Lost WindsorOld Photographs

Auto Specialties Co – Tecumseh Road

Back in 2009 we took a quick look at this one, and left with more questions than answers.

Despite being a major employer at the time, it strange that so little info exists on this one, and I have been unable to even locate a decent picture of the place.

The Auto Specialties factory came to Windsor in 1919, establishing a factory downtown on the north east corner of University and McDougall, a site that is today occupied the Caesar’s Windsor parking garage. The building was designed by architect Frank E. Davidson of Chicago. The Auto Specialties Co bought a large parcel of land on Tecumseh Road just east of Howard Avenue, and Davidson came to Windsor to inspect the site and to start planning the new factory. Davidson, was the architect of choice for Auto Specialties, having also designed their massive factory complex in St. Joseph, Michigan.

The factory was built in a few stages, with most building built by 1926, and the company consolidated operations at the Tecumseh Road site. In 1957 another addition was made and equipment was upgraded. The company dealt in malleable iron, and was the in 1952 the largest producer of malleable iron castings in Canada.

Image from SWODA – August, 1953

Despite the factory being around for half a century, I’ve had a very hard time find photos of it. This one above is looking east along Tecumseh Road from the intersection with Howard. The factory is partially visible in the centre of the photo, the darker building with the awnings on the windows to the left of the police officer.

Auto Specialties was the largest manufacturer of jacks for cars, trucks, buses and tractors, both hydraulic and mechanical types in Canada. By 1957, the firm employed about 400 people.

On July 5, 1971 following a breakdown in negotiations, the employees went on strike as Auto Specialties, proposed a one year wage and benefits freeze. The company claimed that the need to install air pollution control equipment, newly required by law, had cost the company a substantial amount, and that they were on shaky ground. The company applied to the Canadian government for a $470,000 load to sustain its working capital requirements, which was rejected by the government. On the morning of August 14, 1971 in advance of a meeting with a mediator, the company announced it was closing the Canadian operation immediately. At the time of the closure, the company owed it’s employees 18 months of vacation pay, which they refused to pay. The company told the union that they will declare bankruptcy and that they could deal with the liquidators to get the employees their money.

The company closed, and the factory site was purchased and demolished in early 1972. Nearly immediately the proposal appeared for the Howard Medical Centre, and construction started soon after.

Auto Specialties continued in the US, in St. Joseph, Harford & Riverside, Michigan filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1988, converting to Chapter 7, and straight bankruptcy when most of its assets were sold off in early 1990. US Jack who purchased the product designs and tooling in 1988 are still around producing the jacks to this day, while the original company name was purchased during the bankruptcy and was revived in the early 2000s and is still around.

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