The needler in the haystack.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Suspicious fire at historic Plainfield building


This 1914 ad for the Rushmore Starter
included a customer's endorsement letter.

Plainfield firefighters responded early Saturday evening to a suspicious fire in a historic factory structure at South Avenue and Berckman Street.

The complex of three buildings, parts of which are over a hundred years old, most recently housed the Royal Apex Company, a manufacturer of gutters and other metal and plastic extruded products. The buildings have been vacant since 2007, when Royal Apex was bought out by Berger Building Products, Inc., and operations were moved to Pennsylvania.




The historic structure once housed the Rushmore Dynamo Works.

Originally, the buildings housed the Rushmore Dynamo Works, owned by Plainfield entrepreneur and inventor Samuel W. Rushmore. Rushmore made his fortune in patents and manufacturing several key improvements in automobile technology.

Among his notable inventions -- or improvements on those of others -- are the automatic starter, cooling systems for internal combustion engines, the flared automobile headlamp, a searchlight, and locomotive headlights. At one time, half of all the automatic starters used in American automobiles were manufactured in the Plainfield location.

Rushmore sold the business in 1914 to the Bosch Magneto Company, with the proviso that the Rushmore name be used on its products for a number of years. When Bosch violated the terms of the agreement, Rushmore successfully sued (see here) for $100,000 (which would be over $2 million today).

Bosch, a German company with a U.S. branch, established a separate U.S. corporation, headquartered in New York City. Because of suspicions of its owners' loyalty, Bosch was nationalized in both the First and Second World Wars -- with control returning to private hands in 1948.

Though several area fire companies responded to the blaze, it was quickly brought under control. A source told me the fire is suspected to be arson, a determination that will be made officially by arson investigators.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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