Then & Now: Chelsea Federal Screw Works

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Federal Screw Works has had a huge impact on Chelsea through the years, and its greatest days may be still to come. Courtesy CAHS.

From Chelsea Area Historical Society

Chelsea Screw Works was founded in 1913 in a Glazier factory building on Jackson Street where approximately 95% of its production was made up of bolts, nuts, and knobs. The first part of the current site on South Main was a 4,000 square foot building constructed in 1917 that expanded over time and eventually all the way west to Congdon Street in 1925. In 1928, Chelsea Screw Works merged with Federal Screw Works, a company from St. Clair Shores.

The company survived the Depression and had a strong recovery during World War II when it manufactured artillery shells and other weaponry. This necessitated expanding into other buildings in town, such as the Clocktower. The Chelsea branch of the Federal Screw Works received the Navy's highest award- the “Navy E” - which is on display at the Chelsea Area Historical Society Museum at 128 Jackson Street. Following the war effort, parts for the automotive industry were in big demand.

Federal Screw Works Navy E Award on display at the CAHS Museum. Courtesy CAHS.

It is important to remember that Federal Screw Works was dominant in the economy of Chelsea for many years. The 80,000 square foot plant was once dominant at the post-war peak of around 250 employees. However, the plant declined to only 37 employees remaining by 2005 when it closed on April 30 during a Federal Screw Works restructuring. In the fall of 2007, Magellan purchased the property with the intent of razing and redeveloping it.

At the time preceding demolition, there was an appeal to Magellan by concerned citizens to keep some of the historic buildings. Two buildings along Congdon Street were saved from the wrecking ball.

Aerial view of the property from Congdon St. Courtesy CAHS.

Chelsea residents have been driving by the blighted site since demolition in 2012, but now local developer Joe Ziolkowski is leading an effort to transform the property into a state-of-the-art public park. The developer, a Chelsea resident, is no stranger to rehabbing historic properties including the renovation of the Municipal Building on West Middle Street and the Mack Building on Main and Jackson Streets.

Ziolkowski has formed a nonprofit, Main Street Park Alliance, and the early plans, developed by Chelsea-based Dangerous Architects, call for saving the existing 8,000-square-foot industrial structure that remains on the land as an indoor recreation space to augment the recreational outdoor space. See www.mainstreetpark.org

Artist conceptual rendering of the proposed Main Street Park. Courtesy Joe Ziolkowski.

Neither Ziolkowski nor anyone affiliated with the park planning is getting paid. The nonprofit group hopes to finalize a purchase agreement for the land soon though that would be contingent on a development agreement with the city.

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