Newark has always been known as an industrial city, a place defined by manufacturing and the boom of development. The original Ronson factory is a testament to this perspective on Newark, and the homes that will eventually be built on top of that torn down factory will attempt to refute that. The first photograph is of the Ronson Art Metal Works factory that resided in Aronson Square. The second photograph is of the homes that were built on top of the remains of the second Ronson factory built in Newark that was located in Manufacturer’s Place. These same homes are recurrently undergoing EPA investigations as the chemicals that were used in the Ronson factory, primarily trichloroethylene or TCE for short, are contaminating the air in these homes. These two images represent the change of identity of Newark from a purely industrial area to an increasingly residential, suburbanized one.
The image of the Ronson factory in Aronson Square was taken in 1945. The photographer that created the image is not known, but the photo is archived in the Newark Public Library’s online webpage detailing Newark history. The website details the importance of the Louis V. Aronson, the founder of Ronson, as “one of Newark’s greatest industrial leaders and philanthropists”. This photo in conjunction with the source material it supports shows the extent to which Aronson and Ronson became influential identities in Newark. The image served to show to a newer generation and even the current Newark generation at the time the sort of power these entities had over the city, going as far as having a factory running in a square named after the founder of said company. The second image of the houses on Manufacturer’s Place have a different purpose. They were taken by Robert Sciarrino, a freelance photographer, who was working with NJ.com writing a story on the homes and the health hazards those occupying the homes endure. The photo was taken on February 27th, 2014 and when compared to the 1945 image it shows a dramatically different portrayal of Newark as a potentially residential area.
The first image displays a busy street in front of the Ronson factory, with cars going in all sorts of directions. Choosing this particular time in the day to take the photo when there are so many cars passing by the factory can be assumed to have been a deliberate choice to affect how the factory is perceived. Having the traffic be at the center of the image makes Aronson Square and the factory itself seem like prominent entities in Newark. It elevates the status of the factory in the city, making it seem like an integral part of it. One potential interpretation is that the photo served to show the Ronson factory as a beacon of industrial prowess in Newark, becoming a representation of the city of Newark as a place of industry, manufacturing, and opportunity.
This theory is emphasized by the appearance of the Ronson factory itself when compared to the other buildings surrounding it. The first photo is black and white, as it was taken in 1945, and the most notable features with a discernible color difference are the banners promoting the factory. Two of them are of a dark color that appears black in the photograph, and the white banner appears behind those two. All three banners were placed there to emphasize Ronson’s presence in the photo and area as a whole. This becomes even more significant when observing how there are no other discernible buildings or landmarks in the photo. By not showing or having any other notable buildings in the photo the presence of Ronson in Newark is highlighted. This is done to place Ronson at the center of Newark and therefore it’s symbolically at the center of industry.
The second image of the houses provides a different look into the identity of Newark and so suggests that there’s been an evolution in the perspective of the city. All four houses in the image are uniform in style and color. By making all of these houses that look the same the developer was able to create something that resembled a neighborhood. A possible goal would be to have an essence of suburbia in this industrialized city, to portray Newark as a place that’s home to more than just industry.
Another factor that becomes prevalent when both images are compared and contrasted is the sort of environment that the neighborhood in the second photo is trying to portray. Everything in this photo is still and gives off an essence of calmness that the image prior does not possess. Here all the cars are parked, there’s an absence of work/industry or any sort of human activity for that matter. This image shows a different side of Newark as a place where home ownership is possible, where a community can be created, and where the forces of the industry don’t have to be so apparent in everyday life.
Unfortunately what the image seeks to portray is far from the truth. Although the uniformity of the houses imitates a suburban, calm environment that is still not the experience of many of the homeowners in this area. They still have to deal with the repercussions of the industry that was proudly boasted about in the prior image. This is a problem at large in the United States, where companies and their accomplishments are celebrated at the moment but those that are less fortunate have to deal with the consequences of that industry even decades later. The people who purchased these homes thought they’d be able to create a safe space for themselves and their families in the Ironbound, but even when the presence of industry isn’t evident Newark will always be a manufacturer’s place.