The Origins of Genesee CountyPart 4: Durant Hotel


Concluding our four-part series on the origins of Genesee County, let’s go back (although not very far) to a glamorous time – a time when the Durant Hotel was more than an office building. Durant Hotel is part of our “Origins” story because it is a piece of history that still exists; but it is currently making its own history … as an office building, sure, but history nevertheless.

Along with office space available for lease, The Durant can also be rented for events.

Proven by its utility, The Durant has been a significant part of Flint’s revitalization efforts; the renovation created contemporary, urban-style loft apartments Downtown, while still preserving the original architectural features. Additionally, The Durant served as the backdrop to other chapters in history. One such example is the Sit-Down Strike in 1936-37, when Michigan Governor Frank Murphy came to Flint and used Durant Hotel as headquarters to begin negotiations to end the strike.

durant-3Built in 1920, the hotel provided luxurious and picturesque lodging for international business leaders, politicians and entertainers. Including accommodations, the hotel was a venue for weddings, conventions, and other gatherings. It was named after General Motors founder, William C. Durant, who resigned from the company presidency before the hotel opened, although he had donated $300,000 to the building efforts. It took three years (the delay a result of World War I) and cost $2.5 million to complete. Durant Hotel was a glamorous place to stay. It opened for business on December 14, 1920 and had 300 guest rooms, all with private bathrooms. Michigan Governor, Albert E. Sleeper, was the first registered guest. The Grand Opening was held on New Year’s Eve 1920 and included speeches and dancing, with over 500 of Flint’s finest society members in attendance. Business took off and required an addition to be constructed on the rear of the building. The Flint City Club used an eight-room suite (the Durant Suite) on the sixth floor for their meeting place until 1973.

With ballrooms, restaurants and a shopping district, Durant Hotel was more like a small town! The lobby had large marble columns and a marble floor, lavishly furnished with plush armchairs, tapestries, and crystal chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings.

durant-1Despite its prestige, Durant Hotel suffered significantly during tough economic times. However, the Great Depression did not affect the hotel as harshly as other businesses because of merger between the United Hotel Co. and Bowman-Biltmore Group in 1929. A 1930 renovation ended up setting back the hotel. In 1939, guests slowed due to the economic climate. By 1940, Durant Hotel was facing foreclosure proceedings, a result of the owners falling behind on mortgage payments. In August 1940, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company purchased the hotel at an auction.

The Pick Hotel chain snatched up the building in June 1942 – temporarily renamed to Pick-Durant Hotel – and created a more efficient business. In the 1960s, smaller hotels began popping up along the newly completed I-75 and U.S. 23, creating competition for Pick-Durant. By 1968, there was talk of putting the hotel back on the market, and that began a complete renovation. The makeover included adding electric signs, changing the lobby’s design, and re-vamping the floor space, which added two more restaurants.

In 1991, the allure of the suburbs caused a decline in activity in Downtown Flint. Durant Hotel officially closed in 1973, and the Genesee County Landbank acquired the building in 2005.

With its fine furnishings, décor and services, Durant Hotel provided guests with the swankiest experiences, akin to those found in a bigger city, like New York or Los Angeles. The cosmopolitan allure of The Durant reverberates still with its current use of spacious offices with fantastic views of Downtown, its modern amenities and an exciting history.



Comments are closed.