Pre-demolition photo of the Washington Street entrance to the front offices of Plant Building #1

The Duesenberg brothers, Fred and August, moved from New Jersey to Indianapolis in May 1920 to build a new manufacturing plant for their automobiles and engines. They had already entered cars of their own designs in the Indianapolis 500 race in several years since 1912 and wanted to be close to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to use it as a test track. The chosen sixteen acre site was at the southwest corner of West Washington Street and Harding Street. The main structures, buildings 1 and 2, were then built over the next year (Bass Photo Company image of the original plant drawings). Duesenberg automobiles were somewhat unique in that they only built the chassis and engine in their own plant; the car body was produced by an outside contracted coach body company.

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Site plan of the Duesenberg/Marmon-Herrington plant

Duesenberg cars won the 1922, 1924 and 1925 Indianapolis 500s. In 1922, it was the first time an average speed was above 90mph, and the 1925 first broke the 100mph average speed. They were fast, luxurious cars. However, even though the cars won races, actual sales were poor. In 1926, E.L. Cord, president of Auburn Automobile Company, bought the Duesenberg corporation and folded it into the Auburn-Cord business family as its luxury car brand. Yet, the 1927 500 was still won by another Duesenberg car. Under the ownership of the Auburn company, Duesenbergs continued to be built as their luxury automobile; however, the Depression took its toll on the luxury market, and on all smaller auto manufacturers.

1935 Duesenberg Model SJ, exuding speed and luxury (wikimedia)

In 1937, the Cord corporation finally succumbed to the Depression, and the Duesenberg plant site was sold to the local Marmon-Herrington Company (yes, the same Marmon that won the 1911 Indianapolis 500) for use in building all-wheel drive trucks, buses, and, later, trolleybuses. During WWII, the plant built M22 tanks. Bass Photo Company images of the plant as used by Marmon-Herrington: 1950, 1964 aerial shot of the entire plant. Marmon-Herrington left the plant in 1964, and, after a few other owners and a period of vacancy, the site was purchased by the Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation (now known as IndyGo) in 1984.

Pre-demolition photo of the plant, looking east. Note the remains of “Marmon-Herrington” on the sign.

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Additional pre-demolition photos of the plant

Despite being in good condition structurally, the entire Duesenberg/Marmon-Herrington plant was demolished in 1984, save for Building #3, which still stands parallel to Harding Street.

Unless otherwise noted, all images from the Library of Congress Historic American Buildings Survey.

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