Historic Detroit

River Place

Though Detroit is best known for its enormous auto factories, it also was once home to the world’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Parke-Davis was established in 1866 by Hervey Parke and George Davis, who later set up shop along the Detroit riverfront in the 1870s. Along the way they would build the first pharmaceutical research laboratory and revolutionize the clinical testing of new drugs. Among their products: the first bacterial vaccine, and the first widely available treatment for epilepsy and seizure, and they developed the Salk polio vaccine for widespread use.

This 14.5-acre complex, today known as River Place, is bounded by Jos. Campau, Wight Street, McDougal Avenue and the Detroit River. Its 26 buildings — since turned into residential, office space and a hotel — were built between 1891 and 1955 and were designed by firms including Smith, Hinchman & Grylls; Donaldson & Meier and Albert Kahn.

Parke-Davis is now a division of Pfizer.