Milwaukee’s contribution to auto manufacturing includes a century-old factory in Bay View – WUWM
As automobile companies pledge to take a major step toward production of electric vehicles, we thought it was a good time for Bubbler Talk to look at part of Milwaukee’s history of making cars.
Specifically, a plant that was on the 3200 block of Clement Avenue at the far south end of the Bay View neighborhood.
The three-story red brick building and smaller concrete structures with sawtooth roofs still stand.
The Google Maps view of the building located on South Clement Avenue in Milwaukee.
As we stood across the street, retired educator Joel Eul asked if cars were really made there. Because that’s what he was told growing up.
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“As a young man, I went to school at St. Thomas More [High School], went by this area [and] always dreamed of having my own car because I was on the bus,” Eul remembers.
Eul says he recently worked at the school for a year and drove by the former plant on Clement Ave, “and you know, I said, ‘I’d like to know.'”
Well, here’s what historians say they know:
In 1916, former Buick and General Motors executive Charles W. Nash founded the Nash Motor Company in Kenosha. He also controlled Indiana-based Lafayette Motors, and, while some accounts from auto historians vary, according to Wisconsin Historical Society property records by 1922 Nash had moved Lafayette production to the then new-building on Clement Avenue.
By 1924, Nash temporarily retired the Lafayette name and made only Nash brand cars at the factory until about 1930.
From the Archives Department, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries.
Man stands next to a Nash automobile in 1928 on Lincoln Ave. in Milwaukee.
Jim Dworschack says those were very good vehicles. Dworschack is a former Milwaukee-area resident who now lives in southwest Wisconsin. He’s a member of the Nash Car Club of America, and knows the difference between overhead and flathead valve six cylinder engines.
“Nash competed in the same class as Buick, and basically the same customer base. Basically, it was an upper middle class car. Nash offered things that very few other manufacturers did at the time. For instance, both the Nash Special Six and Advanced Six were overhead valve engines, which is a much more efficient design than the flathead, but more expensive to make,” Dworschack tells WUWM.
Dworschack even owns a Special Six, made in 1929 at the Clement Avenue plant. He says a couple years ago he and some other Nash owners made a trip to briefly stand outside the former factory.
Courtesy of Jim Dworschack
Former Milwaukee area resident Jim Dworschack stands next to his 1929 Nash Special Six at his home in southwest Wisconsin.
“We kind of shared what we each knew and what we speculated about the place and kind of marveled that there was a test track there,” he says.
Overhead images on Google Earth show the test track is gone, and MOPAR, the company now at the site, did not respond to WUWM’s requests for information. But Dworschack says the buildings that remain appear to be the last intact factory of Nash Motors.
This overhead image on Google Earth shows the auto parts distribution center on Clement Avenue that …….