The Way it Was

Packard Motor Car Company, 1912


Published:

Packard company president Henry Bourne Joy // photograph courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection, Detroit Public Library

1912“Ask the man who owns one,” was the luxurious Packard Motor Car Company’s advertising slogan, and if you asked this man, he could tell you plenty about the allures of the Packard. He’s Henry Bourne Joy, the Packard Co.’s president, tooling around in the snow in a 1912 Packard 6 Runabout. Joy is appropriately decked out in a fur coat and hat. Born into wealth in Detroit in 1864, Joy and a group of other investors got Packard situated on sound financial footing. Brothers William Doud and James Ward Packard founded the company in Warren, Ohio, in 1899. But by 1902, the siblings needed more capital. Enter Henry B. Joy. In 1902, he renamed the firm from the New York and Ohio Automobile Co. to the Packard Motor Car Co. and moved it to Detroit the following year. A massive plant was designed by Albert Kahn and erected on East Grand Boulevard. The Packard soon became a status symbol and a favorite auto among presidents, European royalty, and Hollywood stars. Joy also enlisted Kahn to design his lavish home on Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Farms, which was dubbed “Fair Acres.” After Joy died in 1936, his widow, Helen Hall Newberry Joy, continued to live there until her death in 1958. The home was razed soon thereafter. But the 15 “Joy Bells” — purchased by Joy from a French company in 1929 — were salvaged from the estate and today are installed in a carillon tower at Moross and Grosse Pointe Boulevard. In the 1950s, Packard bought the Studebaker Corp., but its days were numbered. The last Packard rolled off the assembly line in 1956, and the gargantuan plant deteriorated. But recently, the edifice was bought by Spanish developer Fernando Palazuelo and is being rehabbed in phases, starting with the administrative building. The redevelopment plans call for commercial offices, an art gallery, a restaurant, and an events space.

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