David Buick began building gasoline engines in the late 1890s. Walter Marr built wagons. By the turn of the Twentieth Century, they were cooperating to build automobiles. In May of 1903, the Buick Motor Car company was organized in Detroit. The firm needed capital and they found investors in Flint who began construction of a building in September of that year for the production of Buicks. But an absence of funds forced Buick to move production to Jackson, Michigan briefly; the firm then returned to Flint. They developed a reputation for a very high quality and durable vehicles. In 1908—just before Mr. Ford developed the Model T—Buick led the nation in sales.
So far as I know, Buick never operated an assembly line in Detroit, but in 1921, the firm built the structure that you see to serve as their Detroit headquarters. You observe a utilitarian institution—a factory-like structure removed from West Canfield with a small office building facing the street.
I do not know when Buick ceased using this facility. However, it was remodeled at the end of the 1990s. The location is attractive—close to downtown Detroit, the New Center area, the Cultural Center and Wayne State. The remodeling architects created 35 lofts in this building, each with brick walls, hardwood floors and an 11-foot ceiling. Fitting for a building strongly linked to the vehicle industry, there is indoor parking for those who own or rent in the Canfield Lofts. The city provided a substantial incentive for investing in this property—a dozen-year tax abatement. All the lofts in this building were sold by 2002. The developer then went on to renovate a neaby building at 55 West Canfield for use as lofts. Thus, the condominimization of downtown Detroit contiues bringing residents to former industrial and commercial buildings.
The picture you see shows a 1910 Buick truck built in Flint. This is the first year that David Buick turned out trucks. Note that it is a stake truck with a chain drive. The Buick firm is best know for the cars they produced. I do not know when the exited the truck business.
Architects: Love, Davenport and Patterson
Date of Construction: 1922
Architectural style: Functional industrial with accompanying offices
Architects for the Renovation: Archive Design Studio
Date of Renovation: 2000
Website for Canfield Lofts:http://www.hubbellgroupdetroit.com/developments-canfield.htm
Use in 2009: Thirty-five loft condominiums
City of Detroit Local Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
Photograph of Lofts: Ren Farley
Photograph of 1910 Buick Truck: Ren Farley, February 21, 2009. This truck is in the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Owls Head, Maine.
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