The focal point for this nation's automobile industry was centered in this neighborhood of Detroit, largely because of access to rail lines. The Ford Piquette Avenue plant, 461 Piquette at the corner of Beaubien is very close to this Fisher Body plant as was the large Studebaker plant at 201-285 Piquette, a plant that burned to the ground in June, 2005. Cadillac's Amsterdam Avenue plant and dozens of other factories including four other Fisher Body plants are a short jog away on the west side of Woodward in the New Amsterdam Historic Distcrict. They were concentrated here because of the junction of the Grand Truck rail line going toward Grand Haven where freight cars were shipped by ferry to Milwaukee and the Michigan Central belt line that connected to the Michigan Central main line to Chicago and points West.
This plant is historically interesting since it illustrates the development of Albert Kahn's skills. It is a six-story building constructed of reinforced concrete with glass wall construction. Please compare this building to the nearby Ford Piquette Street plant completed just 15 years earlier and designed by Field, Hinchman and Smith. The Ford plant resembles a New England textile mill and its brick walls have few windows to admit any light; indeed, it must have been very dark inside. But Fisher Body #21 is extremely different, reflecting the contributions of Albert Kahn to industrial architecture. One other major difference distinguishes these building. The Ford Piquette Avenue plant had heavy oak floors, floors that we at danger of burning when soaked with grease and oil. Kahn's building has reinforced concrete floors that not only were able to support the tremendous weight of many ton presses but were at no risk of being ignited. The Ford Building is, however, a National Historic Landmark since it is where Henry Ford began to develop his production line strategy, the place where he first turned out cars profitably and where he designed the Model T.
This building also reminds us of the origins of the great fortune that the Fisher Brothers amassed building bodies, primarily for General Motors cars. This building was used by General Motors until 1984. I beleve that firm continues to own the building but it has not be used in a quarter century or more.
Dimitri Hegemann, of Berlin, amassed a small fortune by taking control of several old buildings in Berlin and Prague and converting them into venues for Detroit Techno. That music, I have been told, is extremely popular in Eastern Europe. In the summer of 2014, Mr. Hegemann begin investigation the possibility of converting Fisher Body #21 into a Detroit home for Detroit Techno. Presumably, he foresaw the creation of a performance venue in the building, recording studios and, perhaps, lofts where artists might reside. The Wall Street Journal even published an essay about his plans. In the two subsequent years, I have read little more about is intentions. I did read somewhat that he spokes with representatives of Fernando Palazuelo, the Peruvian developer who purchased the Packard Plant on East Grand for $425,000 with hopes to renovate that structure.
Architect: Albert Kahn
Date of Completion: 1919
Use in 2016: Empty Building awaiting reuse
City of Detroit Designated Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Registry of Historic Places: This building is with the Piquette Avenue National Industrial Historic District listed in February, 2002. This district is bounded by Woodward on the West, the Grand Trunk Railroad tracks on the North, Hastings Street on the South and Harper on the East.
Photograph: Ren Farley, 2002
Description updated: December, 2016.