The “Autobahn” and the Berlin Wall
You might hear this stretch of Business I-85 through Spartanburg County called “the Autobahn,” but that isn’t because the local speed limit is 140 mph (actually, it’s 55 mph). National journalists, from The Los Angeles Times to The Wall Street Journal, bestowed that name on the highway because of the large number of European manufacturers, most with textile ties, which set up operations in the 1960s-1980s.
Autobahn, of course, is the German word for freeway. It describes the highway system in Germany, Austria and parts of Switzerland—the source of many of the textile-related European manufacturers in Spartanburg County. From Germany’s ADO drapery plant to Switzerland’s Symtech to Austria’s Zimmer Machinery, at least 20 international companies line the highway (anchored now on the west by the massive BMW plant, but that came much later). Most of these companies came here to provide sales and service for their high-tech, European-made looms and spinning machines that filled the textile plants of the Southern Piedmont. At one time, Spartanburg County had the highest per-capita investment of international industry in the United States.
Stop at Menzel Inc., where German owners have installed actual pieces of the Berlin Wall in front of their factory. In 1989 they relocated two sections of the wall that was erected by the Soviets in 1961 to keep East German citizens from fleeing to the West. Spartanburg is one of the only places in the U.S. where you can see large pieces of the Wall.