Once home to the Flint Road Cart Co. established in 1886 by William Crapo “Billy” Durant and business partner Josiah Dallas Dort, it includes event space and a modern archive where future generations can learn about the innovators and risk takers who reinvented personal transportation.
The restoration preserves a significant aspect of the shared heritage of GM and Flint, while creating a community space to help spur economic development in the city.
Furthermore, the facility demonstrates GM’s commitment to honouring its history and relationship with Flint. Factory One is available to the public by appointment, with event space offered for rent for corporate, community, educational events and more. It can accommodate up to 300 people.
Factory One’s archive is free to use and contains about 100,000 historical documents, photos and other artifacts related to carriage-building and early automobile manufacturing in the Flint area, as well as GM history. The thousands of Durant documents and items donated by his widow include a 1908 letter from a New York law firm suggesting he name his new automotive company General Motors.
Rare, vintage carriages and automobiles with Flint roots also will be displayed at the grand opening of the facility, which includes provisions to host classic auto clubs and events such as the city’s annual Back to the Bricks, which brings visitors from around the world to Flint each August.
In the more than 130 years since Durant and Dort set up shop at Factory One, it housed countless other businesses and was renovated in the 1980s before falling into disrepair. Kirbitz, a GM engineer, automotive historian and Flint native, has been involved in the project since 2012, when GM first became interested in the building.
GM purchased it in 2013 and stabilised it with 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 colour-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.
The last phases of the restoration included all-new heating/cooling, electrical, plumbing, state-of-the-art fire-suppression equipment and additional interior renovations. And despite numerous interior renovations over the years, many of the vintage architectural elements, such as the wooden beams, brick work and more, were preserved and restored.
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