Although Studebaker made automobiles, both gas and electric, prior to its association with the E-M-F Company of Detroit, it was with the acquisition of E-M-F on March 8, 1910, that Studebaker entered the auto business on a large scale.
This photo, the earliest know of the #1 plant on Piquette Street, shows the 3-story factory that was previously home to the Wayne Automobile Company, which eventually became E-M-F.
This postcard shows a significantly expanded facility, including a fourth floor. It was postmarked 1913, but was probably printed a few years earlier, as the name on it is E.M.F. Company, not Studebaker.
This postcard was most likely printed in 1913. It is postmarked October 25, 1916. This image, as well as others like it, is interesting because the Piquette Street building (top image) was actually much smaller than it appears here. The E-M-F 30 was built here. The image on the bottom of the card is of the plant at Clark Street and West Jefferson Avenue, also in Detroit. This was origininally the De Luxe Motor Car Company, which E-M-F purchased in 1909. The Flanders 20 was produced in this facility.
This very similar postcard shows a much more realistic view of the Piquette facility. Having visited the site prior to 2005, I would say the dimensions portrayed here are accurate. This card was mailed from Detroit to London, England in 1935, long after Studebaker's automaking operations had moved to South Bend. The card is once again back in Detroit, in the StudebakerHistory.com collection.
Undated photo of the back of Detroit plant #1 (E-M-F).
This factory building, located on Scotten Avenue, is shown just prior to its demolition in 1938. It was evidently located not far from the Clark Street plant. Please contact us if you have additional information about this plant. More pictures of the demolition are coming soon, courtesy of Leonard Shepherd of the Central Virginia Chapter of the Studebaker Drivers Club.
© Lowell Boileau, http://atDetroit.com Used with permission.
Production in Detroit was phased out in the late 1920's as production was moved to South Bend. The Piquette plant was reopened briefly in 1932 for production of the Rockne. After Studebaker's departure the building was used by Chrysler as a parts facility into the 1960's. Most of the building remained vacant thereafter, although the east end was home to Piquette Market, a meat wholesaler, for decades. The building remained standing, most of it in serious disrepair, until June of 2005 when it was destroyed by fire.
Aerial view prior to the fire. ©Google Earth
Photo by Phil Mautz, DetroitFireFighters.net Used with permission.
Photo by John Penrice
Sadly, the building was a total loss. All that survived was the foundation and a few loose bricks. Spared from the flames was another historic auto plant - Henry Ford's original Model T factory, which is in the next block east of the Studebaker site. It is the red brick building in the distance in this picture.
Five years after the fire Piquette Square, a center for homeless veterans, was opened on the site of the Piquette Street plant.
Photo by John Penrice
Ford moved production to Highland Park in 1910. This building, next to the original E-M-F Studebaker plant on Piquette, was purchased by Studebaker in 1911 and used for manufacturing until automobile production moved to South Bend in the 1920's. It is now a museum devoted to the Model T. The building on the left was a parts warehouse built by Studebaker in 1920. It currently serves as a storage facility for the Henry Ford Health System.
Another apparently exaggerated rendering of the Piquette Street Plant appears on the left side of this magazine ad. We have been unable to verify the accuracy of the pictures of the Clark Street facility. Click on image to view larger version.
Piquette Site on Google Earth. You can see the foundation of the E-M-F/Studebaker building on the left. The Ford complex that was later used by Studebaker is still standing.
Clark Street Site on Google Earth. We are planning to visit the site to see if any traces of the De Luxe/E-M-F/Studebaker factory remain.
More information on the Piquette Street facility is available here.