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General Interest

Former Allis-Chalmers factory to be bulldozed

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Written by DAVID DeWITTE, The Gazette   
Tuesday, 06 September 2011 10:59
A metal one-sided sign advertised Allis-Chalmers' machinery. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Dennis Polk & Associates. CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) – Visitors often go silent when they walk onto the empty factory floor of the old Allis-Chalmers plant that Raining Rose Inc. acquired this year at First Avenue and 30th Street SE, according to Raining Rose CEO Chuck Hammond.

With its 35-foot-high ceilings, and huge windows made up of many small single panes, “It's like an industrial cathedral,” Hammond said. The eyes tend to wander up to the massive cranes overhead as they search for the right words.

Huge motor scrapers and bulldozers once rolled off the plant floor to make the nation's roads and highways. It was one of the leading companies in a road machinery industry that employed 5,000 and produced $52 million worth of equipment annually in Cedar Rapids, according to a 1948 Gazette article.

The main Allis-Chalmer factory, along with three factory-related buildings, will be coming down next month to make a new production facility for Raining Rose, a fast-growing body care products company. More than a dozen businesses that leased space in the factory, mainly for storage, have been moving out over the past several weeks.

The site's rich past won't be forgotten in the rush to build a new Raining Rose facility, however.

After hearing many former workers recount their memories of the factory, general contractor Bart Woods of Primus Construction suggested that Raining Rose hold an open house for the former workers who remembered the place instead of just a groundbreaking.

“Every week I meet someone who says, ‘I used to work there when it was Allis-Chalmers,’ or ‘My father worked at Allis-Chalmers,’” Woods said.

Hammond liked the idea. He has come to revere the industrial history of the place, since divided into a bizarre hodgepodge of cluttered tenant spaces.

Most people remember the old 8-acre factory complex as Allis-Chalmers, which operated it in the 1950s and 1960s, but Hammond is most interested in its early history under the original owner, LaPlant-Choate Manufacturing Co.

LaPlant-Choate was an innovator in the earthmoving equipment industry, producing some of the first bulldozers and motor scrapers.

Some experts believe LaPlant-Choate made the first bulldozer in regular commercial production.

The company took its name from E.W. LaPlant, who started in 1889 moving houses and pulling out tree stumps, and nephew Roy Choate, who joined him in 1911 to help manufacture horse-drawn and hand-powered stump pullers.

As the nation entered an unprecedented era of highway building, it evolved under Choate's leadership into the business of manufacturing bulldozer and snowplow blades, and other equipment.

The business ran into financial trouble in 1952 and was sold to Milwaukee-based Allis-Chalmers. Allis-Chalmers sold the bulldozer line and concentrated on the company's line of scrapers, making them larger and larger.

Excavating business owner Mike Wolrab of Mount Vernon worked at the plant from 1963 to 1967, handling painting, assembly, parts and other work. He recalled dousing himself in lacquer thinner to remove paint overspray from his exposed skin, and shivering in the uninsulated steel building during the winter.

“Allis-Chalmers had a very good product, and they were way ahead of everyone else on their technology,” said Wolrab, 73, who had occasion to appreciate the value of Allis-Chalmers equipment when he worked on the construction of I-80 in Johnson County. “They were just a small plant, competing with big outfits like Caterpillar.”

The operation outgrew the First Avenue site and Allis-Chalmers built a new plant on the southwest side that is now PMX Industries. When new leadership at Allis-Chalmers decided to move production away from Cedar Rapids, the operations were acquired by Harnischfeger, another Milwaukee company, to manufacturer cranes and later backhoes.

The business closed down in July 1989, 100 years after E.W. La Plante started his house moving and stump pulling business.

Hammond said he's trying to locate an early plow blade or bulldozer manufactured at the plant to put on permanent display when the Raining Rose plant is opened next year.

Raining Rose plans to build about 120,000 square feet of space on the site, roughly equivalent to the amount in the four current buildings combined. Hammond and Woods said few historic articles remain from the plant's early days, but Raining Rose plans to salvage some of the huge industrial windows for a conference room, and possibly other uses.

Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stouffer Hunter said LaPlant-Choate was one of the companies that put Cedar Rapids on the map internationally as a center for design, engineering and manufacturing of road building equipment, along with Howard Hall's Iowa Manufacturing. He said the city's location on the Lincoln Highway, the first paved transcontinental highway, made it a good logistic location, although the First Avenue plant also had rail access.

The Allis-Chalmers name has stuck the plant over the years, Hunter said, because the company was better known nationally than Harnischfeger, and because employees seemed to like Allis-Chalmers better than Harnischfeger.

Hammond said Raining Rose considered whether it could preserve all or part of the Allis-Chalmers complex, but nothing seemed feasible.

Of all the people who've remarked on the plant's history, Woods said none have called for it to be preserved.

“‘It's had its day’ is what I've heard mostly,” Woods said.

___

Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazetteonline.com/

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP-WF-09-03-11 0004GMT

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 September 2011 12:47
 

Illinois memorial pays tribute to ill-fated ‘Radium Girls’

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Written by Associated Press   
Tuesday, 06 September 2011 10:14
Self-luminous paint, which contains radium, was widely used on the faces and hands of watches. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 Generic license. OTTAWA, Ill. (AP) – A northern Illinois city has paid tribute to former factory employees who worked under dangerous conditions.

The Radium Girls memorial honors the women who worked at watch-painting plants for Radium Dial Co. and Luminous Processes Inc in the 1920s and '30s. The women painted glow-in-the-dark watch dials using radium-laced paint. Many died of radium exposure from using their lips to hone their paintbrushes.

The (Ottawa) Daily Times reports the life-size bronze statue was unveiled Friday. It was placed near the former Luminous Processes Inc. factory plant.

Former employees also attended the unveiling. Gov. Pat Quinn proclaimed Friday Radium Girls Day in Illinois.

The memorial grew out of a class project by then-eight-grader Madeline Piller, who is now a freshman at the University of Illinois College of Engineering.

Information from: The Daily Times, http://www.ottawadailytimes.com

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-09-04-11 1241GMT

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 September 2011 11:03
 

Arts advocates to demand return of Kan. funding

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Written by Associated Press   
Tuesday, 30 August 2011 08:45

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Citizens for the Arts plans to have a Statehouse news conference to demand that legislators and Gov. Sam Brownback reinstate state funding for the arts next year.

Tuesday's event will include comments from Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat.

The Republican governor pushed this year to abolish the Kansas Arts Commission and have arts programs rely more on private funding. Legislators rejected the idea, but Brownback vetoed the $689,000 lawmakers set aside for the Arts Commission and its authority to retain its small staff.

Those moves didn't eliminate the commission, and Brownback has replaced seven of its 12 members.

The decision led the federal government and a regional arts alliance to deny Kansas funding, a loss of about $1.3 million.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-08-29-11 0902GMT

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 August 2011 08:49
 

Critics call N.Y. vintner's 9/11 wine distasteful

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Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, 24 August 2011 10:03
A solitary firefighter stands amid the rubble and smoke in New York City, days after a Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Image by U.S. Navy Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jim Watson, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. NEW YORK (AP) – A New York vintner has produced a 9/11 memorial wine that's been approved by the Sept. 11 memorial board. But critics say the wine is in poor taste.

The Daily News reported that Lieb Family Cellars of Mattituck will donate up to 10 percent from each sale to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

New York City Councilman Peter Vallone is blasting the $19.11 bottle, saying “What's next? A 9/11 pastrami sandwich?”

Irene Lavelle, whose husband died in the attacks, said the wine demeans the date.

Lieb general manager Garry Madden says the vineyard lost many friends on 9/11, and the wine was a way to give something back.

Sept. 11 memorial board member Monica Iken said the effort will help sustain the memorial for the future.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-08-23-11 1319GMT

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 August 2011 10:37
 

Earthquake closes Smithsonian; damages cathedral

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Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, 24 August 2011 09:29
The Washington National Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, located at 3101 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, in the Massachusetts Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Photo by MathKnight, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

WASHINGTON (AP) - All of the Smithsonian Institution museums on the National Mall have been closed in the wake of an earthquake centered in Virginia that shook the nation's capital.

Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough tells The Associated Press that staffers are examining the buildings for damage, and no injuries were reported.

Clough, who is an earthquake engineer, says a main concern is the Smithsonian Castle, the red, gothic-style building that was constructed in 1857.

He says he was meeting with his staff when they felt the floor move.

Clough says there are some minor cracks and broken glass in the castle. There are also reports of damage at two Smithsonian facilities in suburban Maryland that do not receive visitors.

The National Zoo is also closed.

The National Park Service says most of the monuments and memorials on the National Mall have reopened after being closed following the East Coast earthquake.

The park service says all monuments and memorials were initially evacuated and closed, including the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial.

But the King memorial and several others that don't include large buildings were reopened within an hour of the 5.8-magnitude earthquake, which struck at 1:51 p.m. Visitors continued streaming through the King memorial Tuesday afternoon.

The Lincoln and Jefferson memorials were closed for several hours but reopened Tuesday evening. The Washington Monument was found to be structurally sound but it's not clear when it will reopen. The Old Post Office tower will reopen Wednesday morning.

Here is a summary of how Washington landmarks were affected by Tuesday's earthquake:

— Washington National Cathedral: Damage to three of the four pinnacles atop the main tower, and visible cracks in the church's structure. Building remains closed to visitors.

— Washington Monument: Evacuated, closed. Preliminary inspection finds it structurally sound. Grounds reopened but monument remains closed.

— U.S. Capitol: Evacuated, closed, reopened after inspection by structural engineers. House and Senate office buildings now accessible.

— White House, Old Executive Office Building, Treasury building: Nonessential employees evacuated; reopened around 4 p.m. No damage.

— Lincoln Memorial: Evacuated, closed, reopened after several hours. No damage.

— Jefferson Memorial: Evacuated, closed, reopened after several hours. No damage.

— Old Post Office tower: Evacuated, closed, no damage. Reopening Wednesday.

— Smithsonian museums: Closed Tuesday, being inspected for damage. Minor cracks, broken glass reported at 1857 Smithsonian Castle.

— MLK Memorial: Briefly closed, now open. No damage.

#   #   #

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 August 2011 09:49
 
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