This postcard from 1920 shows the beginnings of the Westinghouse Electric Lamp Plant in Bloomfield NJ, shown from the perspective of what is now Arlington Avenue looking west towards where Watsessing Station would be today. At the time this photograph was taken this site was relatively uneventful, creating electric lightbulbs and other consumable products for the growing masses to purchase but all that would drastically change in the coming decades as the township of Bloomfield grew out from the trees and grassy hills that surround the plant.
With the plant, being such a crucial part of the local economy there was an influx of eager workers and engineers who wished to be under the employ of the company. With the increase in workers came the increase of housing built around the plant as well as new facilities to expand production as well as a research laboratory to look into new technologies that could improve the manufacturing of lightbulbs and other goods. At its peak, the plant covered the entirety of the original build lot and had to purchase more land east of Arlington Avenue to accommodate the new structures.
By the early 1940’s the Westinghouse plant became a sprawling center of manufacturing that quickly became surrounded by residential housing as seen in the photograph above. Production of electrical components got kicked into overdrive with the United States’ introduction into the Second World War, with the facility producing explosives and electronics for the war effort. But deep within Westinghouse’s building 7 (the North-South facing building directly above the water tower) was the production line for creating nuclear materials for the Atomic Bomb project, and whose run-off was dumped into the city’s sewer system.
These two pictures show not only the expansion of Westinghouse, but also the expansion of Bloomfield, with each year a new building was erected on the site and that in turn brought in more people to live, work and bolster the economy of the town.
That being said the scary part is how close people were living in relation to the plant, and with poisons being leeched into the soil and groundwater immediately below the plant, everyone was in great danger of contracting some type of illness from the run-off. The second picture with the factory in focus and the surrounding housing blurred and greyed out is almost akin to a crosshair, focusing on the source of unknown pollution (at the time).
Keywords: Factories, Business, Soil, Water, Toxics