By Mike Householder, Associated Press
DETROIT (AP) – The signing of a purchase agreement is imminent but construction on a museum won’t get underway until autumn at the earliest, said an aviation enthusiast leading an effort to save from demolition a portion of the Detroit-area plant where the original Rosie the Riveter worked 70 years ago.
Yankee Air Museum founder Dennis Norton said he and the Willow Run facility’s owner will sign the purchase deal soon and expect to formally close on the sale next month.
Only a couple of issues remain to be hammered out, and none of them are deal-breakers, said Norton, who called it “just a whole bunch of legal stuff that has to get done.”
Norton’s group raised close to $8 million by May 1 — a deadline set by the factory’s owner, the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust, which took over sites around the U.S. left behind in General Motors’ bankruptcy.
The Save the Willow Run Bomber Plant campaign needed the cash to buy a 150,000-square-foot slice of the larger property, which it intends to use to build a new home for the Yankee Air Museum.
RACER is overseeing the razing of the massive Ypsilanti Township plant, a process that Norton said is not nearly complete. Museum construction can’t begin until demolition is finished, and Norton is hoping that will come in late September.
The new Yankee Air Museum, which is moving from its current location less than 2 miles away, will feature exhibits that focus on the history of the Willow Run plant and vintage aircraft.
And on Rosie, too, of course.
It was at Willow Run that Rose Will Monroe and tens of thousands of other workers built B-24 bombers during World War II.
Monroe represented the thousands of Rosies who took factory jobs making munitions, weaponry and other items while the nation’s men were off fighting in Europe and the Pacific. Although many Rosies were let go once the war was over and the soldiers returned home, they had shown that women were capable of doing jobs that had traditionally been done only by men.
The Willow Run factory went back to making automobiles and car parts after the war ended, and it did so for more than a half-century under the General Motors name before closing for good in 2010.
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