5/2000: The city of Bridgeton has hired United Architects to examine Ferracute and other sites; Tri-County Community Action interested in building new senior housing on the Ferracute site; city will receive $1.5 million from NJ Demolition Fund (Hugh McCauley, United Architects); preservation and reuse of office structure is part of new development plan (restore; access to public; easement; landscape)
7/2000: United Architects reports that the pattern shop suffered recent fire and partial roof collapse; machine shop remains unprotected; 60-foot chimney in a state of collapse; office/headquarters interior and exterior damage and continued deterioration; suggests Level 1 HABS/HAER recording.
11/2003: The Ferracute site continues to deteriorate and no progress has been made.
2004: The South Jersey Economic Development District has received a $15,000 grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust for the preparation of a preservation plan with recommendations for the complex’s future use.
7/2010: Aside from studies completed over the past 6 years, nothing is being done with the site. It continues to deteriorate.
3/2011: Revitalization discussions for Ferracute have revived, thanks to an intersection improvement project scheduled for Route 49 and Buckshutem Road, in front of the building. The NJ-DOT has received conceptual approval from the NJ Historic Sites Council to proceed with the improvement project with several conditions, including that they work with the Historic Preservation Office, municipal leadership, and local advocates to further evaluate rehabilitation of the complex.
The Ferracute Machine Company is a turn-of-the-century industrial complex developed by inventor and industrialist Oberlin Smith. Smith is credited with revolutionizing the process by which coins are pressed due to the machine he invented which debuted at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial. In addition, he is recognized as the inventor of the magnetic recording and was highly regarded in scientific and industrial circles or having improved on Edison’s wax cylinder recording technology.
The brick buildings that make up the complex include a Queen Anne style office building and a machine shop. What remains today is the second iteration of Ferracute, constructed in 1904 after a disastrous 1903 fire. The property was used for manufacturing until 1968, since which time it has remained vacant.
Today, the industrial complex is privately owned and threatened by severe deterioration. The site has remained dormant since manufacturing ceased 32 years ago. The current owner has recently filed for bankruptcy, and possible contamination of the site is a potential barrier to future development. However, local advocates are passionate about revitalizing the site. There is interest in establishing a museum dedicated to Oberlin Smith and his significant contributions as an inventor and industrialist.
Preservation New Jersey hopes this significant landmark of Bridgeton’s and South Jersey’s contributions to America’s industrial heritage can be saved.
James Gandy, Oberlin Smith Society
336 Woodruff Road
Bridgeton, NJ 08302
South Jersey Economic Development District
226 North High Street, Suite A
Millville, NJ 08332