The last tangible evidence of one of Detroit’s iconic brands was rapidly disappearing this week as demolition contractors tore down the last of the DeSoto plant, 50 years after Chrysler Corporation discontinued the car line.
Moreover, the Albert-Kahn-designed DeSoto plant on Wyoming Avenue between McGraw Avenue and Ford Road at the western border of Detroit, was the only automobile assembly plant erected in America during the Great Depression. Chrysler also built a truck plant in the period—but that was it for new auto assembly plants during those tough years.
Until its demise, the DeSoto plant’s huge billboard stood as a nagging competitive symbol above the Ford Freeway (later I-94) that Ford and especially Mercury executives could not help seeing as they headed back and forth from their nearby Dearborn offices to downtown Detroit or their eastside homes.
DeSoto was conceived by Walter P. Chrysler a couple of years after the 1924 introduction of the Chrysler brand, a modernized Maxwell. Walter P, a former Buick executive, had observed the success of Alfred P. Sloan’s reborn General Motors with its array of medium-priced cars based on “step-up” features. So he set out to add to the new Chrysler Corporation a low-priced Plymouth to compete with Ford and Chevrolet and a medium-priced DeSoto, matched against Oldsmobile, Buick and the host of successful independents headed by Hudson, Nash, Studebaker and, well, Dodge.