Seattle's 1936 Boeing Plant To Fall

UPDATE, Sept. 16, 2010: Demolition of the Boeing plant began in September 2010. 

Boeing
Boeing's Plant 2 in Seattle

Credit: Washington State Department of Ecology

The Boeing Company's Plant 2, arguably one of the most important buildings in the World War II Allied effort, will soon be demolished, the airplane manufacturer announced this month.

A demolition date has not been scheduled, according to Boeing spokeswoman Blythe Jameson.

The airplane manufacturing company first started building planes at the massive factory in 1936, producing as many as 362 warplanes in a month. The plant rolled out models such as the 307 Stratoliner, EB-47, 377 Stratocruiser, B-52 models and the first 737. Today, Boeing planes are made in Everett, Wash., at a factory that is the world's largest by volume, leaving Plant 2 virtually deserted.

"It has not been an active part of airplane production for 40 years," Jameson says. "It was really during the war effort that this facility had its largest production."

The Museum of Flight currently leases the main building, which stores three old airplanes, but its lease runs out at the end of the year. Boeing plans to preserve artifacts inside the building.

Another impetus for demolition is the massive pollution cleanup effort that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency demanded of Boeing in 1994.

The plant sits on the banks of the Duwamish River, which feeds directly into Elliot Bay and the Puget Sound. Its use of hazardous chemicals and heavy metals has led to significant pollution over the years. "We do have a cleanup that we are doing in the Duwamish waterway," Jameson says. "Taking down the building will aid in some of that work."

The building's most notable feature was its camouflaged roof. During World War II, Boeing covered the 35-acre rooftop with burlap houses, chicken-wire lawns, and plywood cars in order to conceal the chief bomber plant in the United States.

"You can't talk about the history of Seattle without having a chapter on Boeing," says Chris Moore, field director for the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. "My father-in-law just retired … he worked for Boeing for 30-some years." Most Seattleites have similar family connections to Boeing, Moore adds. "Plant 2 in particular is obviously extremely significant in the part it played in the World War II effort."

 

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Comments

Submitted by Lance at: October 16, 2010
i worked there in 1957 on the wiring modification of the cockpits of the b-52. Was a kid right out of high school from Bremerton. l used to get lost in that huge plant. Boeing treated me real good.

Submitted by Jon at: August 4, 2010
It seems that we Americans have become such complacent sheep that we do not recognize that the Boeing Plant II building defined our creed during WW II. That generation would not have put up with what is going on in Washington DC now. Tearing down that historic building is just another load of dynamite under our dying culture. Do we really need to open up this small space of our past just to save more wild life that is flourishing every where we look now. Even in our neighborhood in West Seattle we have had a bald eagle dive bomb our dog. The people who will most celebrate the destruction of Boeing Plant II will be the Japanese and the Germans. I am amazed that even the veterans of WW II that are alive today do not seem to give a dam about what loosing that set of buildings means. Boeing has screwed up three times since 1997. First on the merger with MD that undermined Boeing's ethics and integrity. Second the move of the headquarters to Chicago so now Boeing is just a faceless coporation. The third is the decision to demolish Boeing Plant II. A country without a past and the virtues inherent of that past has no future. We need an injunction against the Boeing company and the City of Tukwila to stop the demolition. Then we need to get off are sad state and go after Historical designation and preservation of Boeing Plant II. What group is willing to go after this goal. I will help. 206 391 5677

Submitted by oldguy at: March 4, 2010
I started working for Boeing in 1966 at the 2.10 bldg of Plant II. One of the reasons that bldg still stands is because the original lease of the property was with the DOD not the Boeing Co as a lot of people think.When Boeing moved from Plant II in 1987 to Auburn and a new factory I was on a team to decide which tooling would be saved and which would be scrapped and destroyed.If the tooling was procured by DOD it was not scrapped by Boeing but had to be signed off by DOD-I believe that Boeing at the time was spending $20M a year on the storage of all this old eqpmt and tooling so the building stayed just for that.I have not been in any of the old bldgs since 2002 and I dont know what is left-a lot of history in a old rotting bldg and site-underneath the bdgs is a catacomb of tunnels and rooms that were built in the 1930's and I dont know how they plan to address that-This location is truly a piece of aviation history and I hate to see it destroyed!

Submitted by Jim at: February 25, 2010
Boy, is my face red! The B-25, of course, was a North American product, NOT a Boeing product, so strike that in the comment below and change "three' to "two." Actually , I knew better. Don't know how the B-25 appeared.

Submitted by Jim at: February 25, 2010
I was somewhat disappointed in Lindsey Roberts' piece. The lead says the building was "arguably one of the most important buildings in the World War II Allied effort," and "turned out more than 362 warplanes in a month" Then further down in the story were examples of planes turned out on the building. Not one of these was a WW II-era warplane. The one warplane listed was a B-52 which, of course, debuted years after WW II and most listed were civilian aircraft. I'd be willing to bet that the B-17, B-25, and B-29 -- probably the three most famous classes of WW II Boeing bombers. -- were built there.

Submitted by Janice at: February 25, 2010
Oops, that should read, I owned a business..."

Submitted by Janice at: February 25, 2010
I owed a business 1/2 mile upriver form this plant for 15 years. Yes, in a way it's sad to see the building go, but I think the joy of seeing the wildlife re-establish itself along the river trumps saving the structure. Eagles, osprey, kingfisher, heron, otters, beavers, sea lions--just a slice. Also, the building is obsolete, and property values in that area are simply too high to make manufacturing profitable. That's why Boeing is moving its operation to other locations. I visualize a retail/hotel/entertainment complex that compliments the Museum of Flight.

Submitted by Beatrice at: February 25, 2010
It is inconceivable to always save everything from the past other than memories, and even those at times, diminish in intensity and detail. I sincerely hope the pollution ends. I am always amazed to read of very clean waters muddied by contamination for the sake of jobs, and then years later, the fortune financially needed to clean up a mess that should never have happened in the first place that could better be spent elsewhere, if only it were possible.

Submitted by Ken at: February 22, 2010
My mother worked in the plant during the war as a riveter. She was riveting top turrets on the B-17 and rode the bus from Meridian where we lived. Later, she married the bus driver that drove the bus to Boeing and he eventually became a B-17 pilot with the 398th!

Submitted by marietta at: February 16, 2010
It's a shame they want to take this building down. I don't understand how taking the building down would help with their plans for cleaning up the environmental waste.I'm sorry they wnat to take down a place where you worked. You seem to have a lot of history tied up in the building.

Submitted by David at: February 9, 2010
This is a sad day. I came to Seattle in 1985 and worked for Boeing at Plant II. It hadn't been remodeled since the war. I was in the engineering/materiel offices on the second floor just north of the old assembly line. It was crazy with all the telephone lines hanging down. It was a sea of old WWII metal desks and broken down swivel chairs. A bunch of us had to share a phone. We didn't get computers until after they moved us 20 miles south to a plant build in the 60's. My brother's father-in-law started working there in 1938 on the B17 and then flew as a belly gunner in one over Germany during WWII. He came back to work there after the war and retired in 1984. His Dad started with Bill Boeing in 1918 as a carpenter at plant 1, now a museum down the road. He made furniture during the depression when planes weren’t selling.