June/July 2000 History Feature 
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   The Once Great Wigwam
   By Brett Herrey

All anyone has to do is to go to State and Wilbraham in Springfield, Massachusetts and check out the building which covers one city block, to know how enormous the once great Wigwam really was. Keep in mind that the back half of the building is all that remains today. The front half of the building was torn down in 1985 and today remains as a parking lot. The major historical part of the building was the front half to which major construction went on for many different years which increased the size of the building as to the size that the Indian Motocycle company felt they needed for production. 

At one time, it was the largest motorcycle factory in the world and larger than all the other companies put together. The railroad tracks remain as you can see by the pictures, but clearly is not in use any more as the majority of the track is gone. As you stand on the tracks you can almost feel the rumble of the trains and the sounds of the whistles as each new train brought in raw materials for machining and left with shipments of brand new Indians going out to destinations all over the United States. 

Many pictures were taken of this factory, from trains awaiting shipments, to Model T's patiently waiting to take their load of cargo to various dealers nearby. Across the empty parking lot where the front half once stood, remains the old firehouse sitting alone and in need of a little TLC, but standing proud as it always did. Inside the building, you will be greeted  by a receptionist who would be glad to answer any question you might have about renting an apartment. 

Yes I did say rent an apartment. It seems that the old Wigwam was converted into an apartment complex with as many as 144 rooms being occupied at the time these pictures were taken. The section along State street is the only section of the building still under construction. Within that section, you can still see the oil soaked plank floors, missing windows, and peeled paint that stood the test´ of time for so many neglected years. In the rented section, you will find the old oak beams which are massive in size, and  the finished walls which are actually blended around them. The management will allow you to tour the remodeled section, but do not allow visitors into the areas that still need remodeling. 

One can stand in the building and actually feel the power from the massive machines that once lined the inside walls of the factory. You can feel the vibration of the presses as they stamped out the sheet metal and hear the slapping of the overhead belt system which produced parts shift after shift, to keep the assembly line moving within the factory. You can feel the spirit of Hendee, Hedstrom, Charles Franklin, E Paul Dupont and all the others who made Indian Motocycle a household name. You can hear the songs of the big bands as they echoed off the walls and the cry for more production during war time to bring our boys home as fast as possible. Outside in the courtyard, you can see and feel the factory workers as they took their breaks in the clean summer air and listen to the idle chatter of everything that goes on inside during working hours. 

If you haven't visited the Wigwam then make it a point to go see it some time when you are in the area. Just to get the rush feeling of where the flame from within us comes from when we ride and restore another one of Springfield's finest.

Click on pictures for full size

The Wigwam. Actually the remaining back half

The writing is on the wall...

Court yard area

Very back of the building... looking toward the front of State 

Click for map of the area

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