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Studebaker Factory - How Did It Disappear

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  • Studebaker Factory - How Did It Disappear

    I received the new book from Amazon today, Avanti The Complete Story by John Hull. (I have a gold '63, as depicted on the cover, #4883). Only had time to leaf through it, as am swamped with work. Again, as I looking at the fourth photo of the book of the factory in 50's South Bend, glancing up at the 1913 postcard I bought last month on ebay, of "Studebaker Works, Largest in the World", and recalling the recitation of facts and figures in History of the Studebaker Corporation by Albert Erskine, I just wondered again, how could that huge corporation occupying such a large physical footprint now be vacant lots and a new jail, the last remaining building either slated for, or just demolished? (Or, thank goodness, the Administration Building taken over as an historical site to be renovated into something new?)

    How could all those bricks, mortar and boards just disappear? The memory will disappear soon for many, I'm sure. The 27-year-old man I stayed with in South Bend last summer barely knew what Studebaker was and had virtually no curiosity about it.

    I wish I had sneaked into one of the building in 2002 at the first South Bend meet I attended. It's all photos to me except for the Administration building, which I got into 20 minutes or so before it was due to be closed back in '02.

    One of your daily lurkers, Dennis in Portland


  • #2
    It's a real shame that more could not have been saved Dennis, but the buildings were dysfunctional at best. In my opinion, the Administration Building is the most significant followed by the engineering building that SASCO occupies. Also, we still have the proving ground with the Studebaker Club House and tree sign.

    1957 Packard Clipper
    1958 Golden Hawk
    1963 Daytona Convertible
    1963 R2 Daytona
    1963 R2 GT Hawk
    1963 R1 Wagonaire
    1963 R4 Avanti
    1964 Champ
    1966 Cruiser


    • #3
      I visited SASCO on my way through in Jan, 2006, when most of the abandoned industrial complex was still standing, including the former Museum downtown. I can't say that I am at all comfortable with the form "progress" takes, but I am glad I was fortunate enough to see the Studebaker Factory before it was destroyed.


      • #4
        I've been to SB 3 times. '99 and '01 May swap meet and last year at the international meet. Each time, some of the buildings that were there were now gone. Having seen some of them, its no suprise for the most part as they were in pretty poor shape, even the ones that were occupied. The factory buildings were pretty old, even when Studebaker was still using them in the early 60s. Not sure about how well-built industrial buildings in the early 1900s where, but the more recent ones (at least what I see going up) are done cheap as possible. Even a 15yr old one seems a little ratty. I would venture that if Studebaker were still around in the auto business, they (Studebaker) would have razed many of these buildings long ago too. I went to engineering college in Flint, MI in the late 80s. There were a number of GM plants there, including a somewhat historic one across the street from the campus where early Chevys were made. I think the UAW was established there after a strike in the 30s. Any rate, although I've not been back to Flint since, its my understanding that most all of the old GM factory buildings there were torn down in the past 10-15yrs. Not too many corporations care to preserve their history to the extent of saving their obsolete or worn-out buildings. "Bean-counters" rule so if the structure is not returning on investment its got to go

        Jeff in ND

        '53 Champion Hardtop

        Jeff in ND


        • #5
          My first trip to South Bend was a swap meet in the early 90's. I believe that a substantial amount of the original factory buildings were standing. The swap meet was spread out enough that I could walk through several that were in use during that time. I would never admit this but I believe I saw some areas that were not part of the meet. You could only imagine the scale of jobs that this corporation supported and the devastation of the local economy when they folded. That was the true value of the location. HOWEVER, I spent 34 years in the chemical industry demolishing, planning and constructing facilities. My thoughts about the Studebaker facility was, Oh My Gosh, How could I afford to maintain these buildings? Not only would that be impossible but they are an absolute fire hazard, no carrier would underwrite them. Absolutely no utilities without a total rehab and absolutely no material flow. Also, how would you get good people to work in them. And last but not least, The current tax laws would make it far better to depreciate a new complex and a revamped old one. I think Studemichael said it, they are dysfunctional at best. It's too bad they can't be saved but luckily there are Historical groups, SDC and Philanthropists to preserve the memories.


          • #6
            Our first family trip to South Bend was to the national meet in 1968. We have returned many times in the years since. I commented to my Wife and Son during this past trip to the swap meet that it is a shame that our younger members will not have the opportunity to see the Studebaker complex as we have over the years. Its disappearance is indeed sad, but, a fact of life. All that will remain for the younger members are pictures of what used to be. In our early trips to SB, my Son and I would 'roam' the old complex, looking and taking pictures of what was. My Wife could not understand why we did that (she said she would not come down to Police headquarters to bail us out if we got into trouble) but at least my Son has the memories of what was. I suspect that soon, ALL of the old complex will be gone, including the Admin Bldg. I think it is wishful thinking to assume it will remain. We make a return trip to SB each year to remember what was, and, to remember Studebaker in our own little way. Gone, but never to be forgotten! Long live Studebaker!



            • #7
              I am VERY surprised no one has mentioned the Foundry yet!! For now, it is still standing, and was one of the more significant buildings in the Studebaker complex, and LOTS of history still remains within. If one wants to get a good look at it, NOW is the time to do so, and its days are numbered. The great folks at Underground Pipe & Valve Company, notably, Devon, were so kind to let myself and another SDC member tour through the facility. This was on the Friday morning of the International Meet, and Devon was somewhat surprised only us two bothered to show up for a look, as he actually was expecting more SDCer's to visit.

              Pictoral link here:



              • #8
                quote:Originally posted by 8E45E

                Devon was somewhat surprised only us two bothered to show up for a look, as he actually was expecting more SDCer's to visit.
                Too bad I missed out- I would have enjoyed that! I followed TW and this forum for a couple years leading up to that meet, and this is the first I heard of it Wish I had known.

                Robert (Bob) Andrews Owner- Studebakeracres- on the IoMT (Island of Misfit Toys!)
                Parish, central NY 13131

                "Some people live for the rules, I live for exceptions"- 311

                "With your Lark you're on your own, free as a bird, alive as a Lark. You've suddenly discovered that happiness is a thing called Larking!"


                • #9
                  On the subject of how things like this can disappear, maybe I can explain it with my experience:

                  I grew up on a on-and-off farm. I always loved the place, and the property. Being the sentimental type, the place holds tons of fond memories for me.

                  When my father died in 1984, my mother had an awful time. Finally she couldn't stand to stay there. My sister and her husband wanted nothing to do with the place, and neither did my brother. I had a little money, so I bought the place.

                  The house was extremely old, almost 200 years. It had been deteriorating for decades. When I bought it I had it gutted and remodeled. Although I grew up there, I never liked the house. Fast forward to 2003. The house needed a roof and siding, and some foundation work. Estimates to do what it needed totaled $28K; for an old house that I didn't like. So began the decision process.

                  Ultimately I tore the house down and built a new one, on the same spot. This one is all new, latest technologies, and just the way I wanted it. Clearly the smartest way to go, as now I have the best of both worlds- a new home, on the land I grew up on and love so much. I plan to live out my life here.

                  The moral of the story: It was a terribly hard decision to tear down the house I grew up in. My brother and sister cried. So did Linda and I- our son came home as a newborn here, and watching the excavator rip into his nursery was tough. But as I prayed and worked through the decision process I realized that nothing- and nobody- lasts forever. Everything has a beginning- and end. The old house had just plain reached the end of it's life span.

                  So it is with anything, including even massive and great institutions- like Studebaker... and it's buildings.

                  Robert (Bob) Andrews Owner- Studebakeracres- on the IoMT (Island of Misfit Toys!)
                  Parish, central NY 13131

                  "Some people live for the rules, I live for exceptions"- 311

                  "With your Lark you're on your own, free as a bird, alive as a Lark. You've suddenly discovered that happiness is a thing called Larking!"


                  • #10
                    Just a few years ago(10?), when in Buffalo N.Y., I looked up the location of the Pierce-Arrow factory complex. Even though the last Pierce was prodced in 1938, the factory was still there in all it's glory, with "Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company" in large letters over the administration building. Apparently, they constructed the factory with as much quality as the cars, for it seemed in pretty decent shape. I drove through the complex and it was completely occupied. What an awesome sight.

                    Pierce buildings still intact - and Studebaker's not. Ironic.

                    Roger "153624" Hill

                    55 Champion
                    47 M-5
                    Izzer Buggy
                    Junior Wagon
                    Roger Hill

                    60 Lark Vlll, hardtop, black/red, Power Kit, 3 spd. - "Juliette"
                    61 Champ Deluxe, 6, black/red, o/d, long box. - "Jeri"
                    Junior Wagon - "Junior"

                    "In the end, dear undertaker,
                    Ride me in a Studebaker"


                    • #11
                      One thing that amazes me is that since 2007 was our first trip to SB, I had visions of where the RR station was in relatioship to the entire complex.

                      Each night returning to our hotel we passed by the RR station and when you visualize the photo aformentioned and SB as it stands today the only real conclusion one can make is Studebaker was South Bend.

                      If you take the time from 1966 to the late 90's you can see how slowly each building went and that 25 year time frame is like seeing your child grow, you don't notice it. It is only when you see baby pictures and your kids grown that time has flown.


                      • #12
                        On another positive note, the entire Hamilton assembly plant is still standing, with a few areas in use (the whole shebang nearly became a movie soundstage a couple years ago!). On the north wall, the huge STUDEBAKER lettering applied around 1950 by the E.L.Ruddy Sign Co. is still legible. Here (all going well) is a photo from last December 1 showing my 62 Lark with the sign visible behind...

                        Going to try this spring/summer to get some more shots of the Lark around the factory buildings. Happily there does not seem to be any immediate prospect of the complex disappearing!