South Bend, Indiana
South Bend Indiana was an important industrial center in the early 1900s. It was the home of Studebaker Automobile, Oliver Plow/Tractor, it was the home of Singer Sewing Machine's 2nd largest plant, and it had a number of smaller firms. I went to South Bend this summer looking for what remains of South Bend's industrial history. My biggest disappointment was discovering that the Muessel-Drewey Brewery had just been demolished. The Muessel-Drewey Brewery was built in stages starting in the 1870s. It was a massive complex of buildings containing a few really nice late 1800s Romanesque Revival brewery buildings. The brewery was in an area of South Bend that is being actively neglected by the city. Road maintenance and other city services were noticeably absent. The city apparently forced the demolition after the brewery structures had deteriorated for years. South Bend generally did not seem appreciative of its industrial heritage, the brewery being the most painful example.
Singer Sewing Machine built a major production outpost in South Bend beginning around 1868. Singer's main production facilities were in New Jersey. The South Bend factory produced cabinets and performed final assembly on units for the western markets. The site of Singers first South Bend plant is now a nursing home. Some of the original buildings may be standing but it was difficult to tell. There were no historical markers at the site (photo below) and it is an operating facility so access was limited. Singer built a larger plant on the west side of South Bend just after 1900. This plant (photo above) is currently about three quarters abandoned and falling to ruin. The front quarter is in use.
A power plant and smokestack are all that remains of the Oliver Chilled Plow works (later Oliver Tractor). Oliver was one of two great local manufacturers in South Bend, the other being Studebaker. Oliver was in the ranks of companies like John Deere and McCormick's International Harvester until the company declined during and after the Great Depression. There is also very little left of the once great Studebaker wagon and automobile works. Studebaker began in South Bend as a wagon manufacturer in the 1850s. It became one of the largest manufactures of wagons in the country. The firm moved rapidly into the new automobile market at the turn of the century. Studebaker continued to be a major automobile producer until the 1950s. Studebaker and Oliver were responsible for much of South Bend's growth into a medium sized city by the 1950s. The vast Studebaker works has mostly been demolished. Part of the factory, near the baseball stadium, is being renovated. It looked like it might be a mixed use development but I'm not sure. Visitors coming to South Bend looking for relics of its industrial past will not find any concessions to tourists at the sites of production. The Studebaker and South Bend history museum are miles away in another part of town. South Bend has a very divided character. The University of Notre Dame is in the separately incorporated adjacent municipality of Notre Dame. The area of South Bend near the university is clearly wealthier and feels entirely different from the rest of the blue collar and post-industrial city. It's similar in some ways to the situation in Durham North Carolina, but to me, the divide seemed more pronounced.
The small South Bend Brewing Association brewery, built in 1903, was still standing (photo below).
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