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Parke Davis Research Laboratory and Company Plant

Not every influential Detroit business has revolved around the automobile industry. Before the first car rolled out of a local factory, the Parke-Davis and Company Pharmaceutical Plant was home to one of the most important pharmaceutical firms--if not the most important--in America. Parke-Davis both introduced new methods for producing drugs, such as a technique for standardizing doses, and discovered medicines that included the first treatments for diphtheria and epilepsy. These advances and many others occurred on this site about a mile and a half from downtown. The company first moved there in the 1870s to take advantage of convenient transportation provided by a rail line and by the Detroit River, and gradually expanded its holdings to 14 acres. Between 1891 and 1955 the company erected the 26 buildings that still stand; they range from turn-of-the-century brick mill buildings to reinforced concrete structures from after 1920. The most notable was the 1902 pharmaceutical research laboratory, the first structure designed for that purpose in the United States. In 1982 Parke-Davis, now a subsidiary of another firm, sold its property to a real estate developer. Today the complex, now known as River Place, has been converted into offices, retail space, residences, and a hotel.

The Parke-Davis Research Labarotory and Company Plant is located at Joseph Campau St. along the banks of Detroit River. The buildings are of mixed use and some are open to the public.

Parke-Davis and Company Complex Parke-Davis and Company Complex
Photograph by Parke-Davis Photo

  Parke-Davis and Company Pharmaceutical Plant Parke-Davis and CompanyPlant
Photograph by William G. MacRostie

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