One day, my husband asked me, “Would you like to see some cool old buildings?” Well, of course, I would. As luck would have it, because of his job at the Ford Utica Trim plant, my husband had keys to the gates and buildings at the PPG. He worked in the IT department, which had been using the PPG buildings for storage.
We explored nearly every inch of the PPG over the course of the next several weeks, taking photographs and making notes. While the site and the buildings were secure thanks to the watchful eyes of the Ford plant security team, everything was in a state of extreme neglect and deterioration. The Gate Lodge was full of loosely stacked boxes with papers and debris strewn around most of the rooms. It seemed water damage was everywhere. Worse yet were the animal feces. Besides having to watch where we were stepping, I was worried we might scare up a bunch of rabid raccoons. The stench of feces combined with that of wet plaster and rotting wood and who knows what else was overwhelming. But the Gate Lodge was solid. The bones were still good, as they say on This Old House. And this was true for the other buildings on the site. Except for the Timing Stand which looked like it would blow over in the next wind storm.
My husband and I also explored the rest of the PPG site. After crawling through thick underbrush, we found the water bath in the northeast corner of the property. Easier to get to but just as interesting were the sand pits, the test roads, the climbing hill, the railroad bridge, the airplane hangar, and the test track. We drove the test track many times over the next few years, dodging protruding rebar to avoid flattening a tire.
By this time I had already concluded that this was an important historic site and, in spite of its sorry condition, I felt it had a future. But I had no idea what to do about it.
To be continued.