Wabash Alloys

Date of Visit: May 20, 2012 When I first saw the Wabash Alloys building in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, I wasn't expecting much.  It wasn't particularly old - it was built in 1969 - and it was the very definition of ugly.  Just a big old corrugated metal box.  No charm, nothing to entice.  However, as we all know, looks can deceive, and inside the uninspiring facade was a place of beautiful colors and lights, interesting metal vats, and atmospheric concrete walls. Wabash Alloys was founded in 1958 and this particular building originally served the Vulcan Materials Company until it was purchased by Wabash in 1987.  They produced recycled aluminum casting alloys.  For people like me, who have no idea what that means, basically, they took scrap aluminum and melted it down and purified it into alloys (combinations of metals) that were then sold to customers in the die casting, sand casting, and steel production industries.  Yes, I had to do some research to even understand what that means, so primitive is my knowledge of the metal industry.  Luckily, I found a training video produced by Wabash that taught me all I need to know about the furnace process. I'm ready to go to work today!  But, unfortunately, Wabash Alloys closed this plant in 2001 due to falling demand caused by a downturn in the auto industry.  And then in 2010, they were purchased by Aleris Corporation.  It's a sad story that has repeated itself many, many times in our country in the last few decades. Despite this building having been abandoned for so long, it was not vandalized and was in good condition.  Good meaning bad but not so decrepit that it isn't photogenic.  In other words, it was perfect.  The light was so pretty, the colors were great, I loved the concrete walls, so perfect for paintball.  It was a little playground for a day.  But now it's all gone: demolished over the summer of 2013.  Sniffle. Here are my memories of the place.  Enjoy!

2 Comments

  1. Very nice photos. I did consulting for this Wabash plant back in the early 1990’s designing and configuring some of the electrical control panels that are pictured in your photo-essay. It was always a stark and surreal place filled with fire, smoke, noise and constant motion. The perforations in the ceiling were from the chlorine that was used for previous operations, and the sunlight used to stream through them and make amazing patterns on the floor. During winter, there could be a 60 degree temperature variation depending how close to the smelting process you stood. It was never warmer than 40 degrees near the outside walls, and quickly approached 100 degrees with each step toward the cooling ingots you made. When conditions were right, it would actually “rain” inside due the the extreme air temperature variations as moisture condensed at the point where the temperature gradient matched the dew point.

    Thanks for the nostalgic tour!

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