Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Hartz Mountain Factory

This 750,000 square foot complex of blighted industrial buildings was, in its latest incarnation, the headquarters for the pet food division of the Hartz company.

The factory was built on a tract of land adjacent to the Crucible steel company, based on the banks of the Passaic River in Essex County New Jersey. 

It was originally and most notably used by Hyatt Bearing Works, an affiliate of General Motors. Founded in Newark by John Wesley Hyatt in 1892, Hyatt's bearings were considered to be the industry leader. These revolutionary new bearings were not round, but rather coiled helical pieces of steel. They were much more efficient than their competitors. These coiled steel bearings were just one of a handful of parents Mr. Hyatt held. He also invented celluloid after spending some time working with chemicals.

The bearing company was quickly outgrowing it's humble original factory. When the Old's Motor Works company placed an order for their new line of 1,000 vehicles, Hyatt new the company needed a bigger factory. In 1901, operations were moved to a new building in Harrison.

Things were not as perfect as they seemed, however. One early shipment to Cadillac was refused by the general manager of the factory due to minor imperfections. The manager of the Hyatt factory was not discouraged, but rather accepted that such attention to detail was to be immeasurably critical to the operations at his factory. From that point on, the name Hyatt was to stand for perfection.

This caught the attention of a huge automobile manufacturer, General Motors. GM was interested in keeping as much of the production of their vehicles in- house. They began to buy up crucial companies left and right, and in 1916 Hyatt Bearing Works was acquired. GM also purchased Connecticut's New Division bearing company, famous for the "double row" bearing. Despite this affiliation, Hyatt would go on to supply bearings to a number of competitors, including the Ford Motor Company.

Hyatt continued marketing and selling bearings for personal automobiles, but as the market changed the company spilled over into other markets. Soon, their bearings were in everything from industrial equipment to train cars.

The two bearing companies that were under the ownership of General Motors merged in 1965, and with that, the Harrison factory was closed. The Hyatt- New Division bearing company would continue to manufacture bearings for aircraft until 1993, when the company officially stopped production on bearings.

After the Harrison bearing factory was closed, the Hartz company took it over around 1970. They did extensive renovation work to incorporate offices on either side of the old bearing company buildings they purchased. They also converted the warehouse on the property into a parking garage. 

The history of the Hartz company goes back to the late 1920's, and over the years expanded and merged with other companies until it had built up an empire. The company had grown so much that the former Hyatt Bearing factory in Harrison had an ideal amount of space to become the new headquarters for their pet food division.

In 1999 the company vacated and sold the factory. One condition of the sale was that Hartz would assume liability for remediation of the site. However, they never made any effort to take care of it. It wasn't long before the old factory began to fall apart.

Due to its location directly alongside Route 280, thousands and thousands of people passed by these buildings every day. Around the same time, most of the other existing crucible steel buildings were being demolished. It appeared that it wouldn't be long before the demolition would move north to the Hartz buildings.

The area continued to see change as it was slowly being redeveloped. Other buildings belonging to Crucible Steel on the other side of Frank E. Rodgers Blvd were demolished to make way for a new Path station. The Hartz complex still wasn't touched.

Finally, the complex was acquired by the Heller Redevelopment Corporation. The complex was demolished, as part of a redevelopment effort spearheaded by the town. The complex is now just an empty lot, peppered with piles of rubble from the once magnificent factory.

The United States Immigrant Isolation Hospital at Ellis Island

Ellis island is a largely man-made body of land in the Upper New York Bay in Jersey City, New Jersey. It was supplemented in the late 1800's with landfill from the New York City subway projects. In 1892, an immigrant inspection station was built on the island, to screen the patients coming to America from all over the world. Once they were deemed to be in good health, they would be shipped off the island to New York City, where they would begin a new life. However, if you were sick, you received a chalk mark on your collar and were sent to the immigration hospital on the south side of the island. In 1990, the main inspection building became an immigration museum. The twenty two hospital buildings, however, remain abandoned and off limits to the public. In October 2014, small groups started to be allowed back in the hospital in order to document the decaying buildings. I was lucky enough to be part of one of these groups.

1. The main hospital buildings. This was the first public health hospital in the United States, built in 1902 in a Georgian Revival style. The central block was the administration building, and the right and left buildings were for men and women, respectively. The rounded accents you see on the buildings are actually skylights for the 4 operating rooms the hospital held.

2. The buildings have all been boarded from floor to ceiling, but they have vents and windows cut into them to allow the buildings to breathe and for light to enter.

3. Here is one of the stairwells inside the wards.

4. An artist was let in to the buildings to glue some blown up photographs to the walls and windows. I think its incredibly disrespectful, and as such i didn't take many photo's of them. Despite the tour guide constantly telling me "this is what you're here to see" and "I want you to take pictures of this"...

5. The hospital was one of the most well respected teaching hospitals in the US. Roughly 20 percent of the immigrants who made it to the island ended up here. 3,500 of them never made it off.

6. The wards were typical hospital designs, with dayrooms at the end of the halls and plenty of bedrooms.

7. A few of the wards at the end had curved hallways between them.

8. The outside of the same hallway.

9. The Statue of Liberty, from between abandoned wards. This is the one thing the tour guide told me to take photos of that I actually listened to.

10. The ward buildings were not as nice as the main hospital buildings, but i still think they have a certain charm.

11. I believe this was the nurses residence, as it was more decorated than the bleek wards.

12. The kitchen was incredibly hard to shoot without a tripod. The wooden beams cutting across between the walls were used to stabilize the crumbling structures. The hospital closed its doors in the 1930's, and was used for another couple decades as a POW camp and FBI facility before officially being vacated in 1954.

13. The hallways were really tight in some spots.

14. Finally, a leaving shot of the front of the wards. Much nicer looking from up front, but still pretty foreboding.

Hopefully one day the buildings will be open for everybody to be able to traipse through at will. As of right now, the island is under the control of Homeland Security and the United States Park Police. The only access to the abandoned part of the island is through a building that holds a gymnasium that belongs to Homeland Security. Please do not try to access the abandoned side of the island without permission, it will not work.

Everyone can check out the website for the group who is responsible for offering the tours. They have been working for a very long time to restore the island to it's former glory.