By Brian C. Mannino, P.E., GEI Consultants
The New Jersey chapter of the Society of Women Environmental Professionals (SWEP) and the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast (BCONE) hosted an event at the Roebling Museum on Wednesday, August 15, 2018. The event included a guided tour of the museum and the video on the history of the Roebling Steel Mill.
In 1848, John Roebling moved his wire rope business and family to Trenton, NJ. The John A. Roebling's Sons Company became the world’s leading producer of wire rope, with four factories and nearly 8,000 employees at its peak, inspiring the motto: “Trenton Makes, the World Takes.’’ Due to competition, 115 acres of land in Florence, NJ (in what is now known as the village of Roebling, NJ) were purchased for the creation of the Roebling Steel Mill, that opened In 1904. In addition to the mill, a town for mill employees was constructed with over 750 houses, a general store and bars. The museum is located in the former main gate house for the mill, one of the few mill structures that remain on the site.
The Roebling Museum, which opened in 2009, presents the history of the John A. Roebling’s Sons Company, including the Roebling Steel Mill, the Roebling family, and the Roebling community. John A. Roebling & Sons Company produced wire rope used in the construction of numerous suspension bridges in the US, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, the Cincinnati-Covington Bridge, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Among the Roebling family members honored is the wife of Washington Roebling, Emily Warren Roebling. Mrs. Roebling assumed many of Washington’s responsibilities while he recovered from decompression sickness (the bends, or caisson sickness as it was known at the time) during the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. She served as one of the first field engineers, and was instrumental in the construction of the bridge. When the bridge was completed in 1883, she was the first to cross the bridge. The Roebling family owned the mill until 1952, when it was sold to Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. Operations ceased in 1974.
In 1982, the federal government declared the 200-acre steel plant a Superfund site. Environmental investigations at the site began and cleanup activities followed in 1987. Most of the site has been remediated through a combination of soil excavation and capping, with dredging work performed in Crafts Creek and the Delaware River Back Channel. In addition to the museum, the cleanup created a 37-acre park where once slag heaps and sludge lagoons stood. Now there are green fields and pathways along which strollers can enjoy the scenic views of the Delaware River.