New Jersey is Home to an Abandoned Town Most People Don’t Know About

New Jersey boasts a diverse array of attractions, from its famed beaches and casinos to the iconic diners. Yet, hidden in its history is an obscure and abandoned town that remains largely unknown to the public. This town, once a bustling industrial center, experienced a rapid decline within a decade, leaving behind a dark and troubling legacy involving explosives, racism, and violence. Welcome to the untold story of Amatol, New Jersey’s explosive ghost town.

Amatol’s Explosive Origin

Established in 1918 during World War I, Amatol was purpose-built for the production of a potent explosive called amatol. This explosive, a blend of ammonium nitrate and TNT, served as a substitute for the scarce pure TNT used by the Allies. Nestled in Atlantic County near Hammonton, Amatol sprawled across 6,000 acres, hosting a population of around 10,000 workers and their families. The town featured wooden residences, barracks, a school, hospital, post office, fire station, movie theater, and a baseball field.

Owned by the Amatol Corporation, a Bethlehem Steel Company subsidiary, the town operated under a government contract to produce 500,000 pounds of amatol daily. The town was divided into the factory area, where explosives were manufactured, and the residential zone, segregated by race with separate facilities for white and black workers.

Amatol’s Rapid Decline

The prosperity of Amatol was fleeting, tied directly to the war effort. As World War I concluded in 1918, the demand for amatol plummeted, leading to the loss of the government contract. The town’s population dwindled rapidly, with many residents leaving in search of alternative employment. By 1920, only about 1,000 people remained, and decay gripped the town. The factory area was abandoned, and the residential section faced poverty and crime.

In 1923, a devastating fire erupted in the factory area, triggering explosions that decimated the town. Buildings and equipment were destroyed, several lives were lost, and the remaining residents fled for their safety. Amatol was officially dissolved in 1924, and the land was sold to the state of New Jersey. Over the years, the land served various purposes, including a game preserve, prison camp, and race track. Today, it forms part of the Wharton State Forest, bearing only remnants like concrete foundations, rusty pipes, and wooden debris.

The Forgotten Legacy of Amatol

Amatol remains one of New Jersey’s lesser-known ghost towns, concealed by several factors:

  1. Short Existence: Amatol existed for a mere six years, a temporary and artificial community with no permanence.
  2. Remote Location: Situated in a secluded, rural area, Amatol lacked visibility and accessibility compared to neighboring attractions like Atlantic City and the Pine Barrens.
  3. Dangerous Legacy: Amatol’s history is marked by hazardous explosive production, storage, and disposal, coupled with racial tension and violence, making it a site of environmental and social threats.

Conclusion: Unveiling Amatol’s Hidden History

In conclusion, Amatol presents a captivating slice of history that merits greater attention. This ghost town narrates a tale of wartime, industrial endeavors, and societal challenges, offering insight into the transformations New Jersey underwent in the early 20th century. Despite its obscurity, Amatol invites urban explorers, history enthusiasts, and nature lovers to uncover and appreciate the remnants of its explosive past. A ghost town often overlooked, Amatol stands as a testament to a bygone era that should not fade into oblivion.

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