Rotten to the Core

March, 2009.

At 4440 Lawton stands the buildings of the former Edmunds & Jones Mfg. Co., and not much else. In fact, the whole area is basically a classic urban prairie.


The plant itself is quite run-down looking, but the curious triangular peaks of its roof stick up above the trees high enough to be visible from the Jeffries Expressway. This particular neighborhood of Detroit is called Core City, and contains the tiny street where my grandmother's family settled in the 1920s, Eastern Place. This Google Earth image makes it look like a pretty ugly area:


Stevie Wonder also used to live in this area, at 3347 Breckenridge, just on the other side of I-96.


The Edmunds & Jones Mfg. Co. still existed in 2009 when I checked this place out, having returned from a 76-year "hiatus." When I looked them up and saw that they had a website at e-n-j.com, which is now defunct, doing business reproducing vintage parts for hot rodders, and were based in Long Beach, California. They seem to have been famous for their "Type 20" lamp design.

George E. Edmunds was president of the company while William T. Jones was vice-president. According to Clarence M. Burton's The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, the Edmunds & Jones Mfg. Co. made acetylene, oil, and electric headlamps for autos, similar lights for tractors and motorboats, and primarily supplied Ford Motor Co. for a time. They also made connectors, sockets, and lamps for speedometers and other gauges.


Burton wrote that Edmunds & Jones had "marvelous" growth after 1915, and in 1916 bought up their subsidiaries for a total workforce of 850 people, even shipping products to Canada, France, Italy, and other European companies where they were greatly desired. "The people of Detroit regard the men at the head of this company as excellent citizens, animated by one desire, which briefly stated, means the commercial development of Detroit as a manufacturing center." When this was penned by Mr. Burton in 1922, the Motor City was on the cusp of its peak years. The factory here at Lawton & Buchanan looks to be from about that era.

Besides this plant on Lawton they seem to have also had a plant at 313-315 Riopelle, as well as one at 1231 Woodward, both prior to 1920 and the city-wide address renumbering.


Humboldt Street is still brick-paved for some reason as it tapers off into nothingness at an empty field. In the distance you can see the skeleton of an old watertower that once belonged to Northway Motor & Mfg Co. plant, which I will feature in an upcoming post:


Just for fun, go to historicaerials.com and compare different aerial images for this corner (Lawton & Buchanan) from 2005 and 1973. The difference is just crazy.


Butchered-up phone terminals, and cut powerlines dangle from these poles at the end of the alley at Earle Street. The wooden structure you see might've been someone's garage at some point. The pole directly behind it was actually charred from the fire that may have destroyed the last of this block.


I stopped my car next to a forlorn cell tower hidden behind the rear of the complex, and got out into the fresh country air to enjoy the utter silence. Two 100-year-old houses stood flaking away to dust next to it, pressed so close up against each other and the factory wall itself that you couldve thrown a blanket over them. Once, land in Detroit was at such a premium that such practices were called for.


A weathered railroad spur was still visible embedded in the brick alley of this plant:


I poked my head into a missing doorway. This one-story section had obviously burnt, but the steel trusses were disappearing due to other reasons. I could see the stubs where they were torched off.


I tried accessing the adjacent multi-story building, but the firedoor was still intact. I mosied down the alley of the complex and heard the unexpected sound of a person on a PA system, from inside one of the white buildings that I thought was abandoned--despite having a huge gaping entrance with detritus mounded up near it and loose sheetmetal shrapnel noisily flapping in the wind, this place was apparently not abandoned yet.

It has occasionally been accessible since my first visit, but for whatever reason whenever I come by to look at the joint it's always sealed up.


Edmunds & Jones also had another smaller building one block to the south, which they used as their metal and glass warehouse, as well as paper carton warehouse, according to the Sanborn maps:


The address here is 2740-2752 Poplar Street.


The snazzy facade speaks to 1930s construction.


As you can see it's been completely decimated by fire, and the main plant is visible in the background:



References:
www.e-n-j.com [accessed in 2009]
The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, by Clarence M. Burton, p. 602
Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal, Vol. 10, p. 546
The Automobile, Volume 16, Issues 1-13 (January 17, 1907), p. 140
Sanborn maps for Detroit, Volume 2, 1921

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