Abandoned Industrial Icon: Armour Meat Packing Plant


The Armour & Company meat packing plant in National City, Illinois is a window into a bygone era, a time capsule with late-19th century technology still on display. During its heyday the busy stock yards of East St. Louis were the largest in the world, and known around the U.S. as the “Hog Capital of the Nation.”

Advances in technology and labor disputes ultimately drove the meat packers out of National City. The obsolete Armour plant had become expensive to operate and was eventually shut down by the company in 1959.

Unused since Armour & Co. left nearly 55 years ago, the 110 year-old structure still sits in East St. Louis today.


original Armour meat packing plant Chicago Illinois 1910
Original Armour Plant, Chicago 1910


Armour & Company

Philip Danforth Armour
Philip Danforth Armour

Founded by the Armour brothers in 1867, Chicago-based Armour & Company was a meatpacking corporation led by Philip Armour (left). A robber baron industrialist, Philip is also remembered for his contributions toward innovations in the meat industry.

In the 19th century the lack of refrigeration technology dictated the process for meat packing and distribution; without it, the meats needed to be consumed quickly or preserved with salt.

With time at a premium, Philip revolutionized meat processing by centralizing operations next to rail yards.

Several hundred miles to the South of Chicago, an industrial district just outside St. Louis was established in 1873. The East St. Louis National Stock Yards would employ the centralized delivery and distribution concept in the district via rail.

In 1907, East St. Louis’ National Stock Yards were incorporated as the National City Stock Yards. This allowed city officials to offer more favorable regulations and tax climes in an attempt to attract major industry.

The National City Stock Yards encompassed 650 acres and at its peak was capable of processing 30,000 cattle, 50,000 hogs, and 20,000 sheep daily.

Early picture of E. St. Louis Stock Yards, later the National City Stock Yards

Until World War II, National City’s stock yards were the largest horse and mule market in the world.


Refrigeration Era

butchersIn the 19th century, meat processing was largely disorganized and inefficient. Fresh beef could only be shipped short distances before it would spoil.

Local butchers operated independently of the packing houses, which often were separate entities from the slaughter houses.

Given the many different layers of processing, access to fresh packaged meats was limited to select larger city centers. The lack of refrigeration required each major city to have its own stockyard, packing house, and distributor, increasing costs to the meat industry.

Before centralization, transport costs by rail were higher as the entire cow had to be transported rather than just the sale-able beef. At the time, more than half of a butchered cow was considered waste.

Refrigeration was still a nascent technology. Dairy farmers started using the first refrigerated railroad cars in the 1840s, but it wasn’t until the 1870s that commercial rail refrigeration became widespread.

Armour realized that by adopting the rail refrigeration techniques used by dairy farmers, he could preserve meat longer and extend the scope of each slaughterhouse, reducing the number of required facilities around the country.

Before long Armour & Company built a fleet of refrigerated boxcars, eventually totaling 12,000. The large-scale adoption of refrigeration via rail not only improved rural access to fresh meats, but also raised food quality standards nationwide.

Armour refrigerated car
Armour refrigerated car
Armour refrigerated car
Armour refrigerated car



Arguably the biggest contribution by Armour to the meat industry was the centralization of operations. Philip witnessed railroad operators solve their own transportation inefficiencies by building large rail yards and running rail service through a single location. By reducing depots and stations, rail operators had managed to lower their operational costs.

Philip Armour saw opportunity in the vastly inefficient meat system. He understood if the meat could be packed and processed in a single, centralized location, he could reduce transport expense and the overhead of operating slaughter facilities in every city.

Armour company panoramic photo of headquarters chicago
Panoramic photo of Armour & Co. headquarters, Chicago 1900

Armour began centralizing his packing houses. By combining the packing with the slaughtering, overhead was reduced. Transport costs were slashed. Meat companies were no longer shipping entire cattle across the country; now they were shipping smaller packaged meats.

Going further, Armour also found ways to cut costs in labor. He “de-skilled” the workforce by separating the butcher role into numerous subroutines any unskilled laborer could follow. This move essentially turned labor into a commodity, lowering wages and making staffing an easier task for management.

The jobs were hard labor and not well-paid. The packinghouses were brutal, polluted, and dangerous places to work – but no experience was required and most didn’t require the ability to speak English. The jobs were popular with immigrants, who flocked to the stock yards of Chicago and National City looking for work.

Philip Armour also introduced the vertical integration concept to the meat industry. His centralized facility would lead live cattle, hogs, and sheep up a series of ramps to the top floor of the plant. There, they would be slaughtered. As the animals were cleaned and dressed the carcasses would work their way down successive floors, allowing gravity to carry them and drain blood.


Division of labor, mass production, continuous flow, and efficiency modeling concepts all have roots in the early packinghouses of the meat industry.

Incidentally Henry Ford would later adopt some of these principles for the automobile industry, and despite admitting as much in his autobiography, Ford is often incorrectly credited for several of Armour’s ideas.


The National City Armour Plant

Armour plant
courtesy Ron Osborn

The East St. Louis stockyard was a logical location for Armour when the company was looking to expand south from Chicago. Rail operators had already centralized distribution and the city itself was central to the established population of the United States at the time.

In 1903, Armour opened its doors to a state-of-the-art meat processing facility (map). Buildings connected to the rail system served various functions, from animal runs to waste storage and even power generation.

At the time the system was so revolutionary it generated tourism. Visitors traveled from around the world to watch the meatpacking facility’s “dis-assembly” line in action.

Armour Meat Packing Plant in National City during heyday

The top floor of the main building contained the beef slaughterhouse. The cattle would arrive off the train on the backside of the building and enter the cattle run, which rose gradually to the top floor traversing from south to north.

Armour plant
courtesy Ron Osborn

Once on the top floor the animals would be led through a narrow passage, where they would be slaughtered and then attached to a conveyer system by their hind legs.

As the cattle traveled back down through the plant, they were drained of blood, stripped of flesh, and cut into pieces.

From there the meat was sent to specialized rooms for processing based on content or cut. Finally, the meat was packed and loaded onto export boxcars on the opposite side.


Next to the main facility is the smaller Tankage building, where waste products with little to no value were sent after the meat was processed. There, the bones and hides of slaughtered animals were stored until disposed.

Wrapping around the smaller building was the sheep run, where ovine livestock would undergo a similar process.

De La Vergne engine courtesy Tabula Rasa

Behind the main building were the power and refrigeration plants, recognizable by the large smokestacks on the roof. The Armour smokestack is 210 feet tall and for decades was the tallest structure in the East St. Louis area.

Armour-plant-RonOsborn4The refrigeration system was also cutting edge for its time. In an era before cities had power grids, local factories were responsible for their own power generation.

The De La Vergne steam engines of the Armour plant were enormous; the main engine which powered the refrigeration plant had a 30-foot flywheel.

The large De La Vergne installed at Armour for refrigeration was built by Frick and was nearly 60 feet long. Spinning at only 60 rpm, it could produce up to 350 tons of cooling capacity.

The main De La Vergne engine was supported by several smaller engines offering additional backup cooling sources; these would vary in size between 15 and 20 feet long with 9-foot flywheels.

Armour Plant courtesy the idiot photographer

There is speculation that a De La Vergne engine with a 40-foot flywheel and even larger boiler may have assisted with powering the plant – but if so, both were removed long ago.

When involvement in the Second World War created a steel shortage, the larger De La Vergne was likely removed and re-appropriated.

(Click thumbnails to enlarge)

 Frick/De La Vergne pictures courtesy the Idiot Photographer

The plant itself would change over time as technologies improved. Eventually Armour’s National City location was converted to municipal power and no longer required the boilers and steam engines.


Early Labor Struggles

Armour-plant-RonOsborn2In the 19th century, disputes between workers and wealthy industrialists were common. The advent of assembly line production at the turn of the 20th century only further devalued the specialist and lowered wages.

Workers were commoditized; if they struck or fell ill, they were replaced. Uneducated immigrants proved to be easy targets for abuse in labor practices.

Armour understood this, and like many of his fellow industrialists he had a great fear of a unified labor force. He encouraged the hiring of diverse, non English-speaking workers as he viewed ethnic and racial tensions as a distraction from labor issues with management.

Armour knew if the different ethnic groups were fighting each other, they were less likely to fight him.

Philip Armour died in 1901, but the company would continue to follow the principles laid down by its founder. When workers put aside their differences to strike, the company imported black unskilled workers from poor southern states to compete with the immigrant workforce. The influx of new labor was meant to serve as a strike-breaking force and offer Armour & Company insurance against work stoppages.


The fighting over jobs and poor working conditions in East St. Louis and National City would continue until the 1950s. However by this time, nearly every major industry in town had been unionized. Benefits, wages, and working conditions had improved considerably since the turn of the century.

The unions had improved working conditions, but incidentally they also helped drive business out of the area. This – along with improvements in technology – gave industry multiple reasons to leave.


National City’s Meatpacking Decline

armour-plant9From 1930 to 1958, the meat industry experienced a period of stagnation. The Great Depression had crippled the United States economy in the 1930s, and the meat industry languished in kind.

In addition to the headwinds from increasing costs, meatpackers were faced with new conditions to regulate from the international meat trade.

armour-plant12The industry would find a brief reprieve during the Second World War, when operations at Armour’s National City plant would reach a zenith producing rations for the troops.

At its peak, the Armour plant employed more than 4,500 people and was second in size only to the Chicago operation.

Armour factory
Armour factory courtesy the idiot photographer

After the war, the meat industry evolved further with the emergence of supermarkets and processed meats.

Armour plantChanging trends in consumption and the advent of prepared meals resulted in a different model of business to maximize profits. New technologies had made the plant obsolete and thus more expensive to operate.

Grid power made the large steam engines redundant. Refrigerated trucks removed the need for centralized urban rail centers.

The interstate highway system made it possible – and cheaper – for meat companies to move closer to livestock where labor and land were less expensive.

Armour cold storage
Armour cold storage courtesy Tabula Rasa

Organized unions meant labor was no longer cheap. The area was rife with violent strikes and work stoppages. Since the plants ran on cheap, unskilled labor, they shut down when labor costs increased.

The companies moved to more rural locations and continued to use cheap, unskilled labor elsewhere. Eventually the large Armour plant was no longer efficient or profitable.

(Click to enlarge)

 armour-plant21photo set courtesy Tabula Rasa



By the late 1950s the plant had become a burden to Armour & Company; it was outdated and no longer fit the mold of meat processing at the time. In 1959 the plant was closed, and in lieu of unpaid taxes the property was “donated” to the city of East St. Louis.

The city might have proclaimed itself to be the “Hog Capital of the Nation,” but it did not know how to run a meatpacking facility. Desperate to attract new business, the city offered incentives on the unoccupied property – including waiving tax liens – but the outdated infrastructure and dilapidated buildings were too much of an obstacle to overcome.

Armour cold storage
Armour cold storage courtesy Tabula Rasa

The National Stock Yards were emptying as businesses left town. Swift, the other major meatpacking operation in the area, closed its doors in 1967. Regional brand Brooklyn Packing Company (later known as Hunter Packing) lasted until 1982.

Over time squatters and vandals would leave their marks on the buildings; nature would do the rest. In the mid-1980s, a fire in the plant damaged the roof and has accelerated the structural decomposition.

With no major industry left to support, National City had become a ghost town. The stock yards would remain open until a devastating fire would finally close them in 1997. The estimated 50 residents left in National City were relocated and the city was dissolved.

armour-plant5The area has seen little re-development since then. Several businesses operate in the former National City, but major industry left long ago.

Efforts have been made to redevelop the Armour property, but the additional cost of demolition and waste disposal has made any action economically unfeasible.



Ironically it’s the worst of the early concepts pioneered by Philip Armour that are still used today. Packinghouses remain a dangerous and unpleasant place to work.

Meat processing continues to utilize low paid, unskilled immigrant workers on assembly lines, only today it is usually done in non-union states. However it is those conditions which have helped make fresh meat accessible and affordable to many around the world.

Armour plant east st. louis aerial
Armour plant, circa 2013 (courtesy Bing)

The Armour Meat Packing Plant remains in the former National City district of East St. Louis (map). When man failed to redevelop the site, nature took over. Trees have rooted on the roof while new vegetation protrudes through the broken windows.

Bricks are constantly disintegrating after each winter freeze, yielding new collapses. The structure is far from safe, so don’t try to climb the smokestacks.

The most arresting feature of the complex today is the refrigeration plant, which still has some of the original machinery on display. Obsolete and far too large to be removed, the steam engines and boilers were left behind. Now they are forever entombed in a plant which has become a time capsule of 19th century technology.

National City Stock Yards w/Armour plant (courtesy Michael Allen)

The southern end of the power plant has a large depression in the floor, likely indicating the location of the other giant flywheel and steam engine. The plant was exposed to the elements decades ago when the skylights were broken.

Scavenging scrappers removed the floor panels, exposing the sub-floor and creating for a dangerous urban explore today. Until recently quite a few of the original boilers were still standing by the smokestack; unfortunately the intervening years have seen some boilers destroyed for scrap.

There is a rumored “caretaker” of the property, however reports are conflicting on whether the person is an official guard or a scrapper who has laid claim to the structure.

Update #1 (04/16/2016): The Armour Packing plant’s main building has been demolished. On April 16th, 2016, it was imploded. Watch the video here.

Update #2 (10/06/2016): As of today the rest of the facility is being flattened and Armour is no more. A railroad company has purchased it with plans to expand its operations yard. (courtesy Christian Smith)

Update #3 (10/11/2017): We have learned the former Armour plant’s Frick/De La Vergne steam engine and flywheel were rescued by the American Farm Heritage Museum in Greenville, Illinois, about 45 miles east of St. Louis, back in August of 2016. (courtesy John via Mitch)



The Armour plant is a rarity; very few closed factories with machinery left behind last 50 years. An economically depressed area has helped preserve the structure. The rest of the former National City is mostly vacant, the occasional outlines of a foundation visible through the overgrowth.

New business has slowly moved to the area as it has been re-developed. A golf course and motorsports park occupy land to the east, but the majority of the former National City has been reclaimed by nature.

National City’s boom was a circumstance of the era, a then-central location for meat processing during a time that required centralization.  Ultimately advances in distribution and refrigeration – along with the threat of organized labor – were enough to discourage further meat production in National City.



2 Exchange Avenue, East St. Louis, IL 62201 (map)



  1. Great read as always. Nice to see some of my shots put to use, too! And your article explained something I had been puzzling over since I was there: why the abbatoir was on the top floor. The cattle ramp, it seems, had long crumbled away, and I was wondering how they got the cows up there!

    • I know what you mean – before I had been able to figure that out, the pictures left me asking the same question. The entire operation was really impressive, actually. I can only imagine how loud it must have been in there with all the activity. Thanks again for letting me use your excellent shots TR.

      • I’m doing some research on Armour because I have a 1901 Armour calendar called “Spirit of the Century” entered in an auction. This calendar consisted of six panels, each of which depicts (via watercolor paintings) images of military heroes from each of the six U.S. wars fought until then. The paintings are very well done but are not signed.
        Can you give me any help in trying to find out if there is, perhaps, an Armour historian who might shed some light on who the artist was? Any help/leads will be appreciated.


      • Yes Matt, actually I believe it is right around the corner from the new bridge… probably about a mile and a half away.

        This will definitely affect the Armour Plant. We’ll need to keep an eye on this, thanks for pointing it out.

        • You’re welcome! Thanks for covering a place of interest close to home! my mom’s family was originally from E. St. Louis and moved further south into Illinois when it started to decline. She absolutely remembers seeing this place still in operation when she was a child. I have a friend who is working on the new bridge as an iron worker and he was telling me about this creepy, yet intriguing, old abandoned factory nearby. This has to be it! Thanks!

          • No problem. Please do keep us in the loop through your friend as to the fate of the factory. If the city is spending the money to build the bridge, you’d think they have plans for the land.

  2. TR: You only puzzled over it because you didn’t believe me when I told you that would be the most convenient way to run the system. I’m pretty sure the narrow building (which is only a skeleton at this point) to the north was the ramp system to move the animals up to the top floor.

    SI: Excellent article as always! I knew the basics of the history when I first went there but this is just amazing.
    This was an incredibly fun (and not terribly safe) place to explore. If anyone is considering going there I strongly recommend going with a buddy and stay close together, floors are not only optional in some places but also aren’t always safe to walk on when they do exist.

  3. I love this blog! No matter what the topic is, it is bound to be interesting. Keep up the great work!

  4. Another fascinating read with beautiful illustrations and moving text. Thank you again. I think that “Hergé” may have had this plant in mind in “Tintin in America” where he depicts a meat packing plant belonging to a sinster “Mr Grinder” where live cows go in one end and tinned meat comes out the other, the intervening steps being hidden behind high brick walls.

  5. A great article about a place that I’ve never heard of. The old photos of National City look a lot like the old photos of the Armour & Swift Packing Plant buildings in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Fortunately for the Fort Worth Stockyards which closed at the same time as National City’s some of the old buildings, including the hog pens have been repurposed into shops. The Stockyards is a major tourist attraction/trap for the City. This is a link to some of the old photos. http://ripleyarnoldx.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/fort-worth-stockyards/

  6. Just wanted to update a lil… Me and a couple of photog friends decided to make the trip here the other day. We barely made it from the north side of the building, after parking just off of a new access road for a business behind it the crumbling plant, when we were intercepted by workers of the nearby business and harassed… I noted that they were saying things like “If you come back, youre cars wont be there when you come back out” and “Its not wise to be in here, its dangerous and theres a basement full of water you can drown in” but never mentioned calling the cops (theres a serious shortage of police in East STL and this wouldnt constitute a serious emergency anyway) or trespassing… They kept talking about no tresspasing signs but to my knowledge, those signs are for the “driveway” we drove in on, and another one at the property edge for the business but NEVER saw one on the plant or its property… Be careful when visiting, and seems parking on the south side of the plant would be better suited than the north side.. 🙂 Hope that helps all you UrbExers

    • I stopped by there this morning to take some panoramic photos of the building. I figured with the easy access now from the new bridge and that it would soon be torn down for new development. I took a few shots from across Exchange Avenue and then decided to turn around and head back north (on exchange) to get a few more close-up shots. I pulled into a small drive way right in front of the property and took maybe 10 shots total with a few different cameras. I did notice on the right side of the road a “private property sign,” but figured I was not trespassing but on a city street and that sign was in the brush. The drive way went left on a gravel road to some sort of train company or something to do with trains. (there was a sign) … I was getting back in my car and changing cameras when a pickup pulled in front of my car sideways and a red truck parked on the left of me. Two guys go out of the truck and one asked me what I was doing. I told them taking a few pictures of the building. He told me I was on private property and that they had been having issues in the nights. I was asked to leave the entrance, but I could take shots from the road. I was not going to argue or stick around for long. Especially when the red truck had at least two more guys in it and one got out. I waved to show I meant no harm and apologized for the misunderstanding. They stayed around the property after I left. I pulled out of the entrance and stopped a few yards away to put my camera gear back in my bag, I figure they were from a local industrial business keeping tabs on the property. Just a little FYI if your planning to visit!

    • I worked in the stock yards for many years and as far as I no the only industry left is a rendering plant and a railroad yard. The rail yard has there own security and they are not friendly and discourage visitors. If you go there you will not be made welcome.

  7. More important is the substantial asbestos contamination in the refrigeration plant, especially the northeast room. The area is patrolled by the Fairmont City Police who are aware of its status as an urbex destination,and the brush which used to provide cover is being cleared.

    • I don’t know for certain, but I would be willing to bet the city had assumed ownership at some point over the years due to unpaid tax liens. This is what typically happens with long-abandoned structures. Over time the accrued tax debt eventually eclipses the value of the property, which usually results in the owner relinquishing control to satisfy the debts.

      • Called the citys tax ofc. They say they dont own it, gave me a mans name but no way to contact him..been trying to locate the owners for years now.

        • Thanks for the update, Victoria, interesting the city has no way to contact the owner. I wonder if the taxes are current. If you don’t mind my asking, why have you been trying to contact the owners?

          • Interested in the old railcars that sit there and would love to obtain permission to go in n take pics as well, also heard several companies began clean up there but never saw it thru to completion.

        • Victoria, the Stock Yards still own the plant. They are down in OK they have a caretaker that takes care of the stock yards.

  8. A very informative article. I now know enough about meat packing to realize that my rejection of processed meat is well warranted. Beyond that, thank you for the excellent photos, and double thanks for not screwing up the photos with a lot of ‘photoshop magic’.

  9. My mother worked at armour packing house when I was little. My father would take her there and pick her up. It was a wonder for me when our car was stopped by herds of cattle crossing the road to meet their demise.

  10. Could anyone help me in finding this building. Either with directions, very nearby landmarks or nearby addresses or if possible the address of the actual building?

  11. This is simply amazing to see. I worked for 4 years at the Stockyards, first managing the Inn and Cafeteria in the Exchange building, and subsequently managing part of the warehouse operation. My office was in the buildings in these pictures, and my last year there, I worked out of an office in the “power house” beneath the smokestacks.

    The history of the National Stockyards speaks for itself, and I am glad I was a small part of it from 1977 to 1981. I have always wanted to return to look around, but it is obvious that nature and scavengers have all but eliminated what is left. The ironic thing for me was that three of the buildings I worked out of burned to the ground. The Exchange building was rebuilt, but the original burned to the ground due to a kitchen fire,….the kitchen I managed. Fortunately, that was long after I was gone.

    Thank you for providing the information that you have on this website.

    • Thank YOU Richard for stopping by and sharing your story, I especially enjoy feedback from those with personal experiences with the article subjects.

      These take some time for me to put together, it’s particularly rewarding to hear positive reviews from those who experienced the places first-hand. Glad to know I was able to do the plant justice! 🙂

  12. As of 11/7/14 I have heard they are doing soil samples… Getting ready to tear this down and going to build a truck stop as the state is planning on relooping Rt. 3. I am a delivery driver in the Stock Yards and surrounding areas.

    • Really? Very interesting, thanks for stopping by and sharing that update with us Nick. I figured it was only a matter of time and money. A truck stop would certainly bring a lot more activity to the area. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  13. Just to let you all know… My buddy and I want out there yesterday to check out the plant.. Very cool place.. Parked a mile away from this place… We were in there for 20mins before the 3 squad cars came.. We were able to sneak out with out getting caught… The cops actually went into the abandoned building and I never seen cops do that before…. If anybody decides to go out there… Be very careful and just watch out for the cops… They are watching the place big time…

  14. South St Paul Mn had the largest Armour Plant it was 47 acres it was massive, this plant looks like a little punk, South St Paul had a way bigger Stockyards also had Swift plant and the entire yards employed 12,000 people

      • They were called stockyards for a reason, all the major players, Armour, Swift, Morris, and Cudahy would group together, grease a few state and local politicians, get an area annexed and incorporate it into a new town complete with charter, mayor, post office, etc…
        They used the local town for it’s services sch as water, fire and police protection, but never paid a dime in taxes.

        Ain’t American ingenuity great?

  15. My grandfather was a butcher for the Armour Company after he emigrated from the Netherlands in 1910. Since he was a butcher in the Netherlands, this seemed like a natural fit for him when he arrived. I thought that this was a good job but after reading this article, I think he probably was exploited as a new immigrant. I am not sure exactly how long he worked there prior to his move to the west coast by 1914.
    Is there any repository that holds records on employees of this company. Also I am assuming that National City is the name of the stockyard in Chicago? And the same building as the 1910 picture?

    • Chicago had the Union Stockyards, which was the largest stockyard in the world. The reason this plant looks like the plant in Fort Worth is because they were built with the same set of plans. The had plants all over the country and all were built to look the same. Swift and Morris also did the same with their plants.

  16. My grandfather was a butcher for Armour after he emigrated from the Netherlands in 1910. Since he was a butcher in the Netherlands, it probably was a natural fit for him as a new immigrant. I thought this was a good job compared to others that were available for recent immigrants, however, after reading this article, I think he probably was exploited.
    Is there any repository that housed records of the Armour Company in Chicago?

  17. Here is another update as I have learned somemore while delivering down there. The Stock Yards are the ones that are planning on tearing down the old plant as soon as they have a company that will build a truck stop. Quiktrip as backed out. Mark at one time the Stock Yards had 3 packing plants all are torn down but this Armor one. Barbara, National Stock Yards was the name of the town with a zip code of 62071 and they still have a post office. Not sure about where all the records would have went. My best bet would be call the Madison Public Library or East St. Louis. I see the caretaker once in a while I could ask him and see if he would know.

  18. Just discovered and loving this.First discovered urban exploration a few months back,these guys always filmed,shurely somebody has got in with a video cam.Also,being so cutting edge Armour must have made PR films of the plant in its heyday,where would they be archived.

    • Yeah, go to You Tube, there is plenty of video of Urbexers venturing out there. I have been there twice, but but was leery about going in alone since Exchange Avenue had road blocks in the way.

  19. Drove by September 27th 2015. Structure still stands. Will be sneaking in for a walk soon… Will be on the lookout for police.

  20. I love this article, and the comments have been informative. I’m location scouting for an independent short film. Looking for an abandoned property just like this! But based on the comments, showing up and shooting for a day would get us thrown out or worse. Any updates on this?

    • Thanks Paul, I appreciate the feedback. I don’t think it would be wise to spend a full day there without prior approval. While you might have pockets of privacy, the overall area is still occasionally patrolled. It would be difficult to spend an entire day shooting a film at the site without being seen. Good luck!

  21. I have some very sad news… The plant will be blown up the 1st weekend in April! Will be torn down for the new route 3/203 roadway. Also the City of East St. Louis has nothing to do with the plant. It is owned by a few people down in Oklahoma same with the land in the Stock Yards.

    • Oh no! That is bad news, thanks for keeping us in the loop Nick. I didn’t hold out hope it would be restored, but I did think redevelopment was still a ways away.

      History makes way for another highway…

      • No not yet. Was going to happen April 2, but they state didn’t get the permits to them in time so was postponed until April 10 but due to rain was postponed again. I plan on going down to take a video when this all happens.

        • Thanks Nick, I appreciate the updates. And good call on capturing video – please do share the link here if you do manage to capture video of the demo and I’ll include it at the end of the story. 🙂

    • Yeah, there is a National CIty, Oklahoma that was a sister stockyard operation. I have pictures of it.

  22. As far as I know, only the building with the smokestack (the Boiler and Refrigeration Building) was demolished. Were the other three buildings demolished as well?

  23. The area is now mostly filled with blacks running around killing, eating flaming Cheetos, orange crush and smoking Newports, but it’s very important to remember that it’s all the white crakas fault.

  24. I would think that urban explorers are a little more evolved about race and other issues. I assumed we were in this for the historical aspects


    Why is it that everything filters down too race with some people?
    If this idiot Barbady knew anything, color had nothing to do with the closing of that plant. The entire industry changed and moved from outdated plants. The general area of National City, e.g. East ST, Louis was in decline long before the plants shut down. White Flight, Black Flight, or anybody-with-enough-money-to-move-Flight took place.

    The city’s proximity to St. Louis made it a virtual step-child to the Illinois legislature, meaning they never got adequate funding for anything and it becomes St. Louis’ dumping grounds for everything from corrupt government to wholesale murder.

  25. As of today 10/6/2016, the rest of the facility is being flattened and Armour is no more. A railroad company has purchased it with plans to expand its operations yard.

  26. I enjoyed your Reed I used to go there with my father when I was 7 and 8 years old they had offices there that was 1970 and 1971 even though there a lot of abandoned buildings it was still pretty cool I thought parts of it used to scare the hell out of me

  27. WOW I picked up a nice Anniversary lapel button made of enamel that celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Armor & Company
    1867 – 1927.
    Its tucked away in my room somewhere

  28. On 10/1/2017, my father and I were on our way to the NHRA races at Gateway Race Park located just East of this site (leaving the facility and trying a new route home to avoid traffic is how we stumbled upon this site). I had this site on my mind because we were going to drive past and see if anything was left of it after the races. While traveling westbound on Intersate 70, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. I noticed a huge set of fylwheels sitting with lots of other antique equipment. I looked over at my father and told him those look just like the steam engine in Armour (That thing is famous even for people who have never physically been to the sight to see it because of all the photographs of it on pages like this). He told me that I was crazy. A few moments later, he retracted that comment and told me those flywheels had been there for about a year which matched up closely with the implosion/dissection of the rubble of the facility.
    When I sat down to my computer Monday morning I did a little research online and found the name of the place where I had seen them. The place ended up being The American Farm Heritage Museum located near Greenville, IL. I sent a message asking them about the engine. A gentlemen name John promptly messaged me back and let me know my hunch was correct! Here is his reply:

    “Yes you are correct this is the big engine out of Armour at the National Stock Yards. A year ago in August we were given the chance to rescue this engine from the Armour plant when they imploded the building on it. They gave us 7 days to remove it after they removed the rubble from it. We got it done in 11 days. As we raise some funds for this project our Plans are to assemble it as outside display on the corner it’s setting in now. The shape it’s in it will probably never run but it will make a good conversation piece and great history of the area livestock industry and it process to get it to the consumer in the early 1900.

    Thank for noticing!”

    So for anyone wanting to see the famous steam engine up close, you can! The museum is free to enter but they are currently taking donations to get a nice display created for the engine. I will be donating. I am glad that the museum saved at least one item of this iconic piece of history.


    • Wow Mitch, thanks for sharing this! What a story. I’m glad John & the American Farm Heritage Museum was there to save the old engine. It’s good to know the engine will be preserved and is on display. Thanks again for sharing this with us, I will add an update to the article.

  29. My father was in the retail meat business in Baltimore from the 30s to the 70s. I remember going to the Armour and Company and Swift and Company meat packing facilities in west Baltimore, specifically on Brunswick and Dukeland Streets south of Wilkens Ave. Those facilities were closed around 1966-67 and later razed. I have been trying to find photographs of those Baltimore facilities but with very little results.. I have mental images and they are very similar to the pictures in this article.

  30. Does anyone know who did the implosion demolition of the power plant facility? That implosion technology was developed by Controlled Demolition of Maryland.

    • I found the answer to my question about the demolition.
      Baxmeyer Construction, Inc., in conjunction with Davitz Demolition, took on the task of imploding the Armour Packing Company Generating building. 475 sticks of dynamite has a way of turning a solid structure into a pile of bricks.

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