Historic plant 2 to be demolished
Boeing's Plant 2, located adjacent to Boeing
Field in Seattle, Washington, is one of the most historical buildings on the
west coast of the United States of America. Earlier this month it was announced
that Boeing would demolish the building. In this post I would like to share
the mark it left in the history books.
First built in 1935 along the banks of the
Duwamish River, Boeing's Plant 2 was built to produce the Model 299 bomber.
This quad engine airplane would eventually be tweaked and modified to the
specifications of the United States Army Air Force and would be branded the
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Shortly after the plant was built, Boeing assigned
the Model 307 passenger plane to be built inside Plant 2 along side the B-17
line. With a European conflict overseas at the time, Boeing won a contract in
late 1938 to build the Douglas
DB-7 bomber under license for the Russian and English armed forces. The
factory expanded from 60,000 square feet to 1,766,000 square feet in 1939 to
make room for production of the DB-7 bomber as well as Boeing's various
military and commercial aircraft. All that changed after the attack on
Pearl Harbour in December 1941. The United States had been building up it's
military might slowly in the late 1930's, but was still sorely unprepared for a
major conflict, let alone two on separate fronts. Plant 2 started exclusively
producing the B-17 bomber in 1942 and by 1943 they were rolling out 16 bombers
a day from the factory.
During the Untied States' involvement in
WWII, military officials were worried about a possible Japanese attack on the
west coast that would target major factories in Southern California, but
specifically on Boeing's Plant 2. It was decided they would camouflage
the factory with fabric and other materials so it would seem as if it were
an average American neighborhood from above and not a bustling weapons factory.
Today many historians doubt that the camouflage would have tricked the Imperial
Japanese Navy bombers, but at the time it was a simple solution for a problem that was
of great worry. (There was only one attack on the
continental United States during WWII, which was a failed attempt to start a
forest fire along the Oregon coast).
From 1939 to 1945, nearly 7,000 B-17 bombers
of various makes were rolled out of Boeing's Plant 2. Historians credit Plant 2
of the places that won the war due to the massive amount of aircraft
produced there, which primarily flew in the European theater. While there
were many other B-17's built under license in Long Beach, Burbank, and Wichita,
Plant 2 saw more B-17 bombers roll out of its doors than any other US bomber
production line during World War II.
After the United States and the Allies won
World War II, the B-17 was old news and the United States Army air force wanted
an improved version of their B-29 bomber, which was being built at Boeing's
Renton site. Boeing placed the improved and highly modified airplane, the B-50
Superfortress, to be built at Plant 2. Only 371 planes were made before jet
engine technology caught on and made the piston-powered bomber obsolete. In
1947, Boeing rolled out their first jet powered aircraft, the B-47 Stratojet
from Plant 2. After B-47 production ceased at Plant 2, Boeing started
production on their next bomber, the B-52 Stratofotress, which rolled out of
under the cover of darkness in 1954. The last plane produced in Plant 2 was
the Boeing 737, which rolled out
in 1967. Only the first four 737's were made in Plant 2 before production
moved a few blocks down the street to a purpose built factory.
Today, part of Plant 2 is used by the Museum
of Flight as a restoration facility for their B-17, B-29, and Super
Constellation projects. Boeing gave the museum until May 2010 to pack up and
find another place to restore those planes. The other remaining space is used
for storage. Boeing's reasoning to tear down the historic building is due to
the costs associated with maintaining the structure that has been leaking toxic
materials into the Duwamish River since it's inception. Parts of the roof have
already collapsed and wood throughout the building has been rotting
away for years.
It's a tragedy and a shame that the Boeing
Company didn't properly maintain this historic building over the years. It'll
be a sad day when Plant 2 is finally torn down, but it's my hope that this building will be remembered for years to come.