At the corner of Beaubien and Lafayette Streets in Detroit’s downtown entertainment district, there’s a handsome old brick structure known as the BoydellBuilding. It’s a bustling, happy place with several popular restaurants on the ground floor.
The Boydell Building was a busy place back in 1901, too, but for an entirely different reason. Back then, this was the center of Detroit’s industrial district, and the ground floor of this very same building was occupied by Dodge Brothers, Inc., one of the fastest-growing businesses in the city.
In around September of 1900, the two Dodge brothers, John and Horace, had just sold their successful bicycle business for $7,500, which doesn’t sound like a lot today, but at the time was a sizable sum, enough to use in equipping their own machine shop. The brothers already had a name for superior craftsmanship and absolute integrity in their work, and within a year, the little shop had all the business it could handle.
The auto industry in Detroit was just getting off the ground in those days, and the city’s first real carmakers contracted with the Dodge Brothers to manufacture their engines, transmissions and chassis. The shop employed 12 men, then 50 and then 90, expanding in 1903 into a second building a few blocks away at Hastings and Monroe. In 1910, a big new Dodge Brothers factory was constructed in nearby Hamtramck, covering many city blocks and employing thousands of workers. Steve Magnante recently visited this factory, known as Dodge Main, on the Dodge Dart Road Trip. Check out the video of what remains at the Dodge Main site today where thousands of E, A and B bodies were built.
By the time the Dodge Brothers decided to introduce their own car to the public in 1914, they were already among the largest and most experienced automakers in the world. All they lacked was a vehicle with their proud name on it, and the Dodge Brothers automobile became an instant success. Today, the Dodge name continues to stand for craftsmanship and integrity. To build your Dodge, go to Dodge.com.