The refining industry along the Arthur Kill, the narrow shipping lane separating New Jersey and Staten Island, and bordering Tremley Point, is superbly characterized in this
lithograph by artist John A. Noble (1913-1983), Arthur Kill from Schooner’s Progress, Edition 200, 1947. Image courtesy of the Noble Maritime Collection (www.noblemaritime.org.)
which holds the copyright. The schooner depicted is the Annie C. Ross, built in 1917 by Percy and Small in Bath, Maine. The tug along side her is from the McCarren Company.
The Tremley Point industrial area, in the eastern section of Linden, New Jersey, was once a major center for chemical plants and oil refineries. Anyone driving on the New Jersey Turnpike
during this era will remember the forest of chemical towers and tanks along with the hazy, malodorous atmosphere. But in earlier days there were few complaints because the industries
employed 10,000 workers in high paying jobs. Today the Bayway Refinery is still operating, but most of the chemical plants are gone, victims of global competition, obsolescence, and costly
environmental compliance issues. The neighborhoods surrounding the plants have also changed. The European immigrants who lived in company supplied housing after World War I were
hardly in a position to complain about soot and odors. The residents today represent new racial and ethnic groups and are no longer dependent on the nearby industries for their livelihood. They
are actively involved in the redevelopment of the area to ensure a safe and healthy living environment. But the departure of the Tremley industries has raised taxes for Linden residents, who
once enjoyed the lowest tax rate in the state.
|New Jersey Turnpike at Linden, with Exxon Oil Refinery in Background
Image: EPA, July 1973. Click to Enlarge
The early colonial settlers established farms in the rich flat land bordered by marshes. A Huguenot named Traubels settled on the peninsula in the 17th century, changing his name to
Trembley. Over time the area’s name became known as Tremley Point or simply Tremley. During the Revolutionary War both armies traversed Union County, subjecting the area residents to
skirmishes and foraging raids by the troops. The area was in the thick of fighting because the land between New York and Philadelphia was wanted by the English to split the American colonies
apart. English loyalists from East Jersey fled to Staten Island, where General Howe was stationed by 1776. They may have used the Tremley Point Road to access the ferry to Staten Island.
This ferry crossing was operated by Peter Trembley. The English raids continued until 1783 when the struggle for independence was won.
The Pennsylvania railroad came to Linden in 1835-1836, connecting Philadelphia and New York, and helped Linden attract businessmen who commuted to jobs in New York. Although farming
and cattle raising remained important occupations, small industries began to develop such as grist mills, saw mills, tanneries, breweries, brick works, and iron works. The Township of Linden
formed in 1861 and included Tremley.
The coming of industry was aided by the railroad, easy sea access by the Kill von Kull or Rahway River, ample land area, and proximity to New York. By 1872 two industries, the Russell Coe
Bone Factory and the S. S. Fales Chemical Works, were operating in Tremley.
The Russell Coe Bone Factory produced "Ammoniated Super-Phosphate of Lime", an early chemical fertilizer. In 1840 the renowned German chemist Justus von Liebig had recommended
adding phosphate compounds to the soil to benefit crops. The fertilizer was prepared by digesting ground and calcined animal bones with sulfuric acid. Buffalo bones were commonly used.
The sulfuric acid was likely produced by the nearby S. S. Fales Chemical Works, built and operated by Levi S. Fales. Fales was born around 1825 in Vermont and became a chemist and
inventor. In 1855-1860 he worked in the oil refining industry near Boston. He was issued the following U. S. patents which illustrate his expertise in the petroleum and acid recovery fields:
1) No. 49,739, September 5, 1865 for an improved process of distilling petroleum.
2) No. 49,740, September 5, 1865 for an improved method of setting stills.
3) No. 93,072, July 27, 1869 for an improved apparatus for evaporating ammoniacal and other liquids.
4) No. 97,182, November 23, 1869 for the recovery of spent acid from refinery waste.
The refineries in the metropolitan area provided the waste sulfuric acid for the Fales factory. But the Fales and Coe factories were relatively short-lived. The supply of Buffalo bones dwindled as
the herds were wiped out. Phosphate rock mining then provided the raw material for chemical fertilizer. By 1880 Levi S. Fales had moved to Virginia. The production of higher grades of sulfuric
acid, by burning sulfur, would soon become a large industry in Tremley.
In the early 1870s, the Marsh & Harwood Company of Ohio organized the Standard Chemical Company for the purpose of manufacturing sulfuric acid on Newtown Creek, near Long Island City in
New York. But neighborhood complaints about the noxious fumes resulted in the plant being relocated to Tremley in 1880. The advantages of the area included few nearby residents, a Central
Railroad station at Tremley, and a dock on the Kill von Kull. But the ground was low and marshy, requiring the driving of piles 25 to 30 feet deep in order to support the buildings. The plant , just
three or four feet above the water at high tide, could be reached only by boat or a plank walk. The sulfuric acid unit, based on the chamber process, was setup in 1884 and a second unit
followed. An ammonium sulfate unit and a sludge acid works were built but quickly shutdown due to production problems. The business lost money and was acquired at a discount in 1889 by
the Grasselli Chemical Company of Cleveland. Caesar A. Grasselli, head of the firm, wanted an eastern location to better compete with rivals in the sulfuric acid market. He selected John Metz,
a chemical engineer on his staff, to manage the Tremley works.
In 1891 burglars broke into the Grasselli Chemical office in Tremley and blasted the safe open with dynamite. Platinum, a catalyst used in the manufacture of sulfuric acid, was stolen. It was
the second time the office was robbed.
The Grasselli Chemical site included 300 acres and 1.5 miles of waterfront. A disadvantage was the lack of a fresh water supply. All water had to be delivered by wooden canal boats from
Elizabethport. The boats leaked and salt water intrusion did heavy damage to the plant boilers. Workers had to bring drinking water from home in earthenware jugs. The lack of a railroad
siding was another deficiency. All shipments of raw materials and final products were done by boat. Water shipments were hampered in the winter by ice, making the freight charge as costly
as the cargo.
The Elizabethport Water Company was persuaded to supply fresh water and constructed a pipeline into the plant. The Central Railroad of New Jersey agreed to build a rail line to connect with
the main line at Tremley. The first track sunk due to the soft soil and had to be rebuilt on ballast at a cost of almost $75,000.
The new rail line enabled the plant to grow and profits improved. A few years later, the Jersey Shore Line was planned to run along the waterfront. Caesar A. Grasselli, remembering the
favorable treatment accorded to him by the railroad earlier, gave the railroad a 50 foot easement through the plant property. The railroad named the station at the plant "Grasselli" and this
name became associated with the surrounding industrial area.
The Grasselli Chemical Company acid plant employed 180 men and was rated in good condition according to a State of New Jersey inspection report in 1901. But it was a dangerous place to
work. In 1900 worker Philip Berger was killed after being burned by acid. In 1902 Lewis Jenson fell into a vat and was badly burned; Michael Hyderick and Peter Leesnick were burned by acid
in the same year.
In 1897 the W. J. Bush Company built a plant near Tremley to manufacture essential oils and flavorings. The company was established in 1851in London and had branches in New York and
Montreal. It was later known as R. D. Webb & Company. Other industries operating around 1900 included the John Stephenson Company, maker of trolley cars on Brunswick Avenue, and the
Linden Tanning Company. The Warner Quinlan Company, pioneered the manufacture of asphalt, giving its name to Warners, the geographical area of Lower Wood Avenue. The company
employed around 20 men and years later became known as the Cities Service Linden Asphalt Refinery.
Tremley has always been plagued by mosquitoes due to the acres of wetlands. In 1902 a dairy farmer spent thousands of dollars on a herd of milk cows. Part of the 100 acre farm was made
into artificial ponds filled with millions of gallons of water from artesian wells. The ponds were stocked with several varieties of fish. That summer hordes of mosquitoes attacked the cattle,
killing many of them, especially the calves. The dairy farm went out of business and the land was put up for sale.
John D. Rockefeller, founder and chairman of Standard Oil, chose farmland between Linden and Elizabeth as the site for a new refinery. A large tract, formerly the Linden race track, was added
in 1908. Standard Oil then controlled several hundred acres with a large frontage on Staten Island Sound and extending west and northwest across the Baltimore & Ohio, Pennsylvania, and
Jersey Central railroads. Construction began in 1908 and was completed in 1909.
This Standard Oil refinery, which had capacity of 20,000 barrels of crude oil per day, was the company's largest on the East Coast. It became known as the Bayway Refinery.
The Grasselli Chemical Company entered the dye field in 1915 when dyes from Germany could no longer be imported because World War I was underway. The dye plant was built on the west
side of the property, opposite the heavy chemicals operation on the east side bordering the Kill von Kull. On July 22, 1915, about 1,000 employees struck for a wage increase of 15 percent. The
strike was over in three hours when the company granted the full raise. Another strike started on October 18, 1917 over demands for a wage increase and reduction in working hours. The
company had already given the workers two substantial wage hikes and refused to consider the demand. Most of the 923 workers striking were non-English speaking immigrants with a
disposition toward rioting which kept the police buzy. The strike lasted 21 days and was settled with the unconditional return of the strikers. The wage loss was $58,000.
During World War I, the John Stephenson trolley car company was taken over by the Standard Aircraft Company to manufacture military airplanes. Victory Gardens sprung up in Tremley.
Edmund B. Clary of Linden graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1911. During World War I he established the Transatlantic Chemical Corporation to manufacture dyes and intermediates
such as tolidine, toluidine and xylidine in Linden. The headquarters was located at 80 Wall St. in New York. The first production took place in 1917. By 1918 the plant employed 20 workers. The
business grew and in 1919 Clary contracted for the construction of a new two-story manufacturing building. The building was 100 x 150 feet and was estimated to cost $100,000.
When the war ended, the government cancelled orders for dyes, explosives and other chemicals that were needed by the military. The dye industry was now over supplied and entered a
recession for the next few years. In 1921 Transatlantic Chemical Corporation went bankrupt, with Clary and Clark M. Whittemore of Elizabeth appointed as receivers. At the time William B.
Stevenson was secretary of the corporation and a creditor. The company had issued $34,000 in preferred stock and $144,000 in common stock. Plant assets were listed at $300,000 with debt
American Cyanamid built a large plant in 1916-1917 in the Tremley Point peninsula. This was known as the Warners Plant and its buildings spread over 30 acres of waterfront property. The
plant produced "Ammo-Phos", the first concentrated fertilizer available in the U. S. This was made by reacting ammonia, the product of reacting calcium cyanamide and steam, with phosphoric
acid obtained from mixing sulfuric acid with phosphate rock. When the U. S. entered the war in 1917, the plant was devoted to ammonia and nitric acid for military purposes. The plant also
made aluminum sulfate for water treatment and a broad range of organic chemicals including rubber accelerators, motor oil additives, fumigants (hydrocyanic acid) and insecticides. Several
hundred people were employed.
Cyanuric chloride, an intermediate chemical for dyes, optical brighteners and herbicides, was first made in a pilot unit at the Warners plant. A new unit for commercial quantities, sold under the
Aero trademark, came on stream in 1951. The manufacture started with the reaction of hydrogen cyanide and chlorine to form cyanogen chloride, which was then trimerized at elevated
temperatures over a carbon catalyst.
A new sulfuric acid unit, touted as the "ultimate in the art" of air pollution control, came on stream in 1970. The Warners plant discharged by permit 3.5 million gallons of chemical waste
annually into the New York Bight. Chemical manufacturing was shutdown in 1998. Contaminated soil was cleaned up by thermal treatment and some areas were covered to prevent contact.
Rahway River sediments were covered and the bulkhead was repaired to prevent the river from infiltrating the site.
In 1920 Standard Oil scientists in Linden were trying to invent useful products from gasoline by-products. They produced isopropyl alcohol, or rubbing alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol was the first
commercial petrochemical (chemicals made from oil) ever made. In 1930 workers in the alcohol unit smelled escaping naphtha gas. An explosion then knocked men flat on the ground. Others
were blown from roofs and scaffoldings 200 feet away. Men with clothes on fire staggered out of the building. The casualties were 13 killed and 54 hospitalized. The leaking naphtha gas had
likely been ignited by a riveter's forge, a plumber's torch, or a gasoline motor—all within 100 yards of the fiery explosion.
Caesar A. Grasselli, head of the Grasselli Chemical company since 1882, died in 1927. Family members decided to divest the business in 1928. The heavy chemicals business and the East
Plant were sold to Du Pont in a $65 milliion stock deal. The dye business and the West Plant were acquired by I. G. Farben, the German dye cartel. The former Grasselli plant was now split down
the middle into 150 acre parcels by the Central Railroad. The West Plant was now called the General Aniline Works and the East Plant was known as the Grasselli Chemical Division of Du Pont.
In order to house the growing number of workers for the chemical industry, John Fedor started the Realty Estates of Linden in 1907 and began to develop areas both east and west of Edgar
Road (U. S. Route 1today). In 1916 he formed the John Fedor Realty Company and continued developing the area east of Edgar Road, including the tract now known as Tremley Point. The Fedor
family names of Irene, Walter and Arthur were used for streets in the eastern portion of the community. The Grasselli Chemical Company completed the community by building the homes west
of Main Street shortly after World War I. A community center, later known as Monsignor Komar Hall, was also built by the company. (Source: Lauren Pancurak Yeats, Linden New Jersey,
Arcadia, Charleston, SC, 2002)
The wide, tree lined Main Street divided the community into two ethnic sections: Grasselli Park, housing Irish and English families whose men were supervisors, and Tremley, whose residents
were mainly Polish and Slovak immigrant workers, attracted by the opportunity to land good paying jobs. Occupants were initially given 99-year leases but later had the opportunity to purchase
the homes. Remarkably, this residential area survives today and the homes have been well maintained. The 900 residents are surrounded by petroleum storage tanks on three sides.
The General Aniline Works became part of General Aniline and Film Corporation in 1939. The U. S. government seized the plant in 1942 as enemy property belonging to I. G. Farben. The plant
produced record quantities of dyes and other chemicals needed for World War II. All the industries in Tremley operated at a high rate and many women were hired to replace men serving in the
Standard Oil built a $26 million gasoline refining unit in 1949. This was one of the largest industrial investments in Linden and was based on fluid catalytic cracking technology. The "cat
cracker" uses high temperatures, low pressure, and a catalyst to create a chemical reaction that efficiently breaks heavy gas oil into smaller gasoline molecules.
The Bayway Refinery has undergone many changes and corporate owners, but is still operating today as ConocoPhillips. The capacity is 250,000 barrels a day. ConocoPhillips also owns a
bulk gasoline loading terminal at Tremley Point. The company has agreed to invest $8 million to install an oil/water separator to reduce organic compound emissions and to reduce emissions of
nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and associated odors. The petrochemical plant at the Bayway Refinery is now owned by Infineum, which is spending $5 million on a new incinerator to reduce
When Du Pont took over the Grasselli Chemical Company in 1928, it acquired the 150 acre East Plant along the Kill. There were 51 buildings atop 100,000 piles in the marshy land. At that time
25 products were made including sulfuric, muriatic, nitric and battery acids, lithopone, glauber salt (sodium sulfate), sodium silicate, soldium phosphate and trisodium phosphate. These
chemical building blocks went into hundreds of consumer products such as cellophane, detergents, shampoos, rayon, paints, pigments and flashlight batteries. In 1961 the plant employed 430
The U. S. government finally allowed General Aniline and Film Corporation to become a private company in 1965. The name was changed to GAF Corporation. Around that time tariff regulations
were relaxed for imported dyes and intermediates, making it difficult for the domestic producers to remain competitive. But the Linden plant had diversified into basic chemicals such as
chlorine and caustic soda and was producing surfactants for the detergent and textile markets.
By 1977 the GAF dye business had lost ground to competitors and was burdened by high environmental compliance costs. Dye production was shutdown in 1978. Surfactants production ended
in 1991. The Du Pont plant also shutdown around that time.
For years GAF and its successor ISP Corporation tried to obtain a state of New Jersey permit for a hazardous waste incinerator at the Linden site. The $125 million facility would have burned
50,000 tons of hazardous waste annually. The neighborhood residents were vehemently opposed due to health concerns. After a twelve year effort, the permit request was shelved in 2001. All
the major chemical plants in the Tremley area had closed so there was no longer a need for the incinerator facility.
ISP spent $37 million cleaning up the environmental contamination at the site and demolishing the buildings. Mercury contamination from the chlorine operation, which was run by LCP
Chemicals in later years, is being addressed under Superfund. ISP hopes to redevelop the area as a distribution center in view of the central location and easy access for highway, rail, and sea
1) Ken Serrano, "A Walk Around the Block: Tremley Point Reeks with Shades of History", Home News Tribune (East Brunswick, NJ), February 20, 2003
2) Farnaz Fassihi, "The Battle of Tremley Point", The Star Ledger (Newark, NJ), December 19, 2000
3) Brian Donohue and Farnaz Fassihi, "Linden: Toxic Waste Burner Not Needed", The Star Ledger (Newark, NJ), May 25, 2001
4) Steve Beare, personal communication on Levi S. Fales, December 9, 2005
5) Thomas Jackson, personal communication on Levi S. Fales, December 10, 2005
6) "Premium Fertilizers", Ad in The Constitution (Atlanta), January 28, 1875
7) "This is Linden", League of Women Voters of Linden, NJ, 1984
8) Isabelle Newmark and William Weisbrot, History of Linden, NJ, 1938
9) "Plant Closed By Strike", The New York Times, December 20, 1947
10) Williams Haynes, Chemical Pioneers, pp. 88-107 (Freeport, NY: Books for Library Press, 1970 Reprint of 1939 Edition)
11) Williams Haynes, American Chemical Industry, Vol. VI, pp. 174-177, pp. 183-185 (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1949)
12) "Standard Buys Land For Big Oil Plant", The New York Times, November 28, 1908
13) City of Linden, New Jersey 1861-1961, Linden Centennial Committee Corporation, 1961
14) Eastern Union County New Jersey, Eastern Union County Chamber of Commerce, Windsor Publications, 1969
15) Caesar A. Grasselli, The History of Grasselli", 1927 at website: http://atkeson.net/history/ (accessed October 6, 2005).
16) "American Cyanamid", Fortune, Vol. 32, No. 3, September 1940, pp. 66-106
17) Gerd Wilcke, "Plant Hailed as Anti-Pollution Model", The New York Times, July 26, 1970
18) "Mosquitoes Ruin A Farm", The Trenton (NJ) Times, September 3, 1902
18) "Federal, State Agencies Probe Pollution Odor Near Turnpike", Home News Tribune (East Brunswick, NJ), July 1, 2005
19) "Many Burglaries in Elizabeth".The New York Times, August 30, 1891
20) Lauren Pancurak Yeats, Linden New Jersey, Arcadia, Charleston, SC, 2002
21) "40th Annual Report of the New Jersey Department of Labor, Bureau of Industrial Statistics", State of New Jersey, 1918
22) Industrial Directory of New Jersey, Bureau of Industrial Statistics, 1918, p. 316
22) Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, February 1, 1919, p. 142
23) New York Times, September 16, 1921
|Tremley Point Industrial History
|Tremley Point Map ca. 1880 Showing Russell Coe Bone
Factory and S. S. Fales Chemical Works. Click to Enlarge.
|Plan of Standard Chemical Works 1880-1894
Source: Williams Haynes, Chemical Pioneers (1939)
|Industrial Area Is Named Grasselli-USGS Map 1905
Central R. R. Shore Line (North-South) Added. Click to Enlarge
|Standard Oil Refinery-1909
Photo: City of Linden, New Jersey 1861-1961. Click to Enlarge
|View of Tremley Point Peninsula and American
Cyanamid Warners Plant on Left Side of Photo
Photo: EPA 1974. Click to Enlarge
|Bayway Refinery Cat Cracker for Gasoline
Photo: Eastern Union County, New Jersey, 1969
Click to Enlarge
|Grasselli Chemical and American Cyanamid Plants-1923 Map.
Central R. R. Had Three Stations to Service Tremley Industries.
Workers Homes on Left. Click to Enlarge
|1940's Site Plan of General Aniline and Film Corp. (West Plant)
and Grasselli Chemical Co. Division of Du Pont (East Plant ).
Source: Sanborn Map Co. 1958. Click to Enlarge
|Aerial View Looking East of GAF Linden Plant. Ethylene Oxide/Glycols Unit in Foreground; Dye Works in Background
Photo: Eastern Union County New Jersey, 1969
|Aerial View Looking West of Du Pont and GAF Plants. Du Pont Plant In Foreground Along Arthur Kill
GAF Plant Slightly West of DuPont Plant. Bayway Refinery Tanks in Background. Photo: EPA 1974
|Aerial View Looking Northwest of Du Pont and GAF Plants. Du Pont Plant In Foreground Along Arthur Kill
GAF Plant Slightly West of DuPont Plant. Photo: EPA 1974
|Aerial View of Tremley ca. 2002
Photo: GoogleEarth, Copyright by State of New Jersey
Click to Enlarge
|Du Pont Grasselli Plant on Arthur Kill, ca. 1961
Photo: City of Linden, New Jersey 1861-1961.
Click to Enlarge
|Hydrocyanic Acid Unit at American Cyanamid
Warners Plant in Tremley Point, 1953. Click to Enlarge
|Ship at Arthur Kill Dock Near GAF Site-2003
Photo: Courtesy of New Jersey Dept. of
Environmental Protection. Click to Enlarge
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|Tremley Point Industrial History, by Robert J. Baptista. Updated March 23, 2009