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.

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