Dodge Main Plant, Hamtramck Michigan

On January A, 1980 the Chrysler Corporation permanently closed Its Hamtramck Assembly Plant, known locally as "Dodge Main," marking the end of seventy years of service to the automobile Industry. John F. and Horace L. Dodge, sons of a Niles Michigan machinist, moved to Detroit at the turn of the century, briefly produced transmissions for Ransom L. Olds, and beginning in 1903, became the major suppliers of drive trains to the Ford Motor Company. The Dodge brothers outgrew their downtown plant, so in 1910 they began a new facility on a large tract in Hamtramck on the northern outskirts of Detroit. The plant initially produced machined products, forgings, and castings, all used in parts supplied to Ford. The Dodge brothers enlarged the plant significantly In 1914-1916 in order to produce their own automobile. They built the first Dodge in November 1914 and the new car was an instant success, the plant grew into an enormous complex of more than thirty buildings, where the Dodges manufactured most of the automobile except for bodies, tires and windows. When the Dodge brothers died in 1920, the plant had approximately 22,000 workers and produced 140,000 automobiles per year. Dodge Brothers Company remained an independent firm until 1928, when it became a major division of the fledging Chrysler Corporation.

In recent decades the Dodge complex has evolved into an assembly plant, as Chrysler moved the major manufacturing operations elsewhere. The 1930s was a difficult period, but the plant thrived during the Second World War, with peak employment of about 40,000. No major new construction has taken place since the early 1950s and the plant has become smaller with the demolition of peripheral buildings in the 1960s. Automation has also reduced the workforce substantially. By 1964, the plant employed only 8,000 and while some temporary increases occurred in the years following, only 5,000 worked at Dodge Main when it closed in 1980. In addition to serving as the chief plant of one of the major American automobile companies for over a half century, this manufacturing complex is historically significant in other ways. The Dodge complex represents the only major effort outside of Ford's Highland Park and River Rouge complexes to fully integrate automobile manufacturing and assemblyoperations on a large scale at a single site. Dodge Main was also a crucial battleground for the United Automobile Workers (U.A.W.) and the entire Detroit labor movement, particularly during the March 1937 strike at Dodge, the largest sitdown strike in American history. Finally, the plant has had profound effects on the community of Hamtramck and on the adjacent neighborhoods of Detroit. The physical and social character of Hamtramck was largely determined by the Dodge Main plant.

Building the Dodge Brothers Works
Conversion to Automobile Manufacturing
Dodge Auto Production Begins
The Chrysler Era 1928-1980
Changes to the Plant during the Chrysler Era
Significance of the Hamtramck Plant
Inefficiencies at the Plant
Impact of the Hamtramck Plant