The Packard Plant. A Detroit legend. An Albert Khan masterpiece. The building that all of the news stories featured as emblematic of Detroit’s economic downfall.
The Pack was also a legendary exploring destination. It was a 3.5 million square foot lawless demilitarized zone in the middle of one of Detroit’s less savory neighborhoods. I remember as we were parking the cars for this visit, one of my local friends advised me to leave the doors of my extremely unfortunate rental car (a new Toyota with Ohio plates) unlocked. The idea was that it wasn’t overly likely that someone would steal the car, but it was highly likely that someone would break a window to look for anything valuable inside.
Anything was possible at the Pack. No matter how exotic your desire for lawlessness, you could indulge freely with essentially no possibility of repercussions. Ample evidence exists to back up this assertion. Of course, this also meant that you were on your own in terms of your personal security. Traveling in large groups was advisable, but there was room for tactical decisions as well.
Of course, there was much more to the Packard than a post-apocalyptic playground. It was once a massive, bustling and revolutionary automotive plant. While it became something of a cliche for news media to use it as a symbol of Detroit’s downfall, the reality of visiting it quickly made it obvious that there were legitimate reasons it was focused on so heavily. That a structure so big could be left completely without purpose was unimaginable to someone from the Northeast. No one who has not explored it can ever understand what it was truly like.
The Packard is easily one of my favorite places I have ever explored. The vast emptiness and lack of equipment left behind leads some people to think that it would not be particularly interesting to visit. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whether a symbol of Detroit’s downfall, a massive former automotive plant, or the living abandonment filled with people and parties and crime and mischief, the Packard was an incredibly compelling place to visit.
I came to regard the Packard as the Center of Power of our group of friends and fellow explorers for the frantic years we spent together. As people have aged, priorities changed, and abandonments have disappeared we do not see each other as often or explore as fervently as we did, but there is no question that the memories we made here are still fresh in all of our minds. Some of the best times I ever had with some of the best people I have ever met were here in this crumbling automotive plant. I will never forget this place.