Among the Ruins of the Detroit Packard Plant

An afternoon exploring the remnants of a once automotive giant.

Since its closure in 1958, the Packard Automotive Plant has served as a haven for graffiti artists, urban explorers, paintballers, auto scrappers and photographers. One such artist and photographer is Detroiter J Kyle Keener. Kyle has been exploring and soaking in artistic inspiration from this place for 20 years. Collecting found objects from the Packard Plant and other abandoned factories in the city, he creates sculptures, furniture and lamps out of these weathered treasures time has forgotten. I was fortunate to get in on a personal guided tour of the plant Kyle gave to friends and fellow photographers Jeffrey Sauger of Detroit and Julie Dermansky of New Orleans on May 8th, 2012. Growing up in the Detroit area myself, I had always heard about the Packard plant but never had the chance – or took the initiative – to explore it. Walking around the plant, it boggles the mind to think that decades ago this was the hub of bustling industry. Thousands of men and women all working here, every day, filling this three million square foot space to the brim. Indeed the stories I have heard are true – there is magic in this place…

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The Packard Automotive Plant, is a 3,500,000-square-foot (325,000 m2) former automobile manufacturing factory in Detroit, Michigan where luxury Packard cars were made by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, and later by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation of South Bend, Indiana. Designed by Albert Kahn it sprawls across more than 40 acres (0.142 km2) on East Grand Boulevard on the city’s depressed east side. The factory complex closed in 1958, but the structures remain mostly intact as of 2012.

The plant was opened in 1907 and at the time was considered the most modern automobile manufacturing facility in the world with skilled craftsmen who practiced over eighty trades. The factory complex closed in 1958, but the structures remain mostly intact as of 2012. The City of Detroit has pledged legal action to have it demolished or secured. Dominic Cristini, whose claim of ownership of the property is disputed, is said to be conducting construction surveys in advance of full-scale demolition as of early 2012. (source:

Julie looks out into one of the many courtyards of the plant.

Jeffrey photographs Kyle.

During our time there, others came to explore, paint graffiti, scavenge and just hang out.


A big thanks to our friend, colleague and tour guide J Kyle Keener for taking us on this magical journey through one of Detroit’s historical landmarks.

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