General Motors reopens its birthplace, the historic “Factory One,” in Flint, Michigan

One hundred and thirty-one years ago, on the banks of the Flint River, William Crapo “Billy” Durant and his partner Josiah Dallas Dort opened the Flint Road Cart Company in downtown Flint, Mich., to build horse-drawn carriages. No one could have known they were creating the birthplace of what would become General Motors.

The brick building on Water Street eventually became known as the Durant-Dort Carriage Company, and its success as one of the largest carriage companies in America was the springboard for Durant to take control of Buick Motor Co. and, in 1908, to form General Motors. In 1911, Durant co-founded Chevrolet Motor Company with Louis C. Chevrolet and other Flint investors. Dort, for his part, went on to found the short-lived Dort Motor Company, but a highway in Flint still bears his name.

Factory One, as the brick building became known, had fallen into disrepair by 2012, when Mark Reuss, GM’s executive vice president for product development and a man keenly aware of General Motors history, launched a campaign for GM to buy the building. In a statement, Reuss noted that “Factory One sparked the global auto industry and was a catalyst in the formation of General Motors. 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.” During today’s announcement, Reuss was presented with a framed copy of a 1978 Motor Trend cover featuring his father, Lloyd Reuss, former GM president, Buick chief, and father of the Regal GNX. No wonder Mark Reuss recognized the significance of Factory One: The man has GM in his blood.

After a thorough restoration that showcases the building’s original wood ceiling rafters and brick walls, Factory One officially reopened today as a repository of GM history, including the papers of William C. Durant, Charles F. Kettering, and many other GM executives; a community event space; and the home of the nearby Kettering University’s (formerly General Motors Institute) GM archives.

Singer, songwriter, and Virginia farmer Daniel “Duke” Durant Merrick, great-grandson of William C. Durant, was present.