Fleetwood’s sense of history was in full effect on Nov. 4 as friends and neighbors gathered at the corner of Richmond and Locust streets for dedication of an official Pennsylvania State Historical marker honoring the formation of the Fleetwood Metal Body Company.
Fleetwood Metal Body, established in 1902 by Harry Urich, fabricated and designed custom auto bodies for domestic and foreign automobile manufacturers, such as Cadillac, SGV and Mercedes Benz.
It was purchased by a General Motors subsidiary in 1925 and fabrication operations were later moved to Detroit in 1930; the Fleetwood name was used by Cadillac for another 60 years.
Phil Zimmerman spoke on behalf of the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission, the state’s official history agency.
“I want to congratulate all of you for dedicating today, the newest of nearly 2,500 of these historical markers that have been erected throughout the state. As you likely know, these markers are chronicled people, places and events that make Pennsylvania a special place.”
According to Zimmerman, the historical marker program began in 1946 and is now one of the most popular programs of the Historical and Museum Commission.
“Historical markers speak to future generations and us about the many diverse events and topics that when woven together become our rich, diverse heritage,” said Zimmerman. “It is my hope that when we unveil this marker it will not be the end of the story, but will instead inspire and encourage further study and discussion about the roll of the Fleetwood Metal Body.”
The dedication is the result of 25 years of perseverance by the people of Fleetwood to have their town recognized for its rich industrial history.
“It’s a pleasure to recognize the dedication and hard work that it took, more than two decades, by members of the Fleetwood Area Historical Society,” said Tammy Gore, Fleetwood Mayor. “The unveiling of this historical marker by the Pennsylvania Museum Commission formerly acknowledges how instrumental Fleetwood Metal Body Company was to the advancement of the automotive industry. Now we get to share the history of this site with all who read this marker today and for generations to follow so that this history will never be lost.”
Senator Judy Schwank was in attendance and spoke of the Fleetwood Metal Body Company’s importance in the community.
“This is such an important part of our community,” said Schwank. “ It’s something that all of us know about, we remember so many stories about the history and the people that worked there. It really is a part of the fabric of our community. And now with this plaque right here on Richmond Street, other people will know about our history as well.”
George Mieser, Berks County Historian, spoke on the Fleetwood craftsmen. He believes that some of the finest craftsmen lived, worked and perfected their craft in Fleetwood.
“I’ve come to one conclusion, there’s a lot to be said for the people from this community who were born here, worked here and died here, who made some of the finest automobile bodies on the face of the earth,” said Mieser.“Kings, presidents, monarchs of all sorts, drove cars with Fleetwood bodies; they were well known throughout the world.”
The Fleetwood community holds a strong awareness of its past, but remains hopeful for what the future will hold.
“It [history] is also a blueprint of what the future could be, we look at our community,” said Schwank. “This is part of our history but it will also give us inspiration for the future, too, and for what our community will be, what the new industry will be and I’m really proud to be here today to be a part of both the past and the future.”