chrysler stepped away from Dodge Main. The sprawling tangle of buildings in Hamtramck, Michigan, that had grown to become one of the world’s few fully integrated automobile manufacturing and assembly plants, suddenly became little more than a liability to a company only recently saved from bankruptcy. And as we can see from a set of fortuitously timed photos, the company hardly seemed to look back over its shoulder as it turned off the lights.

So much has been written about Dodge Main that it’s easy to get lost in the history of the plant. Though not the first Detroit-area plant that the Dodge brothers worked out of – they had a couple of machine shops in or near downtown Detroit in the first decade of the 20th century while supplying the nascent automotive industry – Dodge Main not only saw the launch of the Dodge automobile, it also kept the tiny community of Hamtramck from being swallowed by adjacent Detroit and remained a mainstay facility for Chrysler for more than half a century.

For a quick recap, though: The brothers built it in 1910, initially to meet the demands of their exclusive customer – Ford – for engines and drivetrains. The 30-acre site they chose in Hamtramck was, at the time, on the outskirts of town but near a significant railroad crossing, and though Albert Kahn designed some of the buildings, the brothers eventually turned to architects Smith, Hinchman, and Grylls to design the rest. With a limited amount of space, the architects built vertically with multistory factory buildings, many of them constructed from steel-reinforced concrete. Once the brothers decided to manufacture their own cars (funded largely by the early investment they made in Ford Motor Company), the former suppliers decided they needed to work toward building every component of an automobile in-house, a goal their company realized by 1925.

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