Posted by: wadahp | January 14, 2010


Located just west of Boeing Field in Seattle, the Boeing B-17 Factory, otherwise known as Plant No2., holds a significant place in the history of the United States.  It was here that during WWII thousands of B-17 Bombers, otherwise known as the “Flying Fortress” were made.  Production of planes at the plant went from sixty in 1942, to an astounding 362 planes per month by March 1944 — at one point the Seattle plant rolled out 16 planes in 24 hours.  

Described by General H. H. Hap Arnold, as the backbone of our worldwide aerial offensive, the B-17 Flying Fortress served in every World War II combat zone.  It was the first Boeing military aircraft with a flight deck instead of an open cockpit and was armed with bombs and five .30-caliber machine guns.  The plane, which dropped 640,036 bombs on designated targets during WWII, went from design board to flight test in less than 12 months. 

Boeing plants built a total of 6,981 B-17s in various models, and another 5,745 were built under a nationwide collaborative effort by Douglas and Lockheed. However only a few B-17s survive today; most were scrapped at the end of the war. What remains however is the factory where they were produced. It stands today as white elephant at the Boeing complex.  Four buildings cover 1.6 million square feet, about 36 acres. The main building was designed to accommodate nine fully assembled B-17s.

At the height of the war the factory building was camouflaged to prevent air attack.   With burlap houses and chicken-wire lawns and trees, from the air, the bomber manufacturing plant looked like a quiet suburb. Fake trees made of board and mesh were fastened to the roof with wires. Clapboard homes were painted with rectangles for windows. A fake rooftop corner street sign said, “Synthetic St. & Burlap Blvd.”

Boeing is set to demolish Plant 2 in the next few months.   Boeing spokesman Chris Villiers said a demolition schedule has not been finalized, but the company has told the Museum of Flight to remove several old airplanes stored there within the next four months.



  1. What is being done about this? Is there a Section 106 review process? Is there a review process under SEPA? This is one of the most significant buildings in Washington State, in my view, for its association with the state’s role in WWII and the economic history of the State and the region. I would say it was second only to the Hanford Reservation in its importance (which is undergoing public hearings this week, if I recall correctly). Most of the ship building facilities and associated buildings that were important in the war effort are gone. Much of the defense housing built specifically to support the war effort has been lost, with a few exceptions. Unfortunately, the large land areas, particularly on waterfronts, large buildings, and large scale developments that may have passed their ‘attractive’ phase are just too enticing. But the sheer scale of the war effort with its associated demographic changes is what will be lost to history when these facilities are gone.

    • Thanks Diana for your comment and good points about the importance of this building. You raise good questions about this threat to the building. Before I or others here at the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation can respond to you with good information about applicable environmental review processes, whether SEPA or Section 106, we will need to ask around before reporting back.

  2. Aren’t you guys the ones who would have done SEPA or Section 106 for this property?

  3. The Notice of Application has been issued for the demolition of Plant #2 and the comment period expires May 19th. The plant is being demolished for a parking lot and stormwater system. More information, including environmental documentation, can be obtained from the City of Tuwkila, Department of Community Development, planner Lynn Miranda

  4. Unbelievable!!!!

  5. The Notice of Decision has been issued by the City of Tukwila on the demolition of Boeing Plant #2. Despite its status as “Determined Eligible” for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and despite comments on the inadequacy of the SEPA checklist and technical reports circulated earlier, the project is moving forward. Although the City noted in their staff report that the property was historically significant, and although they offer a series of mitigation measures, the Notice of Decision says that there is no impact to historic resources as a result of demolishing the plant. In a conversation with me on June 1, Greg Griffith stated that, since it is private property, there is nothing that can be done. The comment period on the Notice expires July 12, 2010.

  6. […] Boeing Plant 2 back in January 2010. For more on the significance of the site and photos, see the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation’s Blog. When news of the proposed demolition hit the streets in January, most of us in the preservation […]

  7. Here is a picture of the original plant 2. It would not be that hard to save this portion. It lies completely on City of Seattle property. The property was donated to William Boeing Sr., by Guiseppe “Joe” Desimone, largest shareholder of the Pike Place Market, and largest farmer in South Seattle and Tukwilla. Boeing was threatening to leave town even back then, so Joe came to him and offered him the property. The first B-17’s coming out of this plant were sent to England. Only William and Joe, were fighting the War when it needed to be fought. They are truly our Churchill’s.

    The white roof is Plant 2. The mill at the bottom probably ended up supplying the wood for the war housing in the hills west of plants one and two.

  8. It seems that no one cares about the fact that the Boeing Plant II assembly buildings housed the production of the B-17 and the B-29. The B-17 lead the win of WWII in Europe. The B-29 finalize the Japanese surrender in the Pacific. Our world today would be very different if those two events did not occur. The people who worked in the production system of those buildings knew they were playing a major part and gave it their all.
    Our interests today are only with personal things like My Space, Face Book, and Twitter. Boeing Chicago’s interests are purely corporate without a sense of the past. The lack of proper review and the callus decision to destroy these buildings is a sign of the decline of the respect for our own culture. We are lost.

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