An iconic symbol of Detroit’s heyday, demise and resurgence was destroyed on Wednesday afternoon when a bridge connecting two buildings at the historic Packard Automotive Plant collapsed onto the street below it.
No one was injured in the incident, which the facility’s current owner said was likely caused by a combination of existing structural problems and recent temperature changes. Fallen bricks were noticed by construction crews earlier in the day and East Grand Boulevard was closed to traffic as a precaution.
Construction of the factory began in 1903 and it was the largest in the world for many years, growing to cover 42 acres by the time automotive production ended in 1954. Along with automobiles, it was used to manufacture airplane engines during both World Wars. The bridge was built in 1939 and was an integral part of the assembly process, used to transport vehicle bodies from one building to the other, according to The Detroit News.
After its automotive business was wrapped up in 1958, parts of the factory were leased out to various companies, but it was slowly abandoned as it deteriorated and became a frequently photographed landmark of urban decay. It was finally vacated in 2010 and most of it was sold to a developer at a foreclosure auction in 2013 for $405,000.
The complex is currently undergoing a $300 million redevelopment as a mixed-use facility that is expected to take a decade or longer to complete, with the first building scheduled to open to tenants next year.
The bridge, which is co-owned by the developer and the city along with an adjacent building, had been off-limits to tours over the past few years due to concerns about its integrity and was wrapped in a covering depicting an image of how it looked when the plant was in operation.
It featured prominently in the season premiere of Amazon’s hit car show “The Grand Tour,” which was released last Friday but was shot several months earlier. The episode focused on American muscle cars and was set in Detroit, with the hosts driving their cars on the streets around the plant in one segment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report