Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The Building Where My Dad Worked for 40 Years Is Being Demolished Today


'A' Building at Westinghouse Mansfield, in its heyday.
It is a milestone few will note, as the Westinghouse 'A' Building has been empty for more than 30 years. The rest of the factory was demolished long ago. In addition to 'A,' there are some small buildings, concrete slabs, and other structures that need to go. "Concrete slab" may not sound like a big deal, but one of them covers 13 acres! Finally, the whole property is being returned to 'greenfield' status so it can be redeveloped. That's a good thing and a good sign for Mansfield, my hometown.

My connection to the building is because my father worked there, as an engineer, for 40 years, 1949-1989. I occasionally took him to work or picked him up. I worked in the plant myself one summer, 1970. They hired college kids so people could take vacations other than during summer shutdown, and the kids of employees got first crack. 

We made washers, dryers, and ranges.

It was a great job, a union shop. I joined the IBEW and got the same pay as any new employee, which was great money compared to other summer jobs. Other local factories did the same thing, but that was one of the last years it was available. The postwar boom was winding down. In 1975, Westinghouse sold its major appliances division to White Consolidated Industries, which eventually sold it to Electrolux, but Dad stayed on through all the changes.  

He retired, as the company required, at age 70. The plant closed a few months later. I joked that they couldn't go on without him, but he didn't find it funny.

The Westinghouse Electric Company built the factory in 1918 to make appliances. At its height it employed more than 8,000 workers. Mansfield had lots of good manufacturing jobs in those days. We made appliances, cars, tires, steel, all sorts of stuff. Westinghouse did events for employees and their families, like a big Christmas party and a summer picnic at an amusement park. I liked to watch professional wrestling at the IBEW Hall.

Although all the buildings had letter designations, I think the 'A' also stood for 'Administration.' That's where all the offices were, for engineers but also salespeople, managers, bookkeepers, etc. Because dad's hours were different from mine the summer I worked there, I got a ride each morning with the father of a high school friend, who was a foreman in the factory. I'm sure walking into the factory each day with Ed Henrich got me a lot more cred than being Ken Cowdery's son.

I don't believe Mansfield has anyone poised to take over the site but I doubt, especially after all this time, if the city, state, and federal governments would be spending $4 million on this remediation without prospects. It's a good location, big enough for just about anything someone might want to put there. Although I haven't lived in Mansfield for many years, I still have friends and family there and much affection for the place. I hope to see something bright, shiny, and new on my next visit.

A NOTE ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPH (10/17/22)When I posted this on October 5th, I used a picture of 'H' Building because I wanted to show the factory in its prime and I couldn't find one of 'A' Building. I don't like to change posts, but that picture kept bothering me. The new one is 'A' Building and though it's not dated, the cars parked next to it suggest it wasn't long after the building went up in 1918, on the site of what had been the Baxter Stove Company. 

UPDATE 12/14/22: Apparently, although the demolition project began back in October, 'A' Building is still standing. According to the Mansfield News Journal, "Demolition on the former Westinghouse building on East Fifth Street is set to begin around 3 p.m. Dec. 19 and is expected to take six to 10 weeks." As the old saying goes, how can we miss you if you won't leave?

UPDATE 2/7/23: All gone.


Richard Turner said...

Thanx for this reminder, Chuck...
Everything changes. It's the reality for our neighborhoods, industrial areas, commercial areas. ...Even our bodies, sadly as we age nothing gets better over an extended period of time, eh?
Some things may seem permanent to us now, but eventually all things evolve as time and events force change upon us. As you noted change can bring benefits if we seek and plan for them. Sometimes mitigating change can delay or defray the effects; but all things pass into history.
Nice article.

Paul said...

Mansfield is a nice town, and I am happy to see it get a little press.

Cary Dice said...

Just like my hometown of Zanesville. Growing up there were lots of factory jobs at potteries and tile plants, glass plants, steel mill, electrical components and steel pipe mfgs., paper plant, Nabisco, etc. Blue collar workers made a good living. Now about the only one left is the Anchor-Hocking glass plant. Once bustling downtown is now a ghost town with mostly law offices due to proximity to city and county courts. They built a new high school about 15 years ago but it now houses less than half the number of students that were there when I was in late 60s. The newspaper building and printing plant is still there but has been closed ever since the longtime-owning family sold to Gannett in late 80s. Now a few people work out of an office in a shopping center and the paper is printed in Columbus...all 10 pages or so. I hope some of the folks who will have good-paying jobs at the Intel plant to be built about 25 miles away will find their way to some really nice neighborhoods in Zanesville someday.

Anonymous said...

This is a great story about your family's history, and it's connection to one of the powerhouses of not only the Mansfield economy, but America's as well. One thing I want to point out is that the building pictured at the beginning of this article is not A building. The building pictured is in fact H building, built in 1936, 16 years after A building was completed. A building was the first building built by Westinghouse when they came to town in 1918, after after their purchase of the site and remaining buildings of the Baxter Stove Company. Westinghouse continued to use two of Baxter's buildings into the 1980s, you may have known them as B and C buildings. You are correct about A building housing administration, and over the years it also held engineering, model labs, chemical labs, light assembly, product testing, and more. H building was built to expand the company's office space, warehousing and product marketing facilities, as well as the auditorium, where scores of employee shows, banquets, concerts, and retirements were held over the years. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment.

Bryan gladden said...

, I’m the on site developer for building h , where the ball room resides. We are working hard to redo the old ball room and give the 480,000 sq foot building new life. The pictured building is my project, the one that is being demoed is on 5th street right across from brain tree. This has been a common misconception.

Chuck Cowdery said...

I appreciate the clarification. I have made some edits accordingly. I wasn't sure about the picture but I wanted to show the facility in its heyday. The story, however, is about 'A' Building, where my Dad worked, which is the main focus of the current demolition, if I understand correctly. I'm glad to hear 'H' Building is being renovated and wish you every success.

Anonymous said...

Sam Baughman
One of the unions at Westinghouse was the IUE that was for factory employees there were 3 or4 other unions for other classifications.
H building was all offices and A building was screw machines on first floor. And upper floors produced small appliances at one time roasters and such.
I worked there from 1977 to Dec 1990