Photographer’s notebook: Elegy on a vanished Chrysler plant

The Chrysler assembly plant in Fenton always loomed large on my daily commute, especially in the mornings when the early sun reflected on its metal siding. Over 30-odd years, it was always there, like a piece of industrial art. When I first moved to St. Louis in the 1970s, it represented St. Louis as a sign of a thriving city.

Chrysler assembly plant, Fenton, MO – 1980s

Through the years, the display vehicles on the berms out front changed from vans to trucks and back again several times over. Times changed, but the place was always alive.

In July  2009, all that ended when Chrysler closed its St. Louis operations. For the next two years, a gigantic sign draped across the front announced, “For sale. 5 million SF.” It reflected the desperate hope that the property could be revitalized. Maybe an alternative energy industrial park. Perhaps a car plant for a European or Asian manufacturer.

But it was not to be. Equipment auctioned, facades dismantled, structural material carted off.

Then it was gone.