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Soon after passing under the Martin Luther King Bridge is the General Motors Assembly Plant and former site of the Lansing Car Assembly Plant. There have been many years of automotive activity in this area including Oldsmobile, REO and Cadillac. From 1874 through the turn of the century this was the site of the Michigan State Fair.
This is the second Lansing factory of the Olds Motor Works built on the site of the Michigan State Fair Grounds. Established in 1880, P.F. Olds & Son manufactured steam engines, brass and iron castings, and steam yachts. In 1883, Ransom E. Olds joined his father’s company on River Street as a bookkeeper and machinist. In 1890 the company was incorporated as Olds Gasoline Engine Works and in 1899 this firm and the Olds Motor Vehicle Company were merged and reincorporated as the Olds Motor Works.
The first factory for the sole purpose of producing automobiles was the Olds Motor Works in Detroit, built in 1899. Belle Isle was used as a proving grounds. The factory burned in 1901. The Lansing Business Men’s Association (forerunner to the Chamber of Commerce) saw an opportunity to bring manufacturing of Oldsmobiles back to Lansing. They brokered a deal with Ransom E. Olds whereby Olds could rebuild his factory on the site of the Michigan State Fair. The race track of the fair grounds (seen in these pictures) was used as a test track for further development of the Oldsmobile. Olds sold 2,000 of his Curved Dash model in 1902 (a sales record at the time), using the slogans: “Built to run and does it” and “There is nothing to watch but the road.”
This photo at left, is a good demonstration of some of the many ways an early gas motor could be put to use. Motors were fitted with belts that would turn the machines on the shop floor. At right, thousands of stationary gasoline engines were produced by the company providing between one and 50 horsepower and priced between $200 and $2,400. Later the company would expand its line and offer huge stationary engines up to 300 horsepower. The engines were used to pump water from the ground, saw raw lumber into boards, split firewood, mill, and generate the power needed for the large manufacturing plants.