Business here began in 1918 as Holmes Blunt Ltd., opened by J.S. Blunt. The foundry manufactured car parts, predominantly engine-casting blocks for Ford.
In 1937, the workers here took part in a sit-down strike. It was shortlived as, 48 hours later, the workers were driven away from the plant by armed and violent hired thugs.
January of 1966 brought the sale of 25% of the plant to AMC, with the remaining 75% being acquired by 1970.
Chrysler acquired the company in 1987 and announced they would be shutting it down by September 16, 1988. During its 70-year history, this operation exposed countless workers to "harmful and excessive hazards".
In 1987, the year before the complex was closed, the Ministry of Labour commissioned a health study It reported that "there was a six-fold increase in lung cancer mortality among the Holmes workers exposed to asbestos for two years or more. It also documented an eleven-fold increase in respiratory disease mortality and a four-fold excess of all malignancies."
Much more detail about the effects on the workers can be found here. It's definitely worth at least a cursory read, and may surprise you how our government treated the workers.
I had heard about this building, but at the time of my arrival, I knew nothing of its past. It wasn't until I began researching that I even found out its correct name. To read its history, however, was step into a strange world of uncaring corporations, and men dying to put food on the table for their families.
As I said, I knew nothing of this as I stepped into this building. I did not know that beyond it had once been many more buildings far larger than this, that had all been demolished already. All I saw, initially, was a basically empty building with a bit of scattered refuse. Despite that, it didn't take long for me to discover that the building had been visited by some talented painters. Sure, there were the usual, unimagniative tags and expletives amid crudely drawn male parts, but a little poking turned up true artistry that I always feel is going to waste on places like this.
I didn't spend a long time here. As I said, it was pretty gutted. The paint did make the stop worthwhile.