The abandoned Wyman-Gordon power plant towers above an overgrown industrial lot in Dixmoor, Illinois, the sole remaining structure of a century-old steel foundry. Decades ago this company was a powerhouse of engineering and hi-tech development.
On this site, a well-known forging and titanium technology company was located that made parts for automobiles, military aircraft, and other aircraft. The Ingalls-Shepard Division closed down at the location in 1986.
The History of Wyman-Gordon Power Plant
In 1910 seasoned manufacturing veterans F.A. Ingalls and Charles C. Shepard partnered to create the Ingalls-Shepard Forging Co. in Harvey, Illinois. Ingalls took up the mantle of President and Treasurer, while Shepard acted as Vice President. The company produced a wide range of parts for the burgeoning automobile industry and railroad companies.
As the world delved into chaos during the War to End All Wars industrial manufacturers across the United States were pushed to the limits of their operating capacities to great profit. In 1920 the Wyman-Gordon Company out of Worcester, Massachusetts acquired the Ingalls-Shepard Forging Co. and rechristened it as the Ingalls-Shepard Division. The consolidation placed Ingalls as Vice President of Wyman-Gordon, but he would still maintain operational control over the Harvey factory.
The Roaring Twenties were a boon for the steel industry. The automobile, which had been a luxury item the previous decade, now entered the American mainstream as mass production made “horseless carriages” accessible to the general public. The automobile may have driven urban development outward, but new architectural technologies drove cities upwards. Skyscrapers demanded strong metal frameworks to withstand environmental punishment.
New massive machines such as massive cranes and earthmovers were needed to move materials. While skyscrapers penetrated the sky, aeronautic developments of the Great War brought with it the commercialization of airplane travel. Wyman-Gordon produced parts that serviced every one of these industries. At the outset of World War II, all large US manufacturers devoted their efforts to defeat the Axis, which Wyman-Gordon used to their industrial advantage. US Army engineers kept on the heels of the front lines to dismantle superior German industrial technology and pass it on to American businesses such as Wyman-Gordon. The Wyman-Gordon company claims to have produced more single parts for the war effort than any of its entirety of its competitors in the industry.
Innovation in the aeronautics industry drove the Wyman-Gordon business for the next few decades. By the 1960s the Wyman-Gordon company was recognized as the leading innovator in forging and titanium technologies. The US government contracted with Wyman-Gordon to create parts for the B-52 Stratofortress, the secret SR-71 spy plane, F-14 Tomcat, and F-15 Eagle fighter jets. In the civilian market, the company produced parts for hundreds of other aircraft. In the 1980s, however, declining defense expenditures, sagging commercial airline development, and international competition put manufacturers like Wyman-Gordon into commercial distress.
In order to stay operational Wyman-Gordon decided to shutter the Ingalls-Shepard Division in Harvey. The announcement proved devastating as the community had already endured the recent closing of three other major manufacturing employers. The company tried in vain to sell the 780,000 sq. foot facility for over six months but was unable to find a buyer. The manufacturing of diesel engine crankshafts was moved to the company’s Danville, Illinois plant and special manufacturing to Jackson, Michigan. In 1986 the closing of the Ingalls-Shepard Division took with it 350 jobs from Harvey.
Plans for the redevelopment of the 47-acre industrial site revolve around tapping into Harvey’s geographic advantages in transportation. The southern Chicago suburb has three expressways, four national highways, four freight railroads, and the Chicago Metra lines running through it. Although a majority of the Ingalls-Shepard Division buildings have been demolished, the Environmental Protection Agency has listed the location as a brownfield in need of cleanup before development can continue. It would seem logical that Wyman-Gordon would be on the hook for cleaning up the site, but that is not the case. With one of the highest unemployment rates in the Chicago area and the lowest average household income, Harvey cannot afford the upfront costs for assessing the property. Compounding an already bad situation is the fact that the total cost of cleanup may exceed the market value of the land once remediated.
All that remains of the Ingalls-Shepard Division is the power plant and a still occupied large building across the street from it. Fences border the entire perimeter of the power plant but are pried wide open in several areas. The building is about four or fives stories high with an even higher smokestack affixed to the rear. On the inside, the factory has been scrapped and everything metal has the patina of decay. The interchangeable fixtures of the heavy machinery are all missing, but the core pieces remain. Coal hoppers, generators, and some dynamos encased in a heavy layer of rust remain. Steel walkways crisscrossing the upper portions are missing large sections and appear quite unsafe for even the most seasoned urban explorer to traverse.
Following an unsuccessful attempt to sell the plant, Wyman-Gordon closed the Ingalls-Shepard Division in 1986 and 350 people lost their jobs. It was a devastating blow to Dixmoor and the neighboring city of Harvey, which had recently suffered the closing of its Arco and Allis-Chalmers plants. The Dixie Square Mall, also located in Harvey, had closed several years earlier and sat abandoned until 2012 when it was finally demolished.
Photos of Wyman-Gordon Power Plant
We prepared 40+ Stunning Photos of the Abandoned Wyman-Gordon Power Plant of Dixmoor, Illinois. The Wyman-Gordon Power Plant is an EPA Brownfields site. Although the main rooms are ventilated, open, and probably safe, anyone going to the Wyman-Gordon Power Plant without a respirator should be careful and avoid areas with clear signs of asbestos. The metal walkways have been taken for scrap, and I fear that it is only a matter of time before the last remnants of the once-proud Ingalls-Shepard Division Factory are gone forever.