So today marks the 50th birthday of the famous Uniroyal tire in Allen Park, Michigan. While many are busy, celebrating such a momentous occasion, I can’t help but shake some images from my head. Things that I have seen inside a former Uniroyal factory will never quite fade from my memories. Don’t get me wrong, the company is amazing as a whole, but you will always have that one bad apple – sometimes a few.
Uniroyal was founded as The United States Rubber Company in 1892, and not long after in its life, became one of 12 original stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on May 26, 1896. Fast forward nearly 70 years from its birth, and we find that in 1961 a name change was welcomed, creating Uniroyal. For 29 years, Uniroyal would operate with numerous branches – one specifically located on the outskirts of a town in North Eastern Ohio. This location would spend its years between 1961 and 1990 developing “special project” chemicals, poorly disposing of their materials and coming into a bit of a tussle with the city in which it sat. I want it to be known, before further reading, that I am not talking negatively about the company as a whole, but this location seems questionable.
A financier by the name of Carl C. Icahn had made an attempt in 1985 to takeover the company, but failed when Uniroyal was taken private by management. At this time, Uniroyal was the 5th largest tire company in the United States, but now faced huge debt after the leverage buyout. In an attempt to recover from over 1 billion dollars in debt, the company sold its chemical subsidiary to Avery Inc. for $760 million in May, 1986.
According to documents from the 1980s through 1990s, city officials were not happy with how Uniroyal was disposing of their chemicals. The company continued to neglect safe disposal, polluting surrounding grounds and lakes – even damaging the health of workers, at times leading to death. The city and Uniroyal eventually came to an agreement that if noted areas were cleaned on very specific terms, none of this would reach the media. Since this location went under in 1990, piles of these documents and chemicals have sat, simply collecting dust.
In 1991, this corporation was taken over by the French tire maker, Michelin. Some particular locations, including this one, were left to rot. As this building falls apart under weight of shifting elements, everything inside only grows closer and closer to becoming completely lost. It seems that what was discovered inside this now dilapidated building was never meant for the public eye.
Following the major buy out in 1991, most documents and public record of this company from 1930-1992 were sent to the special collections and archives department at the university of Wisconsin- Eau Claire, but what has been discovered here is entirely different. So much inside these walls will forever remain a mystery to me.