AKA: General Motors Corporation (GM), Chevrolet Truck Assembly and Parts Factory, East 14th Street Business District, Oakland, CA

Structure Type: built works - industrial buildings - factories

Designers: [unspecified]

Dates: constructed 1921-1922

2 stories

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10910 International Boulevard
East 14th Street Business District, Oakland, CA 94577

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The factory stood on the northeast corner of East 14th Street (renamed "International Boulevard") and Durant Avenue (originally known as "Stanley Avenue").


Beginning in the summer of 1922, a number of automobiles were produced here, including Durant Motor Company Model Four and Six vehicles, as well as its Star brand, the short-lived De Vaux-Hall Motors Company's De Vaux automobile, and Chevrolet and other General Motors (GM)-brand trucks. GM purchased the former Durant Motors Company plant in Oakland in 1936, and utilized it until the summer of 1963.

Most of the complex has been renovated to house a shopping area, the Durant Marketplace, a FoodMaxx grocery store, and the Durant Lofts Apartments.

Building History

General Motors Corporation (GM) founder and Chevrolet Motor Company co-founder William Crapo Durant (1861-1947) had a remarkable, boom-and-bust career as an automobile executive. Working previously in a highly successful horse-drawn cart and carriage business in Flint, MI, the Durant-Dort Carriage Company, Durant became interested in the possibilities of the automobile sector, gradually emerging in the US during the 1890s, with many of these early producers clustered in Lower MI. Durant, never shy to make a bold move, bought David Dunbar Buick's (1854-1929) failing Buick automobile company in 1904, the first of many brand acquisitions executed over the next 20 years. He formed the General Motors Holding Company in 1908 and rapidly congolmerated a range of 13 auto brands and 10 parts producers in MI during 1908-1909, before losing control of his company to a group of creditors led by Boston-based banker James J. Storrow (1864–1926) in 1910.

Undaunted, he partnered with Louis Chevrolet (1878-1941) in 1911, to form the Chevrolet Motor Company in Detroit and Canada. In 07/1911, Durant opened his first Chevrolet Assembly Plant at 1145 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit. He prospered with Chevrolet, and began plotting his recapture of GM, which occurred by 1915-1916. With the assistance of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, he managed to regain control of GM for four years, 1916-1920, adding again to its line of brands. (Pierre S. du Pont [1870-1954] would become Chairman of the GM Board of Directors on 11/11/1915, and with his backing, Durant was restored to the presidency on 06/01/1916.) During the recession just after World War I, Durant's frenetic pace of expansion caused GM to again become financially overextended. The du Pont Company assisted GM at this time, but forced Durant out as head of the company.

In 1915-1916, just as he was about to re-take his old position atop GM, Durant, his son, Russell Clifford Durant (1890-1937), and a top executive, Norman De Vaux (1876-1964), erected the first Chevrolet plant on the West Coast, at Foothill Boulevard and 69th Street, where the Eastmont Mall later was built. In 1917, De Vaux served as President and R.C. Durant, Vice-President and Sales Manager, of this new entity, the Chevrolet Motor Company of California. "Billy" Durant was connected to this Oakland facility for only four years, before he again lost control of GM.

The indefatigable Durant began another new auto company, the Durant Motors Company (DMC), in 1921. He again pursued aggressive production and marketing strategies; as with Chevrolet, he maintained a network of de-centralized assembly facilities across the US. The DMC did not produce many of its own components, but bought these from sub-contractors. (For the DMC in 1921-1922, he bought or built plants in Long Island City, NY, Elizabeth, NJ, Lansing, MI, Muncie, IN, Leaside, ON, and Oakland. Initially in 1921-1922, the Long Island City plant turned out the most cars, but would be surpassed by the new Lansing and Oakland plants later during 1922-1923.) He also pioneered the creation of dealer networks and marketing incentives for retailer sellers and continued the multi-tier brand structure he had initiated at Chevrolet. (For Durant Motors, he assembled the variably-priced stable of Durant, Flint and Star brands.) He opened the Durant Motor Company's new assembly facility in Oakland on or about 08/03/1922.

Utilizing Durant's expert salesmanship and market saavy, the company flourished during the mid-1920s, but, saw sales dwindle during the later decade. Once again, he overexpanded his product line and wracked up significant debt in overly-rapid acquisitions. The DMC failed during the Depression's nadir years in 1933. Following the Durant Motors Company bankruptcy, William Crapo Durant received a small pension from his GM associate, Alfred P. Sloan (1875-1966), and, late in life, managed a bowling alley in Flint, MI. He passed away poor in 1947.

De Vaux became an executive with the DMC, and would eventually start his own short-lived auto company, the De Vaux-Hall Motors Company of Grand Rapids, MI, and Oakland. Having maintained close ties to the Durants, he obtained the idled former DMC factory on East 14th Street and Stanley Avenue to assemble his innovative six-cylinder De Vaux 6/75, a luxury car that entered the market at the worst possible moment, in 1931-1932. After a year in business, the De Vaux-Hall Motors Company, closed permanently in 1932. De Vaux retained control of the Oakland plant from 1932 until selling it to GM in 1936. Following GM's acquisition of the plant, Chevrolet trucks and vehicles from the GM Truck and Coach Division were manufactured for only about a year or so.

Building Notes

In 1922, Moody's Manual of Railroads and Corporation Securities said of the Durant's new Oakland factory: "Durant Motor Company of California, capitalized at $3,000,000, is building at Oakland, Cal., a modern plant with a capacity of 30,000 cars a year. This plant is scheduled for completion in July and plans call for production in August, 1922. Mr. R. Clifford Durant, who recently was at the head of the Chevrolet Motor Company of California, is President and General Manager of this company, which will assemble the Durant car for distribution in the Pacific Coast territory." (See Moody's Manual of Railroads and Corporation Securities, Twenty-Third Annual Number, Industrial Section Vol. 1, [New York: Poor's Publishing Company, 1922], p. 1382.) Actual figures about the number of cars produced annually at the new DMC plant varied depending on the publication reporting, but the number of cars was put at between 20,000 and 30,000 per year.

The Oakland Wiki quoted a 1931 Oakland Tribune article discussing the production processes at the Oakland Durant Motors Company plant: "The mammoth DeVaux controlled Durant factory in Oakland is typical of the operations of the Western car-building plant. Parts, motors, electrical systems, etc., are received by rail and water shipments from Lansing, Michigan. With scientifically geared production lines for body building, body finishing and upholstering, and chassis construction-material is built up step by step, into complete motor cars that are then driven off the line under their own power. Testing grounds are adjacent to the factory, and from this point Durant automobiles are loaded into freight cars, crated for ocean shipment, loaded on carrier-trucks for highway delivery, or taken by dealers in “drive-aways”. At this Western Durant plant also are administrative officers who control the manufacture and sales promotion for the West, and also for export trade. Approximately, five hundred Durant dealers and distributors look to this Western plant for cars, authorized parts and advertising support." (See Oakland Wiki.com, "Durant Motors," accessed 02/01/2017.)

In 1939, the United Auto Workers (UAW) struck this plant operated by Chevrolet for three days in early 05/1939, idling its 300-member work force. (See "Chevrolet Plant in Oakland to Reopen," Seattle Times, 05/14/1939, p. 16.)

Around 1940, the plant complex had five primary buildings, a main plant composed in an E-shape, an auto and truck parts warehouse to the north, a power plant, and two administrative office buildings to the west, one housing the GM Truck and Coach Division office and the other serving the main Chevrolet plant. The two, small, rectangular office buildings had their long axes parallel to East 14th Street. The E-shaped Chevrolet factory was separated into functional zones. The plant's vertical portion of the "E" housed two functions: a final assembly building/warehouse (north) and a chassis/trim plant (south). The northern-most horizontal section of the "E" contained a capacious parts warehouse, the middle held storage and painting areas, and the southern-most section accommodated body finishing activities. In between the middle and southern lobes of the "E", executives positioned the assembly facility's power plant.


Over the years this Chevrolet-Durant-DeVaux-GM plant expanded. In 2017, however, not all of the portions extant in 1940 remained.

PCAD id: 18586