Detroit: Ternstedt Manufacturing / Sybill Oil

Ternstedt Manufacturing, started by Swedish inventor Alvan K. Ternstedt and financed by the Fisher Body Company, was built at Fort and Livernois to manufacture window regulators, plated trim parts, handles for doors, and locks.  After Ternstedt died, Fisher bought the company.

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The power plant was built in 1952 to supply steam and power to the rest of the facility.   A lot of the old plant west of Livernois was demolished and rebuilt in 1964, while the rest of the factory on Fort street was modernized as well.

The power plant, built in 1952.
An effort was made to separate it into its own division in 1948, but the company folded back into the Fisher Body division of GM in 1969, and GM sold the facilities during the ’80s.  Sybill Oil purchased the property and converted it into an oil recycling facility, beginning their operations in 1991.

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Hundreds of complaints flooded into Wayne County Air Pollution Control from neighbors in the Delray neighborhood over the ridiculous stench generated by the facility, as well as by its neighbor, Peerless Metal Powders and Abrasives, once described in the Metro Times as a notorious pollutant:

Residents complained about clouds of smoke and dust coming out of the plant, often at night. Once-white aluminum siding on houses near the company have taken on a rust-colored patina.

In spite of a consent order outlining stricter environmental guidelines for the companies to follow, the problems continued.  Sybill was fined $148,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency for illegally processing carcinogenic chemicals such as tetrachloroethylene and benzene, as well as citations from the city.  Complaints about the smell continued, and when directly contacted, the company would basically just tell its neighbors to suck it up.  Protests were held outside of the plant and a class action law suit was eventually filed over the stench and pollution.  The company folded in 2001, and with the very nearby Detroit River at stake, the EPA stepped in for a major cleanup of the site, funded in part by the companies who recycled through Sybill, including Rouge Steel, Ford, GM, and others.  Ultimately, two million gallons of contaminated water were removed from the facility.  Left vacant, it was ravaged by scrappers over the years, and the headquarters were torn down somewhere around 2006.  The water tower and part of the boiler room are all that remain today, as well as the husks of a couple stolen vehicles hidden away inside.  On the other side of Livernois, the other section of the Ternstedt factory is currently being used as a warehouse.

Among many talented others, French Graffiti puzzle artist and personal favorite Rensone has placed a number of pieces in the former powerhouse, on a presumably stolen and burned car, as well as along the outer walls, breathing dynamic life into the blighted factory.

There are currently no plans for the unused portion of the facility.

Sources

US EPA Region 5 News Release

DetroitUrbex: Ternstedt Manufacturing

Metro Times: Raising Suits over Stink

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