The dilapidated factory that helped turn the Puget Sound region to high-tech is being demolished after 75 years, a casualty of time, technology and tails that grew too tall.
The Boeing Co.’s Plant 2, a sprawling but long outdated building between Boeing Field and south Seattle’s Duwamish River, gave birth to some of the world’s most significant aircraft. It was a home to “Rosie the Riveter,” women who built thousands of World War II planes.
It’s also where the mostly unskilled workers of a fish-and-timber region first learned the art of assembling aluminum, engines and electronics into flying machines.
Under an agreement with the state and federal governments and Indian tribes, Boeing will tear down the nearly empty factory to restore more than a half-mile of the Duwamish and create nearly 5 acres of wetlands.
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Demolition should begin this fall, Boeing spokeswoman Kathleen Spicer said.
In 1936, as the danger of global conflict grew, Boeing opened the factory to build the prototype for the B-17 Flying Fortress. Eventually, nearly 13,000 of the bombers would be built, half of them at Plant 2.
Later in the war, it was where Boeing developed the B-29, a revolutionary plane with advanced radios, radars and computer-aided machine guns, that dropped the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Thousands of people – at one point nearly half of them women – worked at the plant during World War II.
In the late ’40s, Plant 2 was where Boeing developed the B-47, the first large swept-wing jet, and the B-52 bomber, still in service with the Air Force after six decades. In the 1960s it turned out the initial 737, now Boeing’s best-selling jetliner.
But the plant was headed toward obsolescence within 15 years after it opened. Though it had expanded from its original 60,000 square feet to more than 1.7 million, it was too small for modern aircraft. And the roof beams were just 35 feet high.