The automotive story of Pontiac stretches back beyond a century as part of the larger Detroit metro, but that narrative does not simply end with the machines manufactured here, but the impact upon the built environment too that resulted in an entire neighborhood being designed and constructed to house hundreds of local GM workers in the early 20th century.
At the close of World War I, demand for automobiles exploded, and in 1919 General Motors found that it could not keep up with the demand. This was in part due to a critical housing shortage near its plant in Pontiac: although the company could find workers, the workers could not find any housing. In response, GM established the Modern Housing Corporation. The company first began developing 750 houses on a 660 acre parcel just southwest of the current district, and in October 1919 continued by platting the Modern Housing Corporation Addition. The neighborhood was developed under the leadership of Pierre S. du Pont, then Chairman of GM’s Board of Directors. Du Pont commissioned William Pitkin of Boston to lay out the streets of the neighborhood, and Davis, McGrath, and Kiessling of New York to design the homes. Construction began immediately. General Motors promoted the housing to its employees, offering financial incentives and reduced down payments. By 1923, over 80% of the lots in the addition had homes built on them, and by 1926 the construction was substantially complete.
The Modern Housing Corporation Addition contains 261 modest homes, along with three public spaces, in a 61-acre tract. All but 12 of the houses are built from one of 16 architectural patterns. The lots are generally 50 feet by 100 feet, with houses of one to two stories and two to four bedrooms, finished with clapboard, wood shingle, stucco and brick. Many of the two-story houses have different materials on each story.