Kalamazoo’s Gibson Guitar Plant: Changed for the Better or Worse?
Orville Gibson founded the company in 1902 as "The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Co., Ltd." That's right...mandolins, and mandolins only. After World War I, the interest for mandolins faded, and by World War II, Gibson was making guitars, along with munitions for the war effort. From 1942-1946, Gibson hired more women than any other guitar/munitions manufacturer. After making munitions, the ladies secretly kept cranking out the guitars.
Although Orville created the company in 1902, the Gibson guitar factory in Kalamazoo wasn't built until 1917.....but 100 years later, big changes were taking place. The iconic Gibson smokestack was being dismantled (see photos below), the factory name was changed to Heritage Guitars, and now it's going to be turned into a Hard Rock Hotel.
I have nothing against the Hard Rock chain, but the Gibson factory is such an important part of Michigan history, that it seems sacrilegious to change it this much. Gibson guitars were used by artists from all music genres...B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie, Buddy Holly, Prince, The Rolling Stones, and many, many others.
In 1985, Gibson packed up and moved to Nashville, leaving the factory under the auspices of Heritage Guitars.....but the Gibson smokestack stayed intact.
And now, Hard Rock has their own plans for the building...which includes dismantling the smokestack. They describe their venture as a “concept designed to be an energetic cultural hub for connection, creation and inspiration among music fans, locals, and travelers alike along with local music, food and entertainment”. Their press release goes on to say that it will also include an auditorium, banquet room, bar, brewery, gym, museum, and restaurant.
While die-hard music & Gibson fans may not be too pleased, one of the pluses is that it will create more jobs. In the midst of everything we've gone through since spring of 2020, they anticipate an opening date of fall 2023.
THE GIBSON FACTORY