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 to see more ruins of the Rust Belt, which I'll tell you all about next time.

Abandoned Wilson Brothers Factory in South Bend Indiana

Thank you for checking out this article. If you enjoyed it, please share it on Facebook.

To receive an email announcement when I post my next article, please subscribe to Places That Were

Until then, click here to read about more awesome places I've explored.

And feel free to follow me on social media:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/placesthatwere

Instagram: http://instagram.com/theplacesthatwere

Twitter: https://twitter.com/placesthatwere/

Tumblr: http://placesthatwere.tumblr.com/

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JimSullivanPlacesThatWere/posts

EyeEm: https://www.eyeem.com/u/placesthatwere

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/jimplicit

Thank you!

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.

Thank you for checking out this article. If you enjoyed it, please share it on Facebook.

To receive an email announcement when I post my next article, please subscribe to Places That Were

Until then, click here to read about more awesome places I explored on my Epic Rust Belt Road Trip.

And feel free to follow me on social media:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/placesthatwere

Instagram: http://instagram.com/theplacesthatwere

Twitter: https://twitter.com/placesthatwere/

Tumblr: http://placesthatwere.tumblr.com/

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JimSullivanPlacesThatWere/posts

EyeEm: https://www.eyeem.com/u/placesthatwere

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/jimplicit

500px: https://500px.com/placesthatwere

Thank you!


Clark Equipment Company grounds in Buchanan, Michigan