Rosie the Riveter factory in danger of demolition

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY,  |  July 29, 2013 at 12:44 PM
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The famous "Rosie the Riveter" factory near Detroit is set to be demolished this week if donors fail to raise $3.5 million by Thursday.

The historic Willow Run Bomber Plant, at a small airport west of Detroit, was where the Ford Motor Company switched from making cars to planes during World War II, producing one B-24 per hour to aid the war effort.

One of the factory's 40,000 employees, Rose Will Monroe, became the famous "Rosie the Riveter" in films used to persuade women to take jobs while men were overseas fighting.

The Yankee Air Museum, located at the airport and forced to downsize after a 2004 fire destroyed the hangar housing the collection, is behind the drive to raise the $8 million necessary to move the museum to the old plant space.

"We have to build a hangar one way or the other," said Dennis Norton, Yankee Air Museum founder and president of the Michigan Aerospace Foundation. "When people come to the museum, what they really want to see are [the planes] but they can't see them because they're over at the airport."

"When the opportunity came up to save a little piece of the bomber plant, we switched to that because it's such a part of our history here," Norton said.

"A lot of people say that that plant became the deciding factor in the outcome of World War II," said Ypsilanti Township Attorney Doug Winters. "It's part of our heritage."

The property was taken over by the RACER Trust in 2011, after General Motors declared bankruptcy in 2009. The plan was to raze the entire 335-acre property for redevelopment.

While the township and museum officials worried over the "doomed-to-fail" three-month deadline set up by the RACER Trust, Norton said he is hopeful the funds will come in through big donors.

"Usually those are the ones that come in right at the last minute," Norton said.

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