In the 1880's, Detroit was the center of the industrial revolution, attracting businesses of all kinds from around the world. One of these was the Clayton & Lambert Manufacturing Company, formed in 1891 by two businessmen who made firepots, torches, and other heat tools. The company expanded into the automobile market in the 1910's, stamping fenders, hoods, gas tanks and radiators for the dozens of car companies that settled in Detroit. Automotive stamping became such a large part of the business that by 1919 it was spun off into a sperate division. A new factory on Conner was built for the Knodell Division, which specialized in stamping and metal work.
In 1925, Clayton & Lambert sold the Knodell Division and the Conner stamping plant to the Hudson Motor Car Company. Hudson began expanding the plant, enlisting architect Albert Khan to design multistory additions to the existing buildings. The Conner plant would supply new Hudson factories located to the south, part of a corridor of auto production that would revolutionize the industry.
By 1954, Hudson had merged with Nash-Kelvinator to form American Motors. Production of Hudson cars and parts was moved to other factories in Wisconsin, leading to the closure of the Conner plant. In 1956, Cadillac bought the former Hudson plant to make body panels for its cars. A large building to the south was added between 1961 and 1967. Between 1967 and 1973 the space between buildings was fitted with a roof and converted into a warehouse.
In later years, the plant was known as the BOC Conner Stamping plant, making parts for Buick, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac cars. By the 1980's though the multistory plant was becoming dated, and was less efficient than more modern single-story factories. In 1986 General Motors announced that it would be closing the Conner plant in one year, along with 10 other factories. 700 employees at the Conner plant were laid off.
For several years the plant was vacant until it was bought by the Ivan Doverspike company in 1993. Ivan Doverspike was a machine tool shop that was founded in 1960, specializing in remanufacturing tools. After a stint in the former Murray Factory, which was later converted into the Russell Industrial Complex, the company moved into the former BOC plant where it would remain for over 20 years.
The Doverspike plant spread out through much of the factory complex, with most of the work being done in the cavernous main stamping hall. Dozens of large tool and die machines were disassembled, rebuilt, or scrapped on the dirt floor. The adjacent floors were used for storage of spare and new parts. Other parts of the plant were used for storage of boats, vintage cars, and a massive collection of hockey and baseball cards.
Sometime in the mid 2000's Ivan Doverspike became involved with the Ecorse Machine Company, which had a modern facility in Wyandotte, MI. The Conner plant was eventually used primarily for storage as work was shifted to the Wyandotte plant. In 2013, businessman Bill Hults bought the Conner plant from Ivan Doverspike, announcing that he planned on investing $35-40 million dollars to renovate it into a factory for pre-cast modular houses. Doverspike continued to lease parts of the factory from Hults, moving into smaller and smaller spaces.
Though Hults publicly claimed he was planning on refurbishing and reopening the plant within six months, workers instead stripped the buildings of all valuable metals, including copper wiring and the large overhead gantry cranes in the main stamping plant. By 2015, most of the plant was abandoned, though Ecorse Machine continued to use one of the warehouses.
The large collection of baseball and hockey cards left behind after the plant closed became the subject of some controversy after a UK tabloid ran a story claiming the cards were worth over $1 million dollars.