Kettering University Archives at Factory One

The Kettering University Archives is located  at Factory One in Flint. The focus at the archives is to preserve and provide access to the history of  Kettering University, the automotive industry, and Flint.

History of Factory One

This modest building is one of the more significant structures in the city of Flint, because it was from this building that William C. “Billy” Durant and J. Dallas Dort began building a variety of wagons that helped then create the largest wagon manufacturing company in the world. It also provided much of the capital that Durant used to create another little company that he ended up calling “General Motors.”Factory One Building

The building was first constructed in 1880 to house a cotton textile mill but was never used for that purpose. Durant and Dort bought the Coldwater (MI) Road Cart Company in 1887, and contracted with local wagon builder William Paterson to build the road carts in Flint. Paterson quickly discovered that he could sell a competing model and undercut Durant-Dort, which forced the two fledgling entrepreneurs to open their own factory. They came upon the empty facility on Water Street, hired workers, and began production. Durant’s success as a salesman, and Dort’s success operating the plant, led to the company quickly expanding; in 1897 the two-story building housing the Archives was added, and in the years afterward the complex extended down the block to present-day Grand Traverse Street. Durant-Dort vertically-integrated the company, as well, adding companies that produced paint, wheels, and other accoutrements—the same methodology Durant later employed to create General Motors. Archive photo of Dort Motor Company factory now home of the Kettering University ArchivesThe manufacture of wagons ceased in 1915, and Dort was prevailed upon by his workers to move into the manufacture of automobiles, and thus established the Dort Motor Car Company on the site. Dort closed that operation in 1924, and the buildings entered a second life as new commercial entities moved in; for many years, 303 W. Water was home to Winegarden’s Furniture Store, and the site also served as an antique store. Most recently, One Stop for Help occupied part of the building.

Archive photo of the interior of Dort Motor Company factory now home of the Kettering University's ArchivesOne May 4, 2017, the Kettering University Archives moved into the Factory One building. In Factory One, the Kettering Archives will now be more accessible to the general public, school groups, media, scholars, historians and community members interested in this country’s deep and important contributions to the automotive industry – past, present, and future.

Interior of Factor One, home of the Kettering University Archives

The Kettering University Archives

The Special Collections and University Archives at Kettering University was established in 1974 largely through the vision and research interests of one Richard P. Scharchburg and members of the university’s Alumni Foundation.

The nexus of the collection was the acquisition of the William C. “Billy” Durant Collection from Durant’s widow, and has grown into a collection in excess of 4,500 linear feet of documents (manuscripts and photographs, mainly), plus several hundred books and other “artifacts.” The emphasis of the collection documents the early history of the automobile industry—not surprisingly, given the early history of the University itself. Because of this, however, the collection is also an excellent source for the history of Flint and the history of Kettering University itself; the three are inexorably intertwined.

The collection also documents the administrative, academic, and social life of Kettering University. Beginning with the papers of Maj. Albert Sobey, the archives is the home of the records kept by his successors, as well as many other offices of the University. The archives has also collected copies of The Reflector, the yearbook published by the student body, and other student organizations, as well—and the archives is always looking to add more of those kinds of records. 

To visit or contribute to the archives, contact Dina Mein, University Librarian, (810) 762-7812 or