Reclaimed by Nature: Abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, OH

Ever wonder what happens to a greenhouse when it is no longer tended and the plants are left to fend for themselves? The results can be truly spectacular, as I discovered when I happened upon the wild and overgrown ruins of Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio.

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

On a sunny autumn morning about 2 weeks into my epic Rust Belt road trip, I made my way through Erie County, Ohio. I'd spent the previous day exploring the awesome remains of an abandoned WWII era ammunition factory and the industrial ruins of South Bend, Indiana before continuing eastward into Ohio.

With Lake Erie to my left and stretches of farm fields and forest lands on my right, I came upon a sight so unusual and striking that I had to pull over for a closer look. A smokestack towered over a sprawling abandoned greenhouse complex overcome by the plant life it once contained.

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Trees burst through the glass ceilings and explosive plant growth dislodged panes of glass from the structure's metal frame.

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

A glimpse inside revealed a ground blanketed in greenery. Leafy vines and trees grew along the walls giving the place a jungle-like atmosphere. I felt like I was peering into some magical realm from a storybook.

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Untended vines grew thick, twisting around poles to reach up through the shattered roof.

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Some areas were so heavily shaded by foliage that few plants grew along the floor.

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

A heap of empty plant pots lay against a wall.

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Rusting equipment remained inside the main building.

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Several abandoned vehicles sat on the property.

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

The Otto family owned and operated Otto's Greenhouse for several generations, reaching back to the 1800s. They cultivated a variety of crops including cucumbers, flowers and tomatoes.

Vintage cardboard tomato boxes from the 1960s can still be found on Etsy.


The family had at least one other greenhouse in the Ceylon area, featuring a similar smokestack, but the facility is no longer standing.

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Otto's Greenhouse closed in the late 1990s due to financial difficulties. The details surrounding the closure are difficult to pin down, though a variety of reasons have been cited. Competition from cheaper imported Mexico-grown tomatoes undercut profits, especially in the wake of NAFTA in the late '90s. An attempt to pump water from Lake Erie is said to have resulted in the flooding of local homes due to an improperly installed valve.

Whiteflies, the bane of many tomato growers, also played a part in the demise of Otto's Greenhouse. The insect draws sap from the tomato plant, often spreading devastating viruses and mold infestations.

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see Otto's Greenhouse while it still stood. This beautiful structure has been demolished since the time of my visit. A drone video posted on Youtube shows that very little remains of the greenhouse, other than the smokestack and the gutted shell of the main building.

Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

I resumed my journey eastward to Akron, Ohio, where I visited several unbelievably amazing abandoned places. I can hardly wait to tell you all about them.

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Nature reclaims abandoned Otto's Greenhouse in Huron, Ohio

Industrial Ruins of South Bend, Indiana

South Bend, Indiana once thrived as a major industrial city. Since the 1960s, manufacturing jobs have steadily disappeared, leaving the Rust Belt city riddled with abandoned factories and homes.

Abandoned Escan Corporation Factory in South Bend Indiana

After stopping in Buchanan, Michigan to see the ruins of Clark Equipment Company, I headed to South Bend, Indiana to wrap up another exciting day of my Rust Belt exploration road trip.

Abandoned building in South Bend Indiana

My first stop was an abandoned fire station. I'd never been inside one before and could hardly wait to see what it was like.

This particular fire house was built in 1894 and was originally designated as South Bend Station Two. In 1922 the building was remodeled and became Station Four. It closed in 1975 and now stands vacant and boarded up with much of its roof missing.

The garage door was propped open, leaving a gap through which I could see the tires of a vehicle parked inside. As I approached, I heard music blaring and the sound of someone moving around. Despite my curiosity, I thought it best to turn around and leave the old fire station and its occupant in peace.

Abandoned Firehouse in South Bend Indiana

I made my way to the abandoned factory building once occupied by Southbend Escan Corporation. The first floor windows were covered with weathered plywood panels, but many on the second and third floors were wide open, allowing the fading daylight to seep into the factory's dark interior.

Abandoned Escan Corporation Factory in South Bend Indiana

Abandoned Escan Corporation Factory in South Bend Indiana

Beside the main building lies the ruins of another structure, mostly destroyed. All that remains are crumbling brick walls and a concrete floor covered in heaps of brick, wooden pallets and other detritus.

Abandoned Escan Corporation Factory in South Bend Indiana

Abandoned Escan Corporation Factory in South Bend Indiana

Abandoned Escan Corporation Factory in South Bend Indiana

The company was founded in 1898 as Malleable Steel Range Manufacturing Company, a producer of coal and wood burning kitchen stoves. The factory moved to the now-abandoned location in 1908. In the 1930s, the company shifted its focus to larger-scale ranges for hotels and restaurants. It also produced cooking equipment for the armed forces during World War II.

Abandoned Escan Corporation Factory in South Bend Indiana

Abandoned Escan Corporation Factory in South Bend Indiana

Abandoned Escan Corporation Factory in South Bend Indiana

The company changed its name to Southbend Escan Corporation in 1982, when it merged with Escan Metal Canada. The following year, all manufacturing operations moved to facilities in North Carolina.

Abandoned Escan Corporation Factory in South Bend Indiana

Abandoned Escan Corporation Factory in South Bend Indiana

Another of South Bend's many abandoned industrial spaces is the Wilson Brothers Shirt Company compound.

Abandoned Wilson Brothers Factory in South Bend Indiana

Founded in 1864 in Chicago, Wilson Brothers produced shirts, underwear, socks, pajamas, and neckties.The company moved to South Bend in 1883, allegedly to employ the wives of the men who worked in the nearby Studebaker plant.

Abandoned Wilson Brothers Factory in South Bend Indiana

Wilson Brothers flourished in the early 1900s, employing about 2,200 workers by 1930. During World War II, they contributed to the war effort by producing approximately 3.5 million pieces of clothing for the US armed forces.

Abandoned Wilson Brothers Factory in South Bend Indiana

Financial hardship in the '50s led to a merger with the Kentucky-based Enro Shirt Company in 1957. Unfortunately profitability continued to suffer and the South Bend factory closed in 1975.

The old industrial complex was bought by local Bill Anksorus in 2007. Rather than demolishing the buildings, Anksorus is having them carefully deconstructed so that the unique materials, including old growth wood beams and rare varieties of brick, can be reclaimed and repurposed. The University of Notre Dame has already bought tens of thousands of yellow bricks from the old structures to use for maintenance of its own buildings.

Materials reclaimed from the Wilson Brothers facility can be purchased via this website: http://www.southendreclaimed.com/south-bend-indiana-reclamation/

Abandoned Wilson Brothers Factory in South Bend Indiana

South Bend has many other abandoned industrial and residential structures, which I did not have time to visit.

A redevelopment effort is currently underway, breathing new life into some of the old buildings, while others are being demolished to make way for new construction. Of the more than 1,300 abandoned homes that existed in South Bend in 2013, over 800 have been demolished or repaired.

The grounds of the old Studebaker plant were recently transformed into Ignition Park, a technology park intended to draw new industries to the city.

Old Scottish Kilt Sign in South Bend Indiana

As the sun set on another day of exploring, I said goodbye to South Bend and continued east into Ohio, where I came upon the incredible ruins of an abandoned greenhouse. Click here for the article. You definitely don't want to miss this one.

Abandoned Wilson Brothers Factory in South Bend Indiana

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Abandoned Escan Corporation Factory in South Bend Indiana

The Old Clark Equipment Plant in Buchanan, Michigan

Clark Equipment Company of Buchanan, Michigan produced industrial and construction equipment for most of the 20th century and was a major contributor to the US wartime industry during WWII. After the plant closed in the '80s, nature and the elements have slowly eaten away at the deserted structures.


Guardhouse of Clark Equipment Company Plant in Buchanan, Michigan

After stopping in Niles, Michigan to see the endangered Pucker Street Hydroelectric Dam, I spent the afternoon in Buchanan, MI, home of the ruins of Clark Equipment Company.

Clark Equipment Company Factory in Buchanan, Michigan

The story of Clark Equipment Company began in 1903 when its precursor, the George R. Rich Manufacturing Company, was founded in Chicago by executives of the Illinois Steel Company. Rich Manufacturing relocated to Buchanan, Michigan in 1904. 

In 1906 the company was renamed Celfor Tool, after its product the Celfor Drill. In 1916, Celfor Tool merged with Buchanan Electric Steel Company. The new entity was named Clark Equipment Company after Eugene B. Clark, the executive who organized the merger.  

Clark Equipment Company in Buchanan, Michigan

The first half of the century was a prosperous time for the company as it continued to grow and acquire other businesses. 

By the 1960s, Clark Equipment was among America's 100 largest companies. The Buchanan plant alone employed over 3,500 people. By the end of the '60s, several divisions were sold off to allow the company to focus on its core products, which included forklifts, loaders, scrapers, and its expanded line of Bobcat equipment.

Clark Equipment Company Factory in Buchanan, Michigan

The recession in the 1980s brought decreased profitability. Several factories were closed as a result, including the Buchanan plant in 1983.

Clark Equipment Company Factory in Buchanan, Michigan

There isn't much left of the old industrial complex. Many of the structures have been repurposed or demolished.

Clark Equipment Company Factory in Buchanan, Michigan

Clark Equipment Company in Buchanan, Michigan

The grounds of the old plant are not open to the public, but there is a nice walking trail from which you can get some decent views of the old property.

I walked around town a bit and enjoyed lunch at Bucktown Tap, a great little bar and restaurant. I would like to recommend stopping for a bite and a drink if you're ever in the area, but I'm disappointed to report that Bucktown Tap has closed since my visit.

Clark Equipment Company Gate in Buchanan, Michigan

I took in a few more of Buchanan's historic buildings and then headed to the city of South Bend, to see its many abandoned factories.

Historic building in Buchanan, Michigan
A historical building in Buchanan, Michigan.

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Clark Equipment Company grounds in Buchanan, Michigan