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Warner Aircraft Building

Last month I was on a personal trip to the Detroit area, and I had a chance to have lunch with one of my friends, fellow EAA Pioneer Airport pilot Doug Conciatu. Doug is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area, and while we were chatting over our very decadent Coney dogs (a Detroit favorite) he offered to show me the factory building that used to house the Warner Aircraft Corporation. He mentioned that it had some neat art details as part of the structure, so off we went to explore the west side of Detroit.

The Warner Aircraft Corporation was founded in April 1927 as Aeronautical Industries Inc. The company built their first Scarab engine that year, a 110 hp, seven-cylinder radial that became very popular in the years prior to World War II. By 1930 a number of small aircraft manufacturers were using Warner engines in their lightplanes, including the Monocoupe 110, Cessna AW, Fairchild 24 C8A, and Stinson Junior SM-2 (which was built just up the road from the Warner plant at Stinson, whose factory was in Wayne, Michigan). The designs grew in horsepower and in cylinders, with the company making both seven- and nine-cylinder models. Their last engine was the 185 hp Super Scarab, first built in 1933. While their engines were popular, and were even used in the Meyers OTW trainer built for the World War II CPT program, Warner engine production was not part of the wartime effort. The company quit building engines during the war, doing other machine work. After the war, engine production didn’t resume, and in 1950 the company assets were sold to the Clinton Machine Company.

Surprisingly, very little historical information about the company remains in print, and even less history is found on the Internet. I have not found a reference to W.O. Warner’s first name, not even in Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft.

Here are a few photos of the factory building, which was built in 1929. It is located just east of 8 Mile Road, just inside the city of Detroit’s western border. The address is 20263 Hoover Avenue; here’s its location on Google Maps.

Warner factory
The Warner Aircraft Corporation was located in the northwest corner of the city of Detroit, just east of Eight Mile Road on Hoover Avenue. The forward part of the building housed the offices, with the actual plant extending beyond it.

Warner factory
Now completely boarded up (like so many other now unused factory buildings in the Detroit area) the building which was the home to Warner was typical of the era, with beautiful details added to the light-contrasting banding around the middle of the facade. Interestingly, for some reason known probably only to W.O. Warner, the top of the corners at each end of the building are adorned with artwork depicting a gas balloon and basket.

Warner factory
Each of the areas between the windows features bas-relief artwork related to the work or to aviation. This Staggerwing-like biplane soaring over the water and a rising sun is seen in the panels immediately to the left and right of the main entrance.

Warner factory
This non-aviation panel shows a worker at a forge or other metal processing bench; Warner did all their work on site, including forging.

Warner factory
Another detail from the Warner factory office section. The meaning of the fan-spoked wheel in the woman’s hand isn’t clear, particularly since Warner didn’t build engines with superchargers.

Warner factory
A gear with a stylized pair of wings adorns the middle panels. In the center band on the building there are four different pieces of art, each repeated on either side of the door.

Warner factory
In the center panel at the top, well above the main entrance to the office, is this symbol of engineering. It’s very similar to a Masonic temple emblem.