A couple of weeks ago, a reader named Mark noted in a comment to an Industrial Mississippi post:
The Jackson plant of Armstrong Flooring (formerly Armstrong Cork and Armstrong World Ind) is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2017. It’s been almost continuously operating since 1947 and is expanding the operation. Any stories about that?
Here at MissPres, we aim to please, so I went searching in the newspapers to see what I could find. Unfortunately, I still haven’t come across one of those great open house/grand opening pieces that were still common in the 1940s, when the reporter would walk the reader through the entire factory, explaining the whole industrial process as he went. But, I did find two images of the Armstrong plant as it was under construction: an unsigned rendering and a photo when the building was about finished, and both contain a few tidbits of information in the captions. Unfortunately, neither caption mentions the architect or contractor, which as a note to current-date journalists, IS FRUSTRATING!!
In the same comment string, Thomas Rosell reminded me that the Armstrong plant is pictured in a wonderful article published in the Architectural Record in September 1954 titled “Architectural Practice in Jackson, Miss.” This photo was probably taken by architectural photographer Joseph Molitor, whose travels through Mississippi in 1954 were the subject of a three-part series by Thomas Rosell in February 2012.
While most of the other photos in the article credit a local architect, as you would expect in such an article, this one has a more generic caption: “Power production and industrial development have stimulated and are being stimulated by commercial activity and increasing ease of transportation.” This, combined with the silence of the Jackson newspapers regarding the architect, makes me think that the building was designed by Armstrong’s own designers.
Congratulations to Armstrong on the occasion of your 70th year and keep on truckin!
To learn more about architectural photographer Joseph Molitor and his work in Mississippi:
Categories: Industrial, Jackson
Where is the plant located?
It’s on Highway 80 east of Terry Rd. across from Battlefield Park, 1085 US-80, Jackson, MS 39204.
Whoops, I forgot to add a map, but I’ve added it in the post above to show its location!
The Committee of the South, National Planning Association published a Study of the Factors Influencing the Recent Location of Manufacturing Plants in the South in 1949. Armstrong’s market research department “estimated that the calculated center of the southern market was within a few miles of Jackson.” Transportation costs to move a “low cost item” to market was a factor in the decision, along with “no concern about labor supply.” However, it reported location of a suitable site was a problem, and at one point, the company “temporarily abandoned the idea of locating in Jackson and surveyed other cities to see if there were advantages, such as an available building, perfect site, or outstanding transportation facilities to offset the locational superiority of Jackson. Eventually, with the assistance of the local people, an acceptable site was secured. Armstrong also placed emphasis on the attractiveness of local living conditions.”
Since Armstrong is still there, guess it worked out well for them and Jackson.
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Did you ask Armstrong if they had any information about the architect or contractor?
According to an article in an Armstrong Reporter (the company magazine) in 1946, the engineering department in Lancaster, PA designed the building and Capitol Building Company was construction contractor for the first initial building.
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Overstreet, Ware and Ware apparently did an addition to the building in 1958, described on 3 sheets, so probably minor. Overstreet, Ware, Ware and Lewis also apparently did “various alterations and additions to the factory” 1961-1968 and the plans are not in the collection at MSU; they were probably either retained by the architect or given to the company.
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Something that might be interesting would be to find out what types of products were made at this plant when it opened and see if they could be traced to any extant (or non-extant) Mississippi buildings. Perhaps something like Corkoustic (if it was still being made post-World War II), Linotile, Cork Tile, or the myriad types of tile, roofing material, and other products they plastered advertisements for throughout the trade journals of the day. That would be something right up Thomas Rosell’s alley.
The caption under the rendering states the plant will produce asphalt tile, which I believe is a floor tile. Since there is interest I can look into it further.
My dad started at the Jackson Armstrong plant in 1953 and I still work there. Initially the plant made asphalt tile only. Later it transitioned to vinyl tile. Now it makes vinyl and “bio-based” tile.
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