Final York Naval Ordinance Plant Walls Tumble

The final walls that once were part of the former York NOP (Naval Ordnance Plant) fell yesterday. Early last week, I took this northward looking photo from Eden Road, of construction activity on the Eden Road Logistics Center. The factory buildings of the old Harley-Davidson plant, i.e. the former Naval Ordnance Plant, were torn down during 2012, after Harley-Davidson sold their old plant to the York County Industrial Development Authority. However the two-story, reinforced concrete, L-shaped office building, of this complex, remained standing until construction started on the Eden Road Logistics Center at the site earlier this year.
Early last week, only the northwest corner of the NOP office building remained standing; seen at left side of the photo, with the steel for the Eden Road Logistics Center rising in the background. On my way to dinner Sunday night, I noticed only a tiny section of the walls remained. No walls were standing as I passed the site Monday morning; marking July 11th 2016, as the final day of the last NOP building.
Ordnance Plant Built in 1941
The first official commitment authorizing the establishment of facilities was made by letter of intent by the Navy Department’s Bureau of Ordnance to the York Safe & Lock Company on February 19th 1941. This letter of intent was not cast in stone, however it was enough for S. Forry Laucks, company President, to immediately start construction on a brand new York Safe & Lock Company plant in the fields of a farm in Springettsbury Township. An Emergency Plant Facilities Contract followed from the Navy Department’s Bureau of Ordnance in April 1941; which quickly expanded local plant construction already underway.
President Roosevelt’s Executive Order No. 9416 of January 21st 1944 resulted in the January 23rd 1944 takeover of certain portions of the York Safe & Lock Company by the Navy Department, consisting principally of the facilities known as the Special Ordnance Plant. The Special Ordnance Plant was that part of the plant built at government expense of approximately $8,000,000 for significantly ramping up 40-mm Bofors gun production. The Navy Department directly managed the civilian workforce in the Special Ordnance Plant for several months following the takeover.
On June 19th 1944, all facilities at this site were formerly commissioned as the U. S. Naval Ordnance Plant, York, with Captain Lee P. Johnson, USN, as the first commanding officer. On the same date the Blaw-Knox Company was engaged as the contractor-operator. Also on the same date the civilian workforce had to re-apply for their jobs based upon Civil Service and Navy regulations. With the end of WWII on September 2nd 1945, activity at the U. S. Naval Ordnance Plant in York gradually turned to overhaul of war-service weapons. The Navy Department let Blaw-Knox’s contract expire April 29th 1946 and the Navy re-assumed direct managerial control of the plant.
The US Naval Ordnance Plant, York, PA, had a peak employment of 3650 during WWII, 2000 during the Korean conflict and 1100 on February 22nd 1963 when the Navy announced that the underutilized plant would be closed in 1965.
The following Springettsbury Township Historic Preservation Committee aerial photo shows the US Naval Ordnance Plant during circa 1962. The arrow points to the last corner of the two-story office building that stood into July of 2016. If you are reading this on the site, click on this LINK for a Full View of the illustrations in this post on the original YorkBlog site; since the site will occasionally cut off important details in the cropping of illustrations.
With the impending closing of the plant, York business groups immediately sprung into action in an attempt to find a private industry buyer; they touted the plant, the location and a skilled, efficient work force. Things moved swiftly, 34 firms showed an interest in the plant. American Machine & Foundry (AMF) entered the bidding for the plant and emerged victorious on November 14th 1963. The U.S. Government was happy to do a plant closing earlier than planned and get paid for doing it.
AMF officially took over operation of the plant February 1st 1964 and started producing its lines of snowmobiles, golf carts and bowling equipment while continuing a limited amount of naval ordnance work. In their first year at the York plant, AMF doubled the work force, with 962 Navy employees kept on; back into the private sector with credit for their Civil Service. The remaining Navy employees went to other Federal agencies or retired voluntarily.
After AMF purchased the Harley-Davidson Motor Company in 1969, they moved final motorcycle production to this massive York facility in 1973. Without that AMF decision, it is doubtful York County would be the site of a Harley plant. And having a massive York facility available for them to move into, during 1973, ultimately goes back to the foresight of the York Safe & Lock Company, in the lead-up to the United States entry into WWII.
A group of thirteen investors and executives within AMF joined forces to buy back the Harley-Davidson product line and the plant from AMF in 1981. After Harley-Davidson constructed a more efficient modern manufacturing plant immediately east of the former NOP facility, the York County Industrial Development Authority purchased to old Harley-Davidson plant in 2012.
In 2015, Missouri-based NorthPoint Development becomes interested in the former NOP site and purchases it from the York County Industrial Development Authority. In 2016, they began construction of the 755,421 square-foot Eden Road Logistics Center; scheduled for completion by year’s end.
Home of the 40-mm Bofors Guns
Issues of the “syNOPsis” newsletter of the US Naval Ordnance Plant, York, PA, proudly notes “From the Home of the 40-MM.” Following the December 7th 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, virtually every sizeable ship in the Navy during WWII was outfitted with 40-MM Naval Anti-aircraft Bofors Guns. York Safe & Lock Company had a major hand in rapidly getting these guns into production and was the prime contractor for the Naval 40-mm Bofors guns and mounts.
The 40-mm Bofors fired a two-pound projectile from each barrel at the rate of 120 or better per minute. The projectile itself was of the tracer type, high explosive, with a super-sensitive nose fuse; the fuse did not become active until the projectile left the gun. The projectiles could reach two-miles into the air; it was the primary weapon for close-in anti-aircraft defense during WWII. This photo shows 40-mm Bofors guns firing during a circa October 1943 shakedown cruise of the USS Biloxi.

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