Peterson Spring learns of connection to the springs that were at the base of the huge smoke stacks of Detroit Edison’s “Seven Sisters” power generating plant across from Belle Isle on the Detroit River.
The Seven Sisters was a landmark for generations until it was imploded in the summer of 1996 after 81 years. Salvaged from the rubble were five mighty, hand-forged, hot-coiled springs made by August Peterson. Bob Umpfenbach, at one time an employee of Peterson Spring on Telegraph Road in Southfield, Michigan, made contact with the demolition crew and asked them to save some of Peterson’s springs. According to Bob, there were three sizes of springs, and he was promised samples of each size. Unfortunately, someone scrapped the others by mistake, leaving Peterson Spring only the smaller ones. At present, these are on display at the Peterson Spring Home Office in Southfield.
Bud Peterson recalled that as a child, his father would tell him and his sister, Thelma, that the springs at the base of the giant stacks of the power plant were handmade by their Grandfather, August. The compression springs August made were necessary in order to compensate for the expansion and contraction caused by temperature changes in the stacks. There were actually two or three compression springs in each unit, one nestled inside the other, for a combined weight of 51.25 pounds. “To make these springs,” explains Bud, “August took a bar of steel and got the ends red hot in a forge (which is a charcoal fire with bellows underneath), and then tapered the ends with hammer blows. After this was done, he heated the whole bar red hot in a furnace, took it out, and coiled it over an arbor on a big, heavy coiler he built himself. He was making these springs for the Seven Sisters Plant in 1914 when his first granddaughter, my sister Thelma, was born.”
The Detroit landmark was dubbed “Seven Sisters” because of its seven 325-foot-high stacks. It was officially retired in 1983 and imploded shortly after 9 o’clock in the morning on August 10th, 1996. When it was built, the plant required: 9,000 piles, 23,000 yards of concrete, and nearly 1,300 tons of reinforcing. The initial boiler was so large the Detroit Edison Chairman Alex Dow hosted a luncheon inside it in 1914. Each stack weighed about 1,286,000 pounds, and each was wide enough to allow two lanes of traffic. The DTE power plant was not completely demolished, the two other stacks, named Two Brothers, of the Conners Creek Power Plant are still operational, sitting on the Detroit River near Chrysler’s Jefferson North Plant.
Today, Peterson Spring carries on the family tradition of spring manufacturing through the precision coiling of compression springs, extension springs, torsion springs and die springs. The company offers a technical array of services from grinding to prototyping to sub-assemblies. This global supplier presents expertise in many industries including agriculture, industrial, automotive and motorsport.