The Birthplace of General Motors

It is important to remember where we came from. Factory One, the birthplace of General Motors, lives on as a thriving community space that connects and inspires people. It builds upon the heritage of innovation, fortitude and resilience that turned Flint from a lumber town to a town on wheels.   

Located just north of downtown Flint, the modest-looking two-story brick building known as Factory One is dotted with pieces of unforgettable history. Among them is an original two-wheel road cart built by William Durant and his business partner, Dallas Dort, at this very site about 130 years ago.

The site is also home to the original attorney’s letter to Durant suggesting “General Motors” as his future company name. The “buggy” business in the old days financed the manufacturing of Buick cars in Flint, eventually leading to the establishment of General Motors in 1908.   

More than a century later, the place feels alive with community gatherings in its cafe and meeting space. People embrace the historic site renovated by GM as part of the town’s ongoing revitalization. Since its opening in May 2017, the heritage-themed event and meeting space has hosted more than 35,000 visitors, which is more than a third of Flint’s population.   

For Kevin Kirbitz, a Flint native and history lover who manages Factory One on behalf of GM, the place provides a connecting hub for a town where the automotive history is woven into its social fabric. From hospitals to schools, from assembly plants to eco-industrial parks, automobile is a legacy and a bonding force for the community.   

“Flint in the early 1900s was no different from today’s California, where a local start-up could grow into an anchor company in the industry,” said Kirbitz. “The town is on the path to reinvent itself with the same can-do spirit that put it on the map of U.S. automotive manufacturing.”   

Factory One had been hosting other businesses for decades before GM purchased it back in 2013 to restore it as an integral part of Flint’s cultural identity. A four-year renovation project soon began to bring in modern materials and convenience while preserving its historic character, including the original Victorian-era building structure.

Today, Factory One is a popular local spot for community hang-outs. That includes the monthly gathering of the University Avenue Corridor Coalition, which brings together residents and institutions to renew an area running from Downtown Flint westward toward Kettering University. It also hosts meetings for the local Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, bearing witness to policymaking and deal talks important to the town’s future.   

“Factory One is a great facility, both historically and architecturally,” said Tim Herman, CEO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce. “It serves not only as a reminder, but also an example of how business and community can come together and accomplish great things.”   

The place is also well known on Flint’s attraction map as a unique venue for Back to the Bricks vintage car show as it pays tribute to the Buick automobiles that made the town famous in the first place.      

That brings the story full circle, but nowhere near the end.

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