|At least some of the houses in Trenton are still occupied. This is a shot of "The Land of the Damned" in South Camden.|
This is is a picture I ripped from Google Images. Yeah, I sometimes cheat, but at least I tell you when I do. I don't know for certain, but I believe it is from South Camden off of Broadway near the South Jersey Port Authority Broadway Terminal, which at one time was the home of the New York Shipbuilding Co. where the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk and many another proud American warship were built over a period of more than half a century. These homes no doubt were occupied by workers from New York Ship or by other nearby manufacturing concerns.
New York Ship, Campbell's Soup and RCA were the big three manufacturing powerhouses in the city. The were to that city what Roebling Steel, American Steel and Trenton Pottery were to our city. Well all good things must eventually come to an end and after the Kitty Hawk was completed in 1961, no more large ships were built there. Finally, in 1967, New York Ship folded. And so the rest of the neighborhood began to go after that. And it of course did not help matters when it was discovered that a nearby abandoned dress factory on the corner of Jefferson and Broadway was found to be heavily contaminated with radioactive thorium. Seems that prior to becoming a garment mill the building in question was the General Gas Mantle plant which manufactured lamp mantles or the cloth bags that used to go over the outlet pipes on gas lamps. When the gas was turned on and the mantle lit, it would produce a glow and emit light like a modern light bulb. The "secret ingredient" in the mantle that made it an effective light emitter was thorium, which came from sand brought to the plant for processing..
For more about New York Shipbuilding Co., see http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/camden.htm.
For more information on General Gas Mantle see http://www.epa.gov/superfund/eparecovery/welsbach.html
and http://www.state.nj.us/health/eoh/hhazweb/hhw_no_3.pdf and http://www.dvrbs.com/camden-streets/camdennj-streets-arlingtonstreet.htm
Over the years, the workers took the sand home with them and used it in children's sandboxes and to mix concrete. Some put it in the soil of their gardens to make it lighter. In the process, the whole neighborhood was contaminated with radioactive radiation and the housing was abandoned. Most has since been torn down.
I decided to write about Camden today because my job brought me there last Thursday and I got to ride down Broadway all the way from the Roman Catholic Cathedral downtown to Fairview Avenue which lies just past New York Ship. This drive takes you through the city's Combat Zone, a netherworld of hookers, junkies, drunks and busted up buildings.