Friday, April 26, 2013

Oak Park Power Company

This is facing north in 1907. You can see factory #06 in the background at the right just being built. This factory was for the model 35 and 34 Buick's. Electrical Review September 1906 update.

This view in 1907 shows the trees in the background running parallel with the rail line. You can also see factory #06 is in place in the background just beyond the Oak Park powerhouse. The two smoke stacks #46 at the right are from the Imperial Wheel works Company just barely visible.  You can see the area behind the factory is being graded in preparation for factories #07 and #10. Incorporation August 16, 1906.

Factory #06 is just visible off to the right in the distance. Mostly the Hamilton farm hay fields are still in place in this 1907 photo. I have still not found concrete evidence for the location of the Hamilton farm house. I may have seen it over near the rail line but have no close up that shows enough detail.  
The red arrow points to a new (steel) water tank being constructed in 1909.  The wooden tank has not yet fallen judging by the photo below which shows both tanks during the construction of this one.  Two tanks will be built in 1911 north of factory #02. This north-west view barely shows the smokestack of the powerhouse emitting smoke above factory #01 at the left. The tall metal stack  coming out of #01 was taking paint fumes out when this was the paint shop and transmission plant combined. Engines at this time were still coming from the Kearsley Street factory that was the first in Flint but was renumbered factory #02 after 1906. Go to the following link 

Buick Assembly Court Yard.

 and look at the second photo, just above the word CO. on the side of factory #01  just to the right you will notice the leftover stump of the steel stack mentioned above. 

 This would be shortly after the wooden tank fell. The new steel tank shown here is the same as what would be built in it's place. This particular tank did not last very long because it was in the way of future expansion.  Go here for more views of this area.
This photo is actually a little later than the one below. Factory #07 is almost complete and will  assemble the model 43 Buick's shortly. Factory #10 already has the second floor being erected. This #10 should not be confused with plant #10 built at the beginning of World War II. The men in charge and the location shown above is from the Flint City Directory of 1915.

This closeup of the Oak Park Power Company would have been taken while factory #07 is just being built in the background during 1908. You can see the one story gas house has also been rebuilt on the north side of the powerhouse. I still do not have much information on the gas house other than what is reported in the insurance article. I did find that Buick built a new gas plant in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1913 for what it's worth.

Go here for actual site

This west view shows Weston-Mott #2 in the background.
This east view shows Buick #07 in the background.
The yellow lines show the exact spots in all three pictures. This is the same as described further below. Basically we're seeing the two different water tanks used for the fire suppression system. The blue outline shows the addition done to factory #01 which saw many such additions from 1906 to it's end in 1963. The green outline  shows the added smoke stack and enlargement of the powerhouse to the north. You will notice in the color postcard view that the powerhouse did not yet have a proper brick smokestack. Go to the following link for a seldom seen view of the second water tank. 

Postcard Find

The yellow line points out the same spot in this before and after shot of the powerhouse facing north. The original is hardly recognisable after all the expansions.
Just a bit different view north up the old rail spur between the factories. Some of these rails were left in place and could still be found in some areas covered with blacktop (Tarvia-top) in the early 1980's before the creation of Buick City. In my time this was the entrance off of Hamilton Avenue to factory #04. The #31 should not be confused with the axle plant #31 that took over this number after World War II.
Showing how large the powerhouse became in two years. Factory #10 just to the right or north of the water tower (in the 1908 view)  is shown larger than it would actually be when built in 1909. Factories #06, #07, #10 and #16 were all built using the same blueprint. The small structure shown at the southeast corner of factory #01 (left foreground) was never built.
Showing the proposed east annex of the powerhouse that is shown further below. Go here for the east annex view.
Just a closeup of the #26 powerhouse sometime after 1910 because factory #10 is now shown directly north. Factory #10 was the model 28 and 29 assembly plant at this time, with the closed body Buick's being built there in 1916. Touring cars were still the norm. in 1910.
This 1911 layout is not all entirely correct. The Brass works and truck garage proposals shown were not built in these locations.  Click on the link for the complete story: General Electric wires Buick.
I have found nothing further on this explosion at the powerhouse in 1912. This was found in the "Locomotive  Trade".
Facing north over the Buick site in 1920. You can see the new #14 powerhouse being built on Leith Street which will replace #26. I have also marked the location of the (far in the future)  #07 powerhouse that replaced #14 in the early 1970's. The old Weston-Mott powerhouse #6 was renumbered Buick #36 in 1913. The #36 designation would be used again later for the engine plant in the early 50's.
Here we can see the east wall of #26 shortly before demolition. This portion of the powerhouse only lasted 10 years.
This east facing view has Hamilton and Industrial Avenue in the lower foreground. The main building of the powerhouse #26 has the two large stacks. The small stack in the distance would at this time be #36 power house which is the old Weston-Mott #6.
This east facing close-up shows a conveyor leading to the power house. This is after the #14 power plant on Leith Street has been built so this was not used for long as shown below.
Facing south during demolition in 1921. This is the coal off-loading area for #26 powerhouse. Barely visible at the left is factory #07. Look to the far distance in the right background for the bridge that connects factory #08 with #04. You will notice the northern most smokestack has now been almost entirely removed. Paul Williams who does the Buick facebook site had no further information on this photo.
I think this is late 1909. This view is facing west,

This view is facing south-west.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Leonard Thygesen Remembrances

Lightning strike during the factory #44 demolition. These are  just snips I took off of Leonard's documentary showing  glimpses of single moments in time that  he has spoken of. 

Sun reflecting off of windows in old factory #40 during one of many flyovers by Leonard during Buick's demolition.

Reminiscent of the video taken by Dr. Robert Ballard while filming the Titanic when his light reflected off of a porthole.  
The Buick hawk spotted in a washroom of factory #44 after a portion of factory #04 has fallen.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Buick Powertrain North


Checking fire extinguishers and sprinklers, a handful of workers are last vestiges of fire department at Flint's old Buick City complex

Bryn Mickle | bmickle1@mlive.comBy Bryn Mickle | 
on September 27, 2008 at 12:00 PM, updated September 27, 2008 at 12:10 PM

"At one time there used to be 32 guys on this fire department. It was quite a booming place in it's day," says Buick Fire Department firefighter Joseph Huber (center). "We're a dying breed. There's no full-time GM firefighters anymore. We're all just kind of fading away little at a time." "It's nothing like the city of Flint. These guys are running hot to a house that's burning. We're out here trying to keep the stuff from burning." Also pictured is firefighter Edward Ferguson.
FLINT, Michigan -- The fire hall was boarded up years ago.
The ambulance is in a museum.
The lone fire truck has outlasted the company that built it.
Piece by piece, the Buick Fire Department is fading away.
For more than 60 years, Flint's "other" fire department has kept vigil at the former Buick City complex.
But as the workforce at the remaining plants dwindles away, the department's four remaining firefighters wonder what the future holds.
A 1950 photo of Buick City Fire Department firefighter Claude W. Peake.  
"It's a sad situation," said Buick firefighter Edward Ferguson, who has spent 24 years with the department.
In its heyday, Buick boasted more than 28 firefighters to safeguard the sprawling grounds.
Today, it's an afterthought.
While UAW Local 599 has successfully protected the firefighters from cuts, the department isn't feeling much love from GM.
Security guards now answer the phone for fire calls, and the bigger Flint Fire Department gets called to handle anything major.
When the Buick fire chief left six months ago, GM didn't bother to replace him and now has the firefighters work with a liaison in the security office.
Buick firefighters can no longer print out duty logs from its antiquated computer because the computer is so old GM never replaced the printer when it broke.
A GM spokesman said the automaker only has a handful of fire companies left at its plants around the country.
Newer plants rely on local fire departments to douse fires and use on-site security services to check on items like extinguishers.
"(GM-run fire departments like Buick) were put in place back when the plants were like our cities," said GM spokesman Jeff Ward.
Yet, Buick firefighters say they still play an important role.
When 500 gallons of toxic methanol spilled at Factory 5 three years ago, Buick firefighters said they were on the scene before the first city fire truck rolled in.
But such emergencies are rare.
With the former Buick City populated by about 1,050 workers today -- down from 28,000 -- the firefighters focus on preventing fires in what's left of the complex.
It's a point of pride for the department.
"If we do our job right, we won't have any fires," said Joe Huber, who has been a Buick firefighter for 17 years.
That might not be an issue much longer.
A large map on the wall of the fire department details the slow death of Buick with "gone" scrawled in black marker across buildings that have either met the wrecking ball or now stand empty.
With just three factories still in use, the four firefighters still on the job left spend their shifts checking fire extinguishers, maintaining the sprinkler systems and putting out the odd trash can fire caused by a careless smoker.
As with any other full-time fire department, at least one firefighter is always on duty at any time of night or 24 hours a day.
Once a week, firefighters take the No. 73 1984 GMC 500-gallon (checking on what it is) out for a spin to make sure it still runs.
On a typical day, firefighters may ferry empty extinguishers back for service or write special burn permits for welders.
Huber said work at the complex is set to continue until 2010 and what happens after that is anybody's guess.
After Huber retires next month, he wonders if he will even be replaced.
"It's just gotten smaller and smaller," he said.  

Here is the Buick fire hall building #97 in 1950. This would be the area fronting on Division Street. Don Bent states in his book "A Place Called Buick" that this was built following World War II, but I question that timeline because of the architecture of the building. I went by here many times and never paid much attention while Leonard Thygesen says the brick used in it's construction was the sandstone type from the early teens and that the lower bricks of the foundation were eaten away by road salt over the years. You will have to make your own opinion on when this was built until better information surfaces.  LINK: 

A Place Called Buick (Second Edition)

This photo from Don Bent's book "A Place Called Buick" only shows about one third of the actual size in this photo and was taken from the north on Division Street. Don states it was built between 1926-1927 but I actually think that was when the original building was expanded in size.

This photo from the east showing the sand shed is from December 11, 1923 and is from Don's book.

This shows the inside of the sand shed. This is also from Don Bent's book. 

This composite that I created shows the foundry on the left with the sand shed on the right. These two photos were from The Buick Gallery and Research Center.
The red arrows show the location and direction that the photos in the composite (shown above)  were taken. This view is facing north-east while the composite is from the north-east.
This 1920 Buick layout shows #21's location relative to the other buildings of that era.                                                                                                                                                                                 #23 heat treat construction.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Factory windows.

This 1920 south-east view is showing the location of #21 before any expansion.                                       
This is 1920 facing north across Leith Street. Foundry #20 built in 1916 is on the left with the pattern and die shop #15 on the right. That is the sand shed (red arrow) for the foundry built in 1917. It was for keeping the sand used in the molds from freezing during the Michigan winters.  LINK: 

Pattern & Die Shop World War II.

This late teens photo shows the #20 foundry running along Division Street with the sand shed #21 shown by the red arrow. This building is fronting on Leith Street where the future building #85 will be built in 1932.  

Link: Buick Personnel 

The bridge for delivering engine blocks to the engine factory obviously makes this later than the previous photo. The sand shed is shown in the background (red arrow).
This view from the north in 1936 shows sand shed #21 at it's full size. 
This view of the Buick north of Leith is circa 1947 and shows the location of the sand shed (red) and fire hall (yellow).

This post World War II photo of Buick (facing north) shows the sand shed location (red arrow) and the fire hall (yellow arrow).
This post war map shows the location of the sand shed and fire hall relative to the other factories.
This early 80's bombsite photo shows the location of the old sand shed (red arrow) and fire hall (yellow arrow).
This snip from Leonard Thygesen's demolition documentary shows the site in 2002. Building #21 (red) and hall #97  (yellow). This is facing east.
This snip from Leonard Thygesen's demolition documentary shows the site in 2003. Building #21 (red) and hall # 97  (yellow).  Facing south-west.
This snip from Leonard Thygesen's demolition documentary shows the site in 2002. Building #21 (red) and hall # 97 (yellow). Facing north.  LINK: 

Leonard Thygesen Demolition Videos and Buick Prints.