Monday, November 15, 2010

The Motor City: Uncovering another sliver of Detroit's car-building history

The big logo at the top of the building makes it tough to miss who lives in the Ren Cen these days. But near the base of General Motors' world headquarters lives a more subtle reminder as to why we call this place the Motor City. Our most recent discovery of a Michigan Historic Site marker in downtown Detroit teaches us of a man named David Dunbar Buick, who long ago formed a company that would later build your grandfather's car. The placard stands on the Jefferson Avenue side of the Ren Cen, and tells of Dunbar's early days of building gasoline engines for boats that ran the Detroit River during the 1890s. 

By 1900, his motor firm Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company was operating at the corner of Lafayette and Beaubien, where Bouzouki Restaurant and Lounge is located. Of course, the engine work being done for boats was eventually applied to an automobile, and it was around that time that the first experimental Buick automobile was built in Detroit. Three years later the Buick Motor Company was founded; soon after it was sold to the Flint Wagon Works in Flint, which built the first retail Buicks in 1904.