Project Description

The Continental Motors was an engine manufacturing plant that built and supplied engines for many of Detroit’s automobile makers throughout the early 20th century.  Continental Motors was built at in 1911 and was designed by noted Detroit architect, Albert Khan.  Towering high above the complex was the iconic smokestack with the brand name “CONTINENTAL” written down its south side.  Continental Motors was located at 12701 East Jefferson, at the corner of Gray Street.

Continental Motors dominated the automobile engine market through the 1910’s and 1920’s, supplying motors to over 120 manufacturers in Detroit and around the country.  In 1929, the company began building aircraft engines, and became a major supplier for small aircraft.  Despite its use in so many brands, Continental remained a relatively unknown name to the consumer. When the company started building cars under the Continental name in the early 1930’s they were poorly received by the public, and production ended after just a few years.

When the Continental Motors seized operations at the plant in 1965, Continental Aluminum moved in.  Continental Aluminum used much of the old structure of Continental Motors, but ended up having problems in Detroit. Continental Aluminum was accused of allowing dangerous pollutants to escape from it’s iconic smokestack.  Nearby residents complained about unfiltered emissions that allowed harmful toxins to contaminate the air in the residential community around the plant.  The melting of the aluminum created toxic vapors, mostly due to the various oils and coatings that may be on the metal during the melting process.  In an attempt to downsize and regulate the melting process, Continental Aluminium ended up demolishing a lot of the former and original Continental Motors plant, only to eventually close the Detroit plant in 1998 and moved all operations to a more rural-area outside of the city.  The remainder of the Detroit location of Continental Aluminum/Continental Motors became vacant and still sits abandoned today.

As of 2015, the former Continental Motors plant still sits abandoned.  There are no current plans for the property.