Made in Jacksonville: Main Metal Recycling

Published June 4, 2013 in Development

Made in Jacksonville: Main Metal Recycling
Family owned and operated, Main Metal Recycling Company has been a downtown mainstay for five decades. Earlier this month, Tammy Wainright of Main Metal Recycling invited Metro Jacksonville's Ennis Davis for a tour of their recycling facility and operations.

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About Main Metal Recycling Company, Inc.

Recycling saves energy, which in turn, reduces greenhouse gas emissions. For example, ten pounds of aluminum cans reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 16 pounds, which is the energy equivalent of seven gallons of gasoline.

Producing new material from scrap uses 95 percent less energy than producing the same product from natural resources. As individuals we can make a positive impact on our environment through recycling.  Located at 1352 West Beaver Street, Main Metal Recycling makes this possible by purchasing your ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metals and recycling them for new uses.

In the broadest brushstrokes, scrap metal is classified as either ferrous or non-ferrous scrap. While ferrous metal contains some degree of iron, non-ferrous metal does not contain iron as a component.  Common examples of ferrous scrap metals include appliances, structural and reinforcement steel, and examples of non-ferrous metals include aluminum cans, aluminum siding, copper wire, window and door frames.

Located in a forgotten area of downtown, Main Metal's history dates back more than fifty years.  During the 1960's, the company was founded in LaVilla by Maurice Bartley. Eventually, it was purchased by William Pope and today it's owned by his son, Jim, who grew up watching his father work.  According to Jim, "Once you get scrap in your blood, it stays with you."

As a part of Mayor Ed Austin's River City Renaissance, in the early 2000s, the company relocated as their 102 Stuart Street buildings and many others were demolished by the city in hopes of revitalizing LaVilla.

Instead of leaving the urban core, Jim Pope moved his non-ferrous scrap metal recycling facility just west of Interstate 95 on Beaver Street to a structure once used as a bus repair garage for Greyhound Lines and city sanitation maintenance facility.

As Jacksonville has grown over the years, so has Main Metal Recycling.  Now, with 31 employees, Main Metal's growth has lead to the company purchasing the adjacent long abandoned Florida Machine & Foundry and now occupies 14 acres.  Here, the foundry has been re-positioned as a ferrous scrap metal recycling yard.

Photos of Main Metal's non ferrous metal recycling operation


1958 Sanborn map showing Greyhound Lines and Florida Machine & Foundry.  Today, these sites are a part of the Main Metal Recycling complex.














Re-purposing History


A mid-20th century aerial of Florida Machine & Foundry. Courtesy of the City of Jacksonville Historic Preservation Office.

The foundry that Jim Pope acquired was originally known as the Florida Machine Works and established in Brooklyn in 1899.  

Purchased shortly after the Great Fire of 1901 by Franklin Russell, the foundry was relocated to 1375 West Church Street in 1924.  Then part owner, his son, Franklin Russell, Jr., a recent graduate of Yale, designed the new foundry.

Russell, Jr.'s wife was Katherine Baker, the daughter of influential 19th century Jacksonville figure, John Baker.  Baker was the director of the Covington Dry Goods Company, the Atlantic National Bank, and a major stockholder in the Wilson & Toomer Fertilizer Company.

During the 1950s, Russell's foundry doubled in size and a steel fabrication plant and a Mid-Century Modern office building by Taylor Hardwick was added next door.  The foundry eventually became the second largest supplier of custom-built cutter heads and replaceable teeth for cutter suction dredgers in the world, before eventually closing in 2002.

During the following decade, the early-20th century industrial complex had fallen to the elements of abandonment.  In 2012, the old foundry became of focal point of Metro Jacksonville's first book, Reclaiming Jacksonville: Stories Behind The River City's Historic Landmarks. That book focused on sharing the history of abandoned structures within Jacksonville's urban core with a hope of one day seeing them reused before they were lost forever.


Florida Machine & Foundry during the 1950s. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

Abandoned in 2011.


Video tour of abandoned plant site by flurbex. More Jacksonville videos by flurbex at: http://www.flurbex.com/sites/


Photograph courtesy of Nomeus


Photograph courtesy of Nomeus


Photograph courtesy of Nomeus


Photograph courtesy of Nomeus


Photograph courtesy of Nomeus






Main Metal's Conversion



While nature was in the process of reclaiming the nearly 90-year-old foundry, next door Main Metal was busting at the seams.  By the time Reclaiming Jacksonville was released, Main Metal had secured a deal to acquire the foundry and cemented plans to convert the site into a steel recycling yard.

During my January 2013 presentation on the "Future of Urban Development in Jacksonville" for the North Florida Chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth, I had to opportunity to meet Main Metal's President Tammy Wainright, who offered me the opportunity to visit the revived foundry site.

Taking her up on her offer, I was given a tour of the site by Main Metal's Tammy Wainright, Linda Watkins, and Micah Thornton.

Where vagrants once slept and fished in flooded loading docks, Main Metal had converted into a fully automated steel recycling yard.  Instead of demolishing the entire site, the machine shop, a portion of the foundry, Hardwick's office building, and the steel fabrication plant were saved.  CEO Jim Pope elected to save as much history as possible.  The portions of the buildings that were demolished, were structurally unfeasible to salvage.  While the purpose of the acquisition was to create a steel recycling yard, Main Metal has invested over two million in cleaning and improving these structures so they will be available for utilization as their operation grows.

Structurally deficient sections of the foundry and pattern shop buildings were demolished to make way for the recycling yard, which features drive-through drop-off lanes.  Here, businesses and individuals deliver material to be recycled.  Entering the yard, the vehicle is weighed and directed to a section of the yard storing the specific material being delivered. Upon leaving the yard, the vehicle is then weighed again and the driver is paid by Main Metal for the amount of material they've delivered for recycling.

The Scrap metals processed at the plant are then shipped to domestic mills and/or exported through the port.

However, all the vestiges of abandonment were not eliminated.  After the foundry closed, its loading docks were inundated with standing water over time.  By the time Main Metal acquired the property, fish were residing in the docks.  Instead of draining the water, Main Metal left it as an attraction for its employees and customers by adding a fountain.  Fed daily by Main Metal's employees, the fish include large mouth bass and brim.













Conclusion



Jacksonville is a city with an exciting and unique history. However, not all of our culturally significant sites are those with grand H.J. Klutho-inspired architectural elements and design.  Many, like Florida Machine & Foundry, are utilitarian in nature with a design focused on making the manufacturing process as efficient and as productive as possible.  Despite their bland vernacular architecture, culturally these are places that have had a significant influence on the neighborhoods surrounding them.

Main Metal's reuse of this site is significant.  Across the nation, most early 20th-century industrial sites become permanent locations of blight and abandonment for nearby aging communities, whose residents they once employed.  Just in our own urban core, we have major sites of industrial abandonment still awaiting a savior such as the Jax Brewing Company, the Shipyards, Ford Assembly Plant, and Farris & Company Slaughterhouse.

However, Main Metal's conversion of this site into a sustainable industrial use, preserves history, creates new jobs for local residents, brings life to what was once an eyesore, adds to the city's tax base, and provides a use that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and keeps Jacksonville's streets clean and landfills low.


Main Metal location map

Main Metal Recycling is located at 1352 West Beaver Street. Learn more about Main Metal and the products they recycle atwww.mainmetalrecycling.com


Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com

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