Michigan City, Indiana...Page Three

Haskell - Barker/ Pullman Standard Car Works


Left and Right: Postcard images of the Haskell - Barker Car Works, Michigan City, Indiana. This company would later become Pullman Standard. Mike Fleming Collection.


Left: Looking south from the NIPSCO generating station at the Pullman Standard Works. Right: Haskell - Barker Car Works, circa 1908. This picture is looking toward the northeast. Mike Fleming Collection

Inside the erecting shop, Haskell - Barker works, early 1900's.

In 1852, a major factory was founded at Michigan City to manufacture railroad freight cars. In 1855, John Barker, a local grain shipper, joined two New Yorkers in establishing the firm of Haskell, Barker and Aldridge. It became Michigan City's largest and longest surviving industry, at one time producing 15,000 cars a year. In 1907, Haskell-Barker had 3500 employees; in the 1960's, as Pullman Standard, its payroll was $9 million a year. Today, the grounds are occupied by Prime Outlets Mall.

In 1869, John H. Barker took over his father's interest in the railroad car company. He became a highly successful businessman and community leader, contributing substantially to the design and funding of the "old library" and several other buildings including the YMCA, St. Anthony Hospital, Trinity Episcopal Church, Barker Hall, and the bandstand in Washington Park. He also supervised the expansion of the family home at 7th and Washington into a 38-room mansion. The fashionable neighborhoods that once centered around the "old library" now moved over to Washington Street..

Boxcars being assembled, circa 1945. These Life Magazine photos we believe were taken at the Pullman Standard plant at Michigan City, Indiana. I have not been able to confirm this. If not, they would be represenative of what the operations would be like.


Left and Right: Life Magazine photos of what we believe is the Pullman Standard works at Michigan City. These pictures are of the boxcar assembly building, circa 1945. -Life Magazine Photo Archives-

Another Life photo of boxcars being built at Pullman Standard.









Pullman Standard, aerial view, date unknown. Obviously before the fire that hit the plant in 1973.


Left and Right: July 13, 1973. Spectators watch along 8th Street as the Pullman Standard Plants burns.-Stewart Michard Photographs-


Left: Spectators are drawn to the huge fire. Right: German Lutheran Church, pictured left, somehow escapes the fire. Part of this church mysteriously burned in 2007.-Stewart Michard Photographs-

Pullman Standard Aftermath


Left and Right: Aftermath of the July 13, 1973 Pullman Standard fire. Piles of rubble where once the city's largest employer and major railcar manufacturer stood since 1852. Photos courtesy of the Michigan City Public Library.


Left: Survivor of the fire. The original Haskells Barker Office Building. Right: The stone mantle above the main entrance. -Stewart Michard Photographs-

From The Michigan City News Dispatch, A Look Back

"Early in the century, Michigan City's Pullman-Standard was the largest factory in Indiana. On July 13, 1973, the main part of the huge industrial complex burned in a conflagration that threatened to set the North End on fire.

The factory that produced railroad box cars for more than a century had closed about three years earlier, and new owners Nate and Henry Winski bought it in 1971. Two manufacturing companies, Poloron and Bobko Inc., were using buildings on the 51-acre tract for storage, and Don Jones Maintenance was headquartered there. A crew was cutting bolts with a torch to remove structural members that day to make room for new tenants. They left work at 3:30 p.m. unaware there was a problem.

But as fire investigators later determined, a red hot bolt apparently smoldered in the dry wood 10 feet above the floor, where the workers had been using the torch. The fire wasn't detected until about 11 p.m. when smoke was seen coming from the southwest corner of building No. 44, which stretched along the north side of Eighth Street. Fire investigators later said the fire spread on the underside of the roof, feeding on dry wood covered with layers of paint.

By the time it was discovered, the fire was at the west end of the long brick and wood building, which formed the southern edge of the Pullman complex. It was a big fire, but the real magnitude of the fire would soon sear the memories of those who gathered. Spectators standing along Eighth Street at the east end of the building, some watching next to the Emmanuel Church of the Deliverance, heard glass breaking and other noises inside. Suddenly, the buildingıs roof collapsed and sent bricks flying across the alley next to the church. People scattered, and soon the entire building erupted into an intense, open fire.

Flames leaped high into the sky and spread north, driven by southerly winds. The fire would spread to the other structures inside the complex, where roofs and anything wood burned. Had the wind been blowing from the north, flames easily could have spread into the residential neighborhood to the south. As it was, flaming pieces of debris were lifted high into the sky above the inferno, and they slowly descended onto roofs and into yards across the residential blocks to the north and east of the Pullman site. People turned on garden hoses at some homes, particularly in the area bounded by Wabash and Washington streets, from Seventh to Fourth streets, to douse small blazes. Small fires were quickly extinguished on the roofs of one house, a garage, and at the Central Fire Station on Fourth Street.

A small grass fire was reported in the median of Michigan Boulevard. Some of the estimated 1,000 spectators, clad in nightgowns, brushed embers from their hair and clothes. Volunteers carried records and other items from the former Pullman office building, stacking them in the street as the red glow mounted behind them. But the fire would spare the office building, the machine shop next door, which is The Works at Prime Outlets today, along with the church on Eighth Street. A warehouse at the north end of the property also escaped and was later razed.

By 1:35 a.m., the fire had completed its march across the manufacturing plant, and flames broke through the walls facing Wabash Street. The fire was visible for miles, and firefighters came from all the adjacent communities to join the fight and stand by for other fire calls while all the cityıs firefighters and equipment gathered at the Pullman factory. By 2 a.m. the inferno had largely consumed itself, although the ruins would smolder for days. The building along Eighth Street was a heap of bricks, and the large manufacturing structures in the center were shells of brick and steel that were toppled in the days to come.

Nate Winski estimated the loss at $250,000 to $500,000, including a number of overhead cranes. The clean-up would be costly, with many tons of material hauled away, including tons of steel removed for scrap. The Pullman-Standard fire was second only to the 1913 fire at the Haskell and Barker South Yards several blocks farther south. Haskell and Barker, founded in Michigan City in 1852 to make wood-structure box cars, later became Pullman-Standard. The Haskell and Barker factory was described as the largest manufacturing plant in Indiana in 1907, with 990,000 square feet of factory space on 51 acres at Eighth and Wabash, and 1,308,344 square feet of space on 109 acres at the South Yards.

The factory is credited with being the birthplace of the first modern assembly line, a first often credited to Henry Ford. It also produced an all-steel box car called the PS-1 that was the first standardized box car in American railroading. But by the late 1960s production had shifted elsewhere, and when the company announced on Dec. 18, 1970, that the factory was closing only 70 were working, more than 1,000 workers already having been laid off.

Winski had begun clearing some of the industrial structures before the fire began, and was toying with various ideas for redeveloping the site. But it would remain largely unused for more than a decade after the fire until local investors transformed the site into a manufacturers outlet shopping mall called Lighthouse Place, with The Works containing shops and restaurants, including the Pullman Cafe, in the only surviving Pullman buildings. Today, the shopping center has been renamed Prime Outlets, and it is Michigan Cityıs biggest draw, pulling more than 3 million visitors a year to more than 100 stores."

Courtesy of A Look Back

Michigan City News Dispatch

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