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Durant history anyone ? ?

Mark Gregory

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Interesting how creative Durant was with his Canadian Head Office it has gotten a Historical designation.

Have any other car makes buildings have that or they all torn down ? ?


While its application in commercial buildings was less typical, it was employed in Cass Gilbert's famous Woolworth Building skyscraper (1913) in Manhattan, as well as in Toronto at the Bay Street McLaughlin Motor Car Showroom (1925), later known as Addison on Bay.






The Durant Motors of Canada headquarters office building is a well-designed and carefully crafted in its composition and details. Set on the west side of Laird Drive, opposite to the car factory complex on the east, its presence as an effective billboard for the company was maximized through its design as a long, narrow, two-storey block set on a raised basement with a tall parapet creating the greatest impact facing the street. (Image 22) The narrow plan not only managed to provide an effective response to great extent of the car manufacturing premises on the east side of Laird, it also provided humane well-lit offices. 


Durant Motors of Canada, Ltd.
In 1921 Durant Motors of Canada, Ltd. opened in Leaside, taking over the two acres of land and the vacant premises of the former Leaside Munitions Company. (Images 12 and 16, as above) Durant Motors of Canada was a subsidiary of the Michigan-based American Company of the same name and was incorporated to manufacture and sell automobiles in Canada with additional sales in the United Kingdom. It was run by the entrepreneur William Crapo "Billy" Durant (1861-1947) who had co-founded (1908) and been President of General Motors and later Frigidaire. In 1922 Durant extended the munitions company buildings with a purpose-built car factory whose construction was overseen by the American parent company.
6 (Image 17) In 1922 the first wholly- Canadian Durant car was manufactured. By 1924 Durant was the third largest producer of automobiles in Canada. The range was increased from Star and Durant models to Star Six and Road King. (Images 18, 19 and 20)



In 1925, the Canadian, Roy D Kerby (b. 1888) joined the company as Sales Manager advancing to General Manager by 1926 and President by 1929. He increased production, exporting 5,000 cars to the United Kingdom alone. Scott credits the success of the company to the "aggressiveness and personality"7 of Kerby who he claimed was one of the youngest chief executives in the North American automobile industry.

In 1928 the new company office headquarters were built on the west side of Laird Drive.8 (Image 21) Writing in 1931 Scott described the company as owning 18 acres of land and 11 buildings "equipped with the most modern and up to date machinery for the production of passenger automobiles and trucks."9 With the impact of the Depression, the American Durant parent company was experiencing financial difficulties ultimately defaulting on a loan which resulted in the Canadian branch becoming wholly Canadian owned. Kerby, who has been described as a "staunch Canadian" who would not allow his wife to purchase American goods when travelling in the States,10 renamed the Company "Dominion Motors Ltd." and introduced a new model, the Frontenac Sedan, a luxury vehicle named for Louie de Baude, Comte de Frontenac et du Palluau (1622- 1698), a soldier and Governor General of New France from 1672-82 and 1689-1698.



However, the new Canadian company could not escape the impact of the depression and, in December 1933, the company stopped producing the Frontenac. They continued producing cars on the site including the REO Speedwagon in partnership with Ransom E Olds. Dominion sold off their manufacturing facilities in parts initially to CWCC with the remaining portion going to Frigidaire in 1944 when they also gave up their Charter as Dominion Motors Limited.11 While they no longer owned 150 Laird as of 1942, the building was still known as the Dominion Building. It had been purchased by Imperial Oil Company Ltd. and then subsequently owned and renovated by the Metropolitan Separate School Board in 1964.12 In 1958, Frigidaire sold the remains of the Durant/Dominion property to CWCC who stayed on the site until 1996  over 80 years  when their new European company owners Alcatel moved them to Markham.

Edited 4 hours ago by Mark Gregory (see edit history)
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