One of the landmark architectural advances of the twentieth century was the first automobile plant constructed of steel-reinforced concrete, an achievement that heralded the use of a revolutionary building technology for the largest and fastest-growing new industry in the United States. Numerous sources credit architect Albert Kahn with that first concrete auto plant as a result of his 1905 design for the Packard Motor Car Company's Building No. 10. However, as Michael G. Smith demonstrates in The First Concrete Auto Factory: An Error in the Historical Record, the Cadillac Motor Car plant in Detroit, designed by architect George D. Mason, preceded Packard No. 10. Moreover, Julius Kahn, Albert's brother, oversaw the engineering and construction of both the Cadillac plant and Packard No. 10, making essential contributions to both that have gone unrecognized until now. Smith describes how this significant error in the historical record came about and remained uncorrected even as researchers and writers pursued the subject.
The First Concrete Auto Factory: An Error in the Historical Record
Michael G. Smith is a historian and photographer. His recent publications include Designing Detroit: Wirt Rowland and the Rise of Modern American Architecture (Wayne State University Press, 2017) and “Proportioning Systems in Wirt C. Rowland's Union Trust Guardian Building” (Nexus Network Journal, April 2015). firstname.lastname@example.org
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Michael G. Smith; The First Concrete Auto Factory: An Error in the Historical Record. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 1 December 2019; 78 (4): 442–453. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jsah.2019.78.4.442
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