Just in time for the North American International Auto Show, when the eyes of the automotive community are locked on Detroit to see what the future holds, a tour looking into the city’s auto past is available.
On January 18 and 25, Motor City Brew Tours and Show Me Detroit Tours have teamed up to offer four Detroit Bumpers & Brew Tours to take a look into the city’s auto history. That history will be featured hand-in-hand with the present as the tour gives up-to-the-minute news about the current state of Downtown and Midtown and what development is being done today.
The tours will meet in Midtown at the Traffic Jam & Snug Restaurant at Canfield and Second Avenue (511 West Canfield, Detroit 48201), at 10:00 am and run to 2:30 pm.
The 3 ½ hour tours show the city’s early automotive history. Here’s some background information on the highlights:
Downtown and Midtown Detroit today – New retail stores and restaurants are opening all over Downtown and Midtown to meet the needs of new employees and residents, as well as visitors. Residential occupancy is at a record high 99% while investment in both areas is robust. There are almost daily announcements of new investment and incoming companies and employees.
Ford Piquette Plant – This 1904 building in Midtown Detroit is the birthplace of the Model T and may be the most significant auto-heritage site in the world. The three-story New England mill-style structure was the second production facility built for the Ford Motor Company and where Henry Ford and his team built the first 12,000 Model Ts. The plant is located in the Milwaukee Junction area, which was the emerging auto industry’s central location after the turn of the last century.
Former Packard Automotive Plant – Designed by architect Albert Kahn, the 3.5 million square foot plant opened in 1903 and produced over 1.5-million Packard cars during its more than 50 years of operation. At its peak, the Packard Motor Car Company had 25,000+ workers skilled in 80 trades on the 40 acre site. The plant closed in 1956 and stands today as one of Detroit’s iconic ruins as well as the largest abandoned industrial complex in the world. The Packard plant was just purchased by Peru-based developer Fernando Palazuelo, who plans to redevelop the site into a mixed-use project over 10 to 15 years or more.
Architect Albert Kahn – The prolific architect produced many of Detroit’s iconic structures including the Fisher and General Motors buildings and the Detroit Athletic Club. In 1939, his firm was constructing 19% of all architect-designed industrial facilities in the US, and contracting more than $1-million of work a week. He is best known for his industrial design work including Ford’s Highland Park and River Rouge plants, the Packard Plant and the Willow Run Bomber Plant – which produced one bomber every 24 hours in 1942. He built over 2,000 projects in his lifetime including 521 factories in Russia alone.
Historic Indian Village – This prestigious east side neighborhood of 352 residences attracted many of the industrialists, financiers and professionals who led Detroit’s transformation from a manufacturing center for stoves, rail cars, ships, pharmaceuticals and tobacco into what became known as the Motor City. Able to afford grand homes, they commissioned Detroit’s foremost architects to design mansions which complied with the developer’s vision of “a first class residential area on a generous scale.”
Traffic Jam & Snug Restaurant, Brewery and Dairy (TJ’s) – TJ’s is one of the Midtown’s favorite eateries and produces its own beer and cheese selections in-house. The popular restaurant opened in 1965, and after a decade-long legal battle became the state’s first brewpub in 1992. Prior to that, Michigan law prohibited brewpubs.
When the tour is over, those participating will return to The Traffic Jam and Snug restaurant to sample Michigan craft beer.
Show Me Detroit Tours co-founders Kim Rusinow and Pat Haller have a great deal of confidence in this venture. The duo says interest in Detroit’s history is higher than ever. The two hope to attract new investors, workers, residents and visitors with the tales of past glory and current challenges and successes. They hope to shine a light on the neighborhoods that are trying to make a place for themselves in the 21st century.
Motor City Brew Tours founder Steve Johnson points out tours will make a brief stop to view a video presentation at the Ford Piquette Plant – the city’s most authentic automotive site and the birthplace of Henry Ford’s iconic Model T. Ticket sales will support restoration efforts at the Piquette Plant – with $5 donated for every tour ticket purchased.
Tickets go for $49.99 and must be purchased ahead of time on line. The price covers the tour itself, guide bus transportation, admission to the Piquette plant, a light lunch and4-8 oz. beer sample once returned to the Traffic Jam & Snug. Due to the alcohol, all participants must be at least 21.