Post details: St. Louis Army Ammunition Plant

09/05/06

Permalink 07:58:40 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 769 words   English (US)

St. Louis Army Ammunition Plant

A few weekends ago Chris, Hunter, Wolffy and I met up for some relaxing weekend exploring. We began north of the Landing inspecting the many empty warehouses there, finally realizing that most of them are pretty darn secure. We did, however, find a building that appeared to be empty that had a doorbell at one of the entrances. When I pushed it, we all stopped dead in our tracks as the sound of a siren echoed within. For a minute I thought that the owner of the building had set a trap for curious explorers like us. After ringing the bell again, though, it was apparent that the sound it made was in fact a siren. How cool is that?

After a little discussion, we decided to head a few miles down the highway to a gigantic abandoned munitions plant, somewhere I had wanted to explore for an extremely long time but had never had the courage to actually explore....and for good reason. If you live in St. Louis and use the interstate highway system at all, you are familliar with the munitions plant. It is RIGHT off the highway and getting to it requires walking through a very spacious and very in-the-open empty field. I finally convinced myself that motorists on the highway were more interested in keeping their cars on the road than on what was going on at the abandoned plant, and we headed out.

The St. Louis Army Ammunition Plant was built in the 1940s and used extensively for the production of ammunition during World War II. It was later reactivated and used during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The site continued to be used by different Army Reserve units (mainly the other newer buildings on the site, not the large plant building) until it was finally closed down in 1998. I have heard that the site is still owned by the military and that there are plans to raze it in the future, but I don't know anything more specific than that. One of the guys who accompanied me on that day was driving by a few days later and said he saw a number of guys with hard hats onsite walking around. Perhaps we visited just in time. This seems to usually be the case for me: I visit a place, and then two weeks later someone begins a renovation project.

The guys and I found an easy entrance point into the property after very little searching. Right away I was a little nervous because the cars on the highway were RIGHT THERE, but we had come this far, and I was "sure it's fine." The main building was massive. There was nothing in the way of old machinery inside. I'm sure that the government gutted the building fairly well when they abandoned the site. The catwalks were still intact, however, and after very little time I was ascending a ladder to the very top of the structure. From this vantage, one is given an amazing panoramic view of how huge the munitions plant really is. Sadly, none of my comrades had balls enough to join me on the highest catwalks. How I longed for White Rabbit's company.

After spending a good hour at the main building, we made out way to the newer long buildings at the other end of the property. Here we found buildings that seemed as though they had not been abandoned for too long, but that were completely ripped to shreds. It appeared as if a group of people spent a lot of free time making sure to bust up every ceiling tile, every toilet. We also found a number of used condoms. I find it interesting that someone would ever take a girl to a place like that and think, "Wow, this disgusting abandoned building is really turning me on!" But I am proud that they remembered to wrap it up. I just hope the laid a blanket down so the didn't get fiberglass insulation rash all over their butts. It was in the newer buildings that we found one of the more interesting and unexpected parts of the site: the massive underground areas. In the basement of one of theses buildings, we found a utility tunnel that led to an unending labyrinth of pillars and rooms. It was apparent that these area stretched all the way underneath the active buildings adjacent to the plant. These areas will require future explorations, I think, because we just didn't have the time on this day. As long as work doesn't begin in the near future, I'm sure I'll return.

Comments:

Comment from: pavement [Visitor]
watch out in the tunnels, there are weird chmeicals down there some of my friends got rashes that took a while to go away.
Permalink 09/06/06 @ 01:54
Comment from: steve wiechert [Visitor]
I am in charge of tearing down these buildings. started demo right after your visit. Call me if you want 618-920-1856. working monday thru friday 8-5 date 9-18-06
Permalink 09/18/06 @ 23:10
Comment from: Romo [Visitor] · http://www.archrivalrollergirls.com
This place could be a GREAT place to hold a roller derby bout if we had the right sponsors/partners!
Permalink 02/13/07 @ 11:54
Comment from: megan [Visitor]
my grandmother worked at this plant during ww2.
Permalink 03/07/07 @ 11:11
Comment from: Harry [Visitor] · http://www.theatrgroup.com
my mom worked at this plant during ww2 - blew the whistle on a night shift foreman who always came in drunk, and was so obsessed with his production quota he forced workers to allow defective ammunition to pass inspection.

a girl working there wanted the other workers to sign a complaint against the foreman... when push came to shove, Mom was the only one who signed... she and the other girl were fired, but not before Mom holed up in the ladies room all night so that she could speak to the authorities (military brass) the next morning...

her young husband was a marine in training for duty in the pacific ...

after Mom's speech to the "brass" the next morning, she was not fired, but because of the hostility she caused with some of the other workers, she was assigned to a different workstation at another building... she refused the offer ...

three days later the FBI showed up at my grandmother's flat near Howard Street and Jefferson Boulevard looking for Mom to question her, which scared the heck out of Grandma, who lied to them by stating she had moved to California...

Mom wouldn't stand for that and "turned herself in" ... after she told the story, the foreman was fired from the plant...

less than a year later her husband was killed on Saipan when a defective grenade blew up in his hand before he could toss it..

25 years later Mom saved my life by flying to Guam, where I was recuperating from a bullet wound inflicted by a complete stranger who didn't like me cutting a path through his Vietnamese jungle ...

I'm writing a movie about Mom... if anyone knows anyone who has firsthand information describing what it was like working in the plant, please email me at: harry@theatrgroup.com...

nice blog you've got here...
Permalink 04/25/07 @ 19:38
Comment from: Ronr [Visitor]
I grew up on Mimika a few blocks from this plant. We called it Chevrolet Shell in those days during the Korean War. I believe they made ammunition for large caliber weapons (machine guns). I would lie in bed at night listening to the Buuurrrmmmp of testing floating in on the night air. I guess it went on a lot more than that but we were used to it and didn't notice.
Never been inside. Thanks for the photos.
Permalink 08/06/07 @ 16:38
Comment from: Ronr [Visitor]
And that looks like crumbling asbestos on the pipes.
Permalink 08/06/07 @ 17:08
Comment from: Roberta [Visitor]
My father worked a thte ammunitions plant during WWII. He came from Chicago to work there as a mechanical engineer because he was 4F and could not join the service. I now live in St. Louis and had always wondered where my father had worked while he was here. Thank you for the pictures. Over the nearly 30 years that I have lived in St. Louis I have seen these buildings but never knew what they were. Since these buildings are now gone, I thank you for the record that you have provided as a link to my family's past. Roberta
Permalink 09/08/07 @ 16:15
Comment from: Jim Otto [Visitor]
My father was contacted by the FBI in late 1940 At that time he worked for "Fisher Body at the General Motors plant at Union & Natural Bridge. They pulled him out of that plant and he became a roving supervisior (an undercover spy) with a pass to ANYWHERE in the entire ammunition plant. He was to keep his eyes and ears open and report ANYTHING that even looked suspicious. After the war he went back to the GM plant with no loss of seniority. They used to make .30 .50 Cal; machine gun ammo as well as 75 & 105 MM artillery shells there. They had "nutting trucks" there called "Angel buggies"
that the primers were loaded on. ONLY single men were allowed to push or move them. One time,Dad told me, a guy accidently pushed off one the "the buggies" off of the concrete, and they found his watch on top of a building ---three blocks away. Dad said that ANYTHINE that they had any type of incident, the entire plant was sealed shut--no one or phone calls in or out, until they fully investigated what happened. In the 1950's I can remember being in the car with my parents and going north on Goodfellow and seeing the doors open and seeing the artillery shells on a conveyor having just been formed and in a metal cradel and the shells were cherry red hot
Permalink 10/15/07 @ 14:43
Comment from: Tara [Visitor]
I had chills looking at the pictures. Like a few other commenters, I had a loved one work there during WWII: my grandmother. It's cool to see where she worked during the war. Too bad it's gone though. I would have loved to be there personally.
When my mom was a kid, she knew when her mother was taking her to the doctor because she would pass that building, which she hated, because she knew she was going to get a shot. ^_^
Permalink 11/04/07 @ 22:32
Comment from: Gerd [Visitor] · http://www.cigland.com
Very nice site!
Permalink 01/29/08 @ 09:04
Comment from: Chris L. Arnold [Visitor]
My Grandmother Worked here durring the WWII,& up 'till the Korean war, I Am involved working on a Film project based on a Comicbook series created in 1973,and the series has a 10-Book Hardback type Novel(s), which several are the bases of many Film projects from the Comics Series,.. the 9th Book is also a FILM project Incorporating THIS 'MUNITIONs Factory in the Climactic tragic ending,...... Oh,.. and I GREW UP in st.Louis, too... ~ All over the place,....... "Jennings", "Florissant", "St.Ann", "St.Charles", "DownTown St.Louis->(2017,Park Ave)",.. "Natural Bridge", "University City", "Hazelwood", "Creeve Coure", "Kirkwood", "Lynwood",...... an' Etc'.....
Permalink 02/04/08 @ 21:51
Comment from: Paula Brown [Visitor]
Our family lived at 6116 Otto. My dad used to tell kids, it was a big bird catcher. Eyes wide-open..
Permalink 09/30/08 @ 04:42
Comment from: Sevena [Visitor]
Both my parents worked there and I was always told the name of the place was called "Small Arms" plant.
Permalink 12/20/08 @ 00:10
Comment from: Lynn [Visitor]
My dad worked at this plant in the late 1960's. He passed away over 20 years ago and I had never seen the inside of the plant - only saw it from the highway. Yes, I'm sure there was asbestos there, as there was everywhere at that time. I found the pictures interesting. Thanks for being a dare devil, going in & taking photos.
Permalink 01/18/09 @ 02:11
Comment from: Ken Merkel [Visitor]
During WWII, my stepfather--Fred Spies--worked at the Small Arms Plant as a welder. We lived at 5666 Hebert Street, just southeast of Goodfellow and Natural Bridge on what was called Horseshoe Bend.

On summer's nights while playing tag and "Release", or just sitting around on our porches, we neighborhood kids could hear the incessant tat-tat-tat-tat of the machine guns, both the light, fast .30 cal. and the bigger, slower, boomier .50 cal. It went on all night.

And I always marveled at the big clamshell roof of the foundry that could be seen off Goodfellow Blvd. I always wondered if they ever closed it during the heavy rains.

Ken Merkel
Born and Raised in St. Louis
Beaumont High School, Jan. 1953
Washington University, June, 1960
Permalink 02/01/09 @ 16:02
Comment from: THERESA [Visitor]
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE ARTICLE ON THE ARMY PLANT IN NORTH ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI. I LIVED VERY CLOSE TO IT AND IT ALWAYS DID AMAZE ME. THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD HAVE RESTRUCTURED IT AND MADE IT A MUSEUM FOR ALL THE HARD WORK BY WOMEN THAT WOKED THEIR, WHILE THEIR HUSBANDS, FATHERS, GRANDFATHERS, UNCLES ETC..FOUGHT IN THE WAR. IT WAS GOVERNMENT OWNED, I'M SURE OUR TAXES, LET ALONE LIVES AND HARD WORKING CONDITIONS WENT INTO THAT BUILDING. HOW CAN "THEY JUST BRING IT DOWN"??? WHITHOUT A STATE VOTE. THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS WANTS TO KEEP CITY SCHOOLS THAT HAVE CLOSED, TO STAY SCHOOLS. THATS FINE BECAUSE WE PAID THE TAXES TO KEEP THEM OPEN AND REPAIRS, FOR HOW LONG??? NOW THERE ARE A SMALL GROUP(MONEY HOGS) THAT WANT TO SUE THE CITY, SO THEY CAN TURN THESE SCHOOLS INTO HOTELS,BARS, AND MORE COMMERCIAL MONEY TRAPS. AFTER WE THE PEOPLE OF ST. LOUIS AND THE WHOLE STATE OF MISSOURI, PAID FOR THESE BUILDINGS. I ALSO MET AND TALKED TO THE PEOPLE THAT TOOK THE BUILDING DOWN, NICE GUY JUST DOING HIS JOB. BUT WHO DO YOU THINK GOT ALL THAT SCRAPE. JAPAN,CHINA,IRAN,PAKISTAN,RATHER IRONI. I LOVED THAT BUILDING, IT MENT THAT MY GRANDFATHERS, FATHER, AND THREE BROTHERS, WENT TO WAR FOR A GREAT REASON, GOD BLESS AMERICA, THANKS FOR YOUR TIME. THERESA
Permalink 04/03/09 @ 15:55
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Permalink 07/22/09 @ 03:42
Comment from: Gene Walsh [Visitor]
I think I was 10-12 years old when the "Small Arms Plant" (as it was popularly called) was being built, I think around 1940-1941. I heard then that laborers working in the construction earned $24.00 a week, which, in my young mind, seemed a huge wage. I lived in the area, slept on our screened in porch during summers and Iwould fall sleepm at night listening to the gunfire of sample rounds.
Permalink 11/29/09 @ 14:10
Comment from: Carrie [Visitor]
Both my adopted and biological moms worked in this plant during WWII. My adopted mom used to be a supervisor inspecting bullets. She said that any that were defective had to be destroyed because if any of the guys used them, they would blow up in their faces. My dad was also in WWII in the Pacific and I know that she thought of him every time she inspected those bullets. It was kind of ironic at the time because my biological mom worked there also and they didn't know each other until about 13 years later when my bio mom married into my dad's family. I didn't know that she also worked there until my brother told me a few years ago. They are both gone now and I agree it's a shame that the plant they worked in couldn't have been converted into some kind of museum as a tribute to all the men and women who the soldiers depended on to keep them safe. BTW, my mom used to refer to it as "the war plant." I think she lived on Easton Ave. at the time. Thank you for preserving at least a part of their history in such a wonderful way. I had seen pictures of it on a St. Louis website, but to see the inside of it made me well up a bit remembering my moms were both there at one time.
Permalink 11/30/09 @ 23:33
Comment from: edhardyclub [Visitor] · http://www.edhardyclub.com
Thank you for your help!
Permalink 12/03/09 @ 21:44
Comment from: dirtroadjohn [Visitor]
I worked as a Machinist here in the late 1960's and turned out thousands of 105mm Shells for the Vietnam War ... My good buddy worked in the Forge and I used to visit him on breaks and at Lunch time ... It was "hot as blazes" in there, even in the dead of winter ... What a sight it was, watching that Forge form those massive projectiles before they were shipped over to my department for machining ... It was a memorable experience, not unlike the War itself ...
Permalink 01/05/10 @ 02:31
Comment from: Mark Klimkowski [Visitor]
I have an M1 Garand bandolier that is a mystery. The cartridges have the headstamp LS 43.

From the condition of the cartridges it looks like WW 2 era ammunition (1943)......but I can find no record of any "LS" headstamp in any of the literature. Closest I can find is SL (St Louis Ordnance Plant, St Louis, MO).

I have been wondering if it is possible that the dies used for the letters S and L could be reversed. Finding someone who worked at the plant and would know this would be wonderful.....If any one does know something about this please email MArk at ciscochain@aol.com.

Thanks!
Permalink 05/03/10 @ 00:41
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