After an incredible day in Gary, Indiana exploring the abandoned Palace Theater, City Methodist Church and other awesome abandoned places, I set out to see the ruins of Kingsbury Ordnance Plant.
I stopped at a gas station just outside the city of La Porte. In an icy tone, the cashier asked for my credit card and drivers license to hold while I pumped my gas. I was surprised, but shrugged it off and filled up my tank. When I came back in, she was all smiles and explained that she was being extra careful because she'd never seen me before. The other cashier asked why I was visiting La Porte of all places and then started dancing around behind the counter. We shared a laugh and I got back on the road.
The remains of Kingsbury Ordnance Plant are spread out over a huge rural area with a small population, so I doubted I would run into anyone during my visit. I was very wrong.
Some of the old buildings have been sold to private companies. A security guard working for a chemical company approached me to make sure I wasn't snapping photos of the plant. I assured him I was only there to look at the historic buildings and he seemed satisfied. Still I decided to leave the area so I wouldn't cause undue concern.
Navigating the old ammunition factory was challenging because there are no signs to indicate what or where anything is. I relied mostly on satellite images.
I found an area where dozens of identical bunkers lay spaced out in rows like houses in a subdivision. Grass covered the sloped roofs and trees grew atop many of them. They seemed to be empty, but I couldn't be sure. It would have taken a very long time to peek inside each of them to find out.
Some of Kingsbury's old structures were fenced off or sealed up.
Others had collapsed to little more than foundations with rows of bare concrete walls.
I wandered around, occasionally managing to get a peek inside.
A few buildings still contained relics left behind when the plant closed.
As I made my way back to the car, a man in a white pickup pulled over and asked if I was parked nearby. He told me that a guy who was leasing the property had called the cops because he didn't recognize my car.
Police had already arrived at my car by the time I got there. I told them I was only there to take pictures of the old buildings and didn't mean to cause any trouble. Apparently I had driven past a No Trespassing sign without realizing it. After running my license and seeing that I had a clean record, the police said I was free to go. I apologized for the inconvenience and headed back out on the road.
Needless to say, if you're thinking about exploring Kingsbury Ordnance plant, keep an eye out for No Trespassing signs. It's also be a good idea to contact local law enforcement and ask which areas are okay to explore. They will appreciate it.
After France fell to Hitler's forces in 1940, the US began gearing up for war. The Department of War commissioned the construction of 73 ammunition manufacturing facilities across the United States.
LaPorte County, Indiana was deemed a prime location because the land was relatively flat and had plentiful well water. It was far enough inland to avoid enemy attacks, but well positioned near highways and railroads so that product could be easily transported to the East and West coasts. The area was also far enough from any major city that an accidental explosion was unlikely to cause much harm.
Buildings were spaced apart so that if an explosion did occur, the surrounding structures would not be damaged. Fortunately, there were never any major accidents.
Two hundred and fifty families had to relocate to make room for the ordnance plant. They were given 30 days notice and paid what was deemed fair value for their land.
The government purchased a total of 13,454 acres and quickly began construction.
Workers were recruited from the surrounding areas. Many came from the city of Gary because Kingsbury offered higher wages than workers typically earned at US Steel.
To accommodate an expected 10,000 workers in a community that only had a population of 16,000, The War Department built thousands of homes, trailers and dormitories just outside the factory. The new settlement was dubbed Kingsford Heights.
By May of 1942, employment at Kingsbury Ordnance Plant had swelled to a high of 20,785, about half of whom were women. For many it was their first job outside of the home.Inspired by Rosie the Riveter, the plant adopted "Tillie the TNT Girl" as a mascot.
Kingsbury closed at the end of World War II, but reopened in 1951 after the US entered the Korean War. It ceased operations permanently in 1959.
A portion of the land has been converted into Kingsbury State Fish and Wildlife Area and another segment is now Kingsbury Industrial Park.
Redevelopment of the area has been slow due to the fact that waste from the ammunition plant still exists on the land and cleanup is expensive.
Future plans include a new rail yard, the restoration of old railroad tracks and extension of existing lines. The railway will connect Kingsbury with facilities in Florida and across the Midwest, facilitating the distribution of produce and other farm goods. In March 2017, the LaPorte County government took control of the project with the hope of bringing in new developers.
From Kingsbury, I made my way to Niles, Michigan to see an old hydroelectric dam that wouldn't be around for much longer.
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Until then, feel free to read my previous posts about the incredible places I explored on my Epic Rust Belt Road Trip.
I have many more photos of Kingsbury Ordnance Plant than I was able to include here. I'll be sharing them on social media, so please follow the links below if you'd like to see more of this incredible abandoned place.