Friday, August 31, 2012
Abandonment Issues: Firestone Tire Factory
On a freezing cold bitter day in February 2011, after visiting the Westinghouse Boiler Room, and a failed attempt to bribe the security guard at Rheem, Ninja and I spent 7 or 8 frozen hours exploring the long abandoned Firestone Tire Factory in Hamilton, Ontario.
The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company of Canada built the tire manufacturing plant on 40 acres of re-claimed harbour land in 1921. Twelve expansions had taken place by 1983, growing the facility to a massive 800,000 square feet. By 1987 however, Firestone was drowning in debt, losing upwards of $250 million per year. The company began liquidating assets to stay afloat, and in 1988, The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company of Canada was purchased by Bridgestone, which successfully and quickly revitalized the brand. This marked the end of Firestone tire manufacturing in Hamilton, as the massive plant was closed and abandoned. In 1990, "The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company" and "Bridgestone Tire Company Ltd USA" were amalgamated and became "Bridgestone Firestone North American Holdings Ltd".
Since 1988, the Firestone plant had been left to rot and decay. At the time of our visit, 23 years later, this decay was very extensive. Paint chips were peeling and falling to the floor, and large holes had formed in portions of the floor. The 40 foot deep basement had flooded with 25 feet of water, creating a 250,000 square foot lake. The lake was not a result of precipitation, but rather formed by groundwater seeping in from Lake Ontario.
In December of 2011, the City of Hamilton, which took ownership of the land in 2001, began the primary stages of demolishing the plant. The first stage was asbestos removal. The City of Hamilton cited urban explorers as the primary reason for the demolition, claiming a parade of urban explorers trespassing and publicly promoting trespassing at the site had become a major liability, including those that had boasted of traversing the basement lake in rubber dinghies. The escalating value of the prime real estate in Hamilton's industrial harbour was another factor, one would assume. In January, 2012, the demolition began, and by the end of April of 2012, a crew of twelve men using eight excavators had demolished the Firestone Tire Factory.
The Firestone Tire Factory was a favorite location of many Ontario based explorers, and it will be missed by many, including myself.
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