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Fisher Body Plant 21 – The story of “Body By Fisher” and its eerie remains

Nikola Petrovski

Over the years, the plant itself has been plundered of any metal, for once abandoned it was a scrapper’s paradise. Not much remains of it today from the days of old when Fisher Body Plant 21 was a proud synonym of quality and skill.

The driving forces behind the idea for this plant were the Fisher brothers, for they had the vision that the 1908 Detroit was missing something. In order for someone to fully understand the story of Fisher Body Plant 21, a simple introductory knowledge of who the Fisher brothers were is mandatory.

Completely taken over by vandals. Author: Ray Dumas CC BY-SA 2.0

Completely taken over by vandals. Author: Ray Dumas CC BY-SA 2.0

Their roots go way back when horse power meant exactly that, and when people looked no further than this simple transport. They were the proud owners of a carriage shop that used the power of this magnificent beast to propel itself forward.

The story begins in 19th century Norwalk, Ohio, where Lawrence P. Fisher and his wife Margaret had eleven children. Four out of eleven were girls, and the rest were the boys that would one day own and run Fisher Body Plant 21.

Fisher Body 21 Plant completely destroyed. Author: Ray Dumas CC BY-SA 2.0

Fisher Body 21 Plant completely destroyed. Author: Ray Dumas CC BY-SA 2.0

The youngest of them was Howard A. born in 1902 and the oldest was Frederick John born 1878. In between came Charles and William together with Lawrence and Edward and last but not least Alfred.

Among the bravest were naturally the oldest who from Ohio traveled all the way to Detroit to join another member of their family – Albert Fisher. Here they joined the ranks of the crafty C. R. Wilson Company. Their main business focus was to produce the bodies for horse carriages.

Fisher Body 21 Plant from the outside. Author: Ray Dumas CC BY-SA 2.0

Fisher Body 21 Plant from the outside. Author: Ray Dumas CC BY-SA 2.0

Pretty soon the company shifted their focus from carriages to an altered form of transport that used the term ‘horse power’ rather differently. The C. R. Wilson Company started to produce bodies for all those new automobiles.

The interior of the factory. Author: Ray Dumas CC BY-SA 2.0

The interior of the factory. Author: Ray Dumas CC BY-SA 2.0

It was here that the two older brothers got their skilled sharpened. Their uncle Albert, an early day venture capitalist, grab onto an opportunity when he decided to invest in the young boys and lend them some money.

Scraping for materials. Author: Mike Boening Photography CC BY 2.0

Scraping for materials. Author: Mike Boening Photography CC BY 2.0

The boys, clever enough, went and formed the Fisher Body Company. From this point on in history, the automotive industry would never be the same. Year after year, the plant was pushing forward and it was good for this kind of industry requires a hard working man.

General Motors made the right move when they ordered 150 bodies for its Cadillac, the symbol of American Automotive industry. The Fisher boys used this opportunity to form a bond between themselves and General Motors.

The big empty walls are perfect for graffiti. Author: Ray Dumas CC BY-SA 2.0

The big empty walls are perfect for graffiti. Author: Ray Dumas CC BY-SA 2.0

This bond served them well for years. From Cadillac, they went on to Buick, another masterpiece that this now bankrupt city of Detroit gave to the American motor industry and to the world. It wasn’t long before General Motors went on and acquired the Fisher Body Company. This happened in 1926, though the by now well-known slogan “Body By Fisher” remained.

The factory in ruins. Author: Todd Kulesza CC BY-SA 2.0

The factory in ruins. Author: Todd Kulesza CC BY-SA 2.0

From there, the only limit for the Fisher brothers was the sky itself. As the business grew bigger they needed larger office space. The solution to this was to build a 30 story high building that faced the General Motors Building.

The Fisher Building. Author: Ken Lund CC BY-SA 2.0

The Fisher Building. Author: Ken Lund CC BY-SA 2.0

As any other business did, the Fisher Body Company had its own ups and downs. There was the general strike that completely stopped the production process and there was the Second World War that meant a complete overhaul of the plant.

During this period the Fisher Body Company, crafty as it was, produced parts for the American Aviation Corporation plus the inevitable guns and ammunition. Furthermore, at one point they even produced tanks and all sorts of different components that the army required.

The factory in ruins. Author: Todd Kulesza CC BY-SA 2.0

The factory in ruins. Author: Todd Kulesza CC BY-SA 2.0

After the War, the name of the Fisher Company was gradually fading. And so General Motors had no other choice but to shut down the Fisher Body Plant 21. They did so 1984.

At a later date it was purchased by Carter Color Coat Company but even they followed the same path and closed down in 1993. Since then the plant remains abandoned and vacant, completely vulnerable to vandalism. It is labeled as contaminated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, for years of production left their mark.