Thursday, December 20, 2007

the end of an era

Friday is the last day of operations at the Colgate plant in Clarksville.

The (Jeff/NA) News-Tribune has given this extensive coverage-- including a nice article by Larry Thomas on Sunday-- including testimonies from people about its workings and its end...

A little more than two years ago, Colgate announced it would close its Clarksville facility and move the production that takes place there to Tennessee and Mexico. The plant, which was once a state prison, has produced Colgate products for 86 years....

When Colgate closes the Clarksville plant, it will leave vacant nearly 1 million square feet of industrial and office space sitting on nearly 52 acres, which carries a $13 million price tag.

Beyond Colgate’s announcement earlier this year that it will not take the clock, little is known about the site’s future.

“I’ve just heard rumors and you can’t believe what you hear,” said Paul Kraft, president of Clarksville’s Town Council. “Colgate has been very mum on it.

“We just would like to see something go in. It could be a mixed use, it could be a hotel. We’re willing to gamble on anything. We’d like to see somebody come in with good-paying jobs.”

Some of the building site's fascinating history...

• 1847: The Indiana Reformatory South opened at the site, replacing a prison that had been opened in Jeffersonville in 1821

• 1890: The building on which the Colgate Clock is mounted was constructed

• 1919: A fire at the reformatory prompted state officials to relocate the prison

• 1921: Colgate purchased the site and began making soap there before all of the prisoners were removed, and prisoners were even utilized as production workers.

• 1924: The Colgate Clock in Jersey City, N.J., was replaced by a larger clock and the original was moved to Clarksville, where it remains today.

• Mid-1960s: Employment at the plant peaks at approximately 1,500 workers

• 1969: The plant was at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting gender-based jobs classifications.

• 2005: Colgate announces it will close its Clarksville facility by the beginning of 2008, but most of its 474 hourly workers will be offered early retirement or other severance packages

• 2006: Colgate turns down an offer from Jeffersonville and state officials to construct a smaller, state-of-the-art plant at the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville and announces that some of its Clarksville production will relocate to Morristown, Tenn.

About the Colgate Clock...

• Designed by Colgate engineer Warren Day

• Constructed by the Seth Thomas Clock Co.

• Served as original Colgate Clock at the company’s Jersey City, NJ facilities in 1906

• First illuminated in Clarksville on Nov. 17, 1924

• At 40 feet in diameter, it is the world’s second-largest clock, behind the 50-foot diameter Colgate Clock that replaced it in Jersey City.

• It is featured in a scene in the movie “The Insider” when Al Pacino and Russell Crowe are talking in a car.

• In 2006 the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana listed Clarksville’s Colgate-Palmolive plant and clock on its “10 Most Endangered” list of Indiana landmarks and it remained on this year’s list

• In August 2006, Colgate notified Clarksville officials that the company would not move the clock.


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