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Roebling Nj Paper

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By: Stephen Smith

The Roebling family was outgrowing their very busy yet small factory in South Trenton, New Jersey. So the John A. Roebling Son's Company began to look south for a small area of land in Burlington county at a bend in the Delaware River.

It was as this site where they would set up a small controllable little company town. The workers in this town helped mill structural steel cables used in some of the most famous suspension bridges in the United States like the Golden Gate and Brooklyn bridges.

"The town name and the family name would be one and the same -- Roebling -- and the town of Roebling remains today a charming artifact of the industrial age.

Brothers Washington, Ferdinand and Charles Roebling were already millionaire kings of industry whose privately held company had built the Brooklyn Bridge when they made their big expansion." From (1905: Model of a company town)

The John A. Roebling's Sons Co. now had two major problems. The company was becoming much too large for it's widespread location in the city of Trenton's southern end. And the company was now becoming much too dependent on the greedy trusts that supplied the raw materials needed for their steel production.

Building a completely new location should solve most of the problems. The town of Trenton would still be the sight where they would weave the rope. But now there must be a new mill produced to serve the purpose of manufacturing the raw materials into the steel that the Trenton plant could use. This would be Roebling, New Jersey.

The place that was chosen was a tract of farmland that was eight miles south of Trenton; it was due south of a railroad stop that was called Kinkora. From Trenton there would be no problem in moving good with a good railway and river access. For only 17,000 dollars the land was an incredible bargain and was also very level and easy to build upon.

In June of 1905 the owners began to start moving ground but the faced a problem, the owner would have to figure out where to house all the workers that they would need to man their factory. "Perhaps the most troublesome feature of Kinkora (now called Roebling) was the utter lack of houses where the working men could live," wrote Washington Roebling, who was the eldest of the brothers that were bridge makers and the man who designed and built the Brooklyn Bridge. "This could only be overcome by building an entire town, a so-called Model Town. By the day's urban standards, Roebling really was a model town -- 750 brick houses laid out on a rectangular grid." said Charles Roebling.

Charles would make a extensive search between Trenton and Burlington, and then they finally selected an area one mile south of the little station of Kinkora on the old Camden & Amboy Railroad.

(1905: Model of a company town)

Charles Roebling was the youngest of the brothers and he was the one who actually designed and created the town that shares its name with company's founders. Even though he was not as famous as his older brothers, like Washington who was an engineering genius and Civil War hero, or Ferdinand who was the financial wizard. He did have a very artistic touch.

Charles Roebling would lay one hundred foot wide streets in the town and would pick London plane trees in order to shade the medians. Even though he did chose nine separate styles of housing architecture about all of them consisted of sturdy red brick and slate roof.

Charles decided to place a water tower at the end of Main Street directly opposite on the other end of the street was the Factory's No. 1 Gate, which would become the infamous passageway through which every employee entered the "Lower Roebling Works."

While several other Model Company towns would prohibit bars, Charles Roebling would let bars flourish in this small town and allowed whiskey to be served at the Roebling Inn.

"There is no use trying to make a mollycoddle out of a mill man," said Charles Roebling. But Charles Roebling did provide some things to provide for a very sober family life. The town would be built to include things like banks, shops, and a post office around the central circle of Main Street. Things like churches and schools were built and baseball fields and social halls would soon follow.

Everything concerning the construction of this town would happen during the Problems Era. This was a time when reformers were complaing about poorly planned cities and corporate rip-offs. But in the reformers opinions this town of Roebling was a utopian town and a dream come true.

"Not only is every possible material want of their employees being provided for, but the aesthetic side of the proposition is being worked out to the satisfaction of an extreme idealist," reported the New York World.

Even though this town seemed great and received so much praise it certainly was not a utopia. This was business for profit. Technically everything in the town was property of the company. The worker were not permitted to lease or rent their houses. They could also be kicked out of their residence without any notice.

This allowed for the labor force to become very obedient. This town of Roebling also came as a welcome change from the constant striking at the Trenton plant. And in order to discourage its residence from creating a union, the company would impor the majority of its hands from countries in Eastern Europe, whose inhabitants would be more that happy to take a job that only offered twelve cents per hour. The Italian people, who had begun to gain a reputation as agitators when they worked in the factory at Trenton, would be banned from working at the mill in Roebling. The barber would be the only Italian allowed in town.

"They didn't have union troubles here like they did in Trenton," said Louis Borbi of Roebling, who was a retired teacher and whose father and his grandfather, born in Romania, together worked a combined sixty years in the local Roebling mill.

"The workers were coming from depressed areas of the old country. In Roebling, they had a job, they had a home, they had a backyard where they could grow vegetables -- it was the nearest thing to being



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