The complicated allure of industrial tourism
Brooklyn, United States
New York’s Brooklyn Navy Yard opened in 1801 and was used to build warships, including the United States’ first steam-powered military ship, the Fulton Steam Frigate. After the shipyard closed in 1966, it was turned into a city park. Today, it is a 300-acre industrial park with more than 40 buildings, including residential and office space. The Brooklyn Historical Society hosts bus and bike tours of the Navy yard.
A truly unique experience can be found at the BMW Plant in Munich. Tours lead visitors throughout the automobile factory, allowing them to witness how parts are produced, how engines are built and how cars are assembled. Tours include visits to the BMW press shop, body shop, paint shop and engine assembly area.
Detroit, United States
Once the centre of the United States’ automotive industry and an economic powerhouse, Detroit is a must-visit city for industrial tourism. Travellers can explore the history of Ford Motor Company at the Piquette Avenue Plant, where the Model T — the first affordable car for everyday Americans — was born. A few minutes away from Piquette Avenue, visitors can see manufacturing in action at the Ford Rouge Factory, the only Detroit automotive plant tour available to the public. The Rouge offers tours of its assembly plant, observation deck and legacy gallery – which houses five historic Ford cars.
Throughout Detroit, the city’s ruins provide an even grittier look into its industrial past. The abandoned Packard Motor Car Plant, on East Grand Boulevard, has become an attraction for photographers, street artists, skateboarders and even paintballers. A Detroit News video provides a glimpse into the appreciation locals have for the deteriorating building.