Border Cities Industries

This plant at Kildare and Munsee, was known as Border Cities Industires, and was a subsidiary of G.M. through the end of WWII. The building was owned by the government, but run by GM.

I’m not certain when this plant was built, but I have a record for a plant built by General Motors in 1942, that was designed by Toronto architects Allward and Gouinlock, who also desgined the Guaranaty Trust (TD Bank) at Univesrsity and Victoria in 1948. I’m still working on confirming if this is the same plant. I’ve confirmed this is the plant, with Robert Hill looks like a date of construction of 1939.

There are a few interesting things about this photo… One is the dudes digging something by hand along where Munsee is today…

I like the ladder for changing/working on the light fixture on the pole.

There’s a truck in the dock, and notice the barricades, marked “Woollatt”. Woollatt Construction was a long time Walkerville company, in fact William Woollatt served as vice-president of the Essex Terminal Railway in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The plant was very modern for the time, it reminds me of an Albert Kahn design with all the glass…

An aerial view of the plant from the late 1970’s- early 1980’s… In 1946 at the end of the war the S.W.& A. purchased the building for $750,000 from the War Assets Board for use as a bus garage. The S.W. & A. (the forerunners of today’s Transit Windsor) then leased some of the space back to General Motors. There was an uproar at the time that the building should be kept for industrial use, and that use as a garage wasn’t appropriate. After the S.W. & A. accquired the propertry, it was then that the workers shifted from the car barns at University and Wellington to Kildare Road.

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During WWII, the plant managed by G.M. made Browning Machine Guns for the war effort, and there is/was a top secret shooting range in the basement. In the early 1980’s G.M. reacquired the property, and in 1982, it was re-clad along with the entire facility on both sides of Walker Road to give it a uniform look.

Despite being covered up the building is still there, and when you drive down Kildare Road next time, take a look at the roofline, you’ll notice the south west corner of the plant still has the same look as in the photo above (mostly hidden by the trees! Sorry!).

13 Comments on Border Cities Industries

  1. Re Woollatt – firm started as fuel and coal company and was located on Ottawa at Walker (the market parking lot}. My mother was a Woollatt and her grandfather was a very successful businessman. The railroad, Greyhond bus, Kennelworth racetrack just to name a few.

  2. i herd a rumor about 20 years from a insider that this building had a self demolition device built into it in the case that a war broke out investors did not want the the hi tech building used in any war effort against them. just wondering if anybody can validate this rumor.

  3. If this plant was built in 1938 by the Canadian Goverment, What was its original purpose?
    Did the goverment build any other plants in Canada befor World War 2 for operation by private
    companies? Did someone in Ottawa have a veiw to the future Sept. 3 1939?
    Just curiose.

  4. They made machine guns during the war but this was designed and built before the Second World War started on Sept 3rd for England and Sept. 6 for Canada. Stil curious about what the original purpose was.

  5. Shawn, I know this is old, but in regards to your blog post about the relative size. It’s kind of apples to oranges to compare WAP to Oshawa. WAP simply assembles one product. There isn’t really any metal forming, or manufacturing. Even a lot of what they used to do in house (instrument panel, suspension components, etc) has been farmed out as part of the CAW’s version of the two-tier wage system.

    Oshawa, on the other hand assembles multiple products, and had multiple assembly lines. They also do metal forming in-house. They do stamping of body panels, Windsor does not. It’s really hard to compare any of the operations. It all depends on what happens in-house and what happens elsewhere. Look at Chrysler’s Warren complex. They have Ram and formerly Dakota assembly, along with the stamping plant next door. Warren stamping is where at least some of the minivan parts are stamped. Some stamping plants are stand-alone, others are part of the assembly plant.

  6. I have information that R S McLaughlin built this plant in 1939 google news has an bit of information on it

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