New Jersey was once a hub of mills and mining towns until modern technology and shifts in industry decreased and eliminated the need for certain fields. Entire towns were built around resources and ports and were abandoned when the work ran out. People went where the jobs were and towns were left to ruin. Some have faded away and only foundations remain while others have been meticulously maintained. Here are some of the most interesting ghost towns in New Jersey.
1. Waterloo Village, Byram Township
This 19th century town was the halfway point of the Morris Canal which ran from Jersey City to Phillipsburg. It was a popular overnight stop along the route from New York to Pennsylvania. To accommodate the canal workers a small city was built with an inn, general store, church, blacksmith's shop and watermill. The town thrived for decades until the end of the Civil War when the canal's traffic waned. Abandoned until the 1930's, the area became a popular spot for hobos jumping off a nearby train. When the nearest train station was closed in the 1940's the town was abandoned again. In the 1960's, volunteers helped to restore the village and it is now maintained as an open air museum.
2. Feltville, Berkeley Heights
Boston entrepreneur David Felt moved to New York City in 1825 and built a mill. By 1844 his business was booming and he needed to expand. David bought land in New Jersey and built a second mill. By 1850, over 175 workers and their families lived on his land. His business eventually failed but the property was bought in 1882 and turned into a summer resort. Interest dwindled as families began to vacation at the Jersey Shore. Eventually the land was bought by the Union County Parks Commission and the village is open to the public who can enjoy occasional historic demonstrations on the property.
3. Harrisville, Bass River Township
Settled in 1795, Harrisville, also called McCartyville, was built around a thriving paper mill. The land was inhabited until 1914 when the village burned down. Only the ruins remain.
4. Raritan Landing, Piscataway
In the early 1700's, Raritan Landing was a booming port. By 1741, the village had well over 100 inhabitants and dozens of structures including the Cornelius Low House, shown. The village went on to play a vital role in the Revolutionary War as an elevated lookout occupied by British Troops. After the Delaware and Raritan Canal was completed in 1834, the city was no longer needed as a port. By 1870, much of the community was torn down and turned into farmland. Still, several complete structures remain along with ruins and an archaeological site.
5. Batsto Village, Hammonton
In 1766, Batsto Village thrived. Developed around a profitable mining operation and the Iron Works industry, the town was home to hundreds of residents. When the demand for iron declined, Batsto turned to glass making. This endeavor was unsuccessful and the population dwindled.. The state of New Jersey bought the land in 1950 and residents continued to reside on the property until 1989. Though much of the village was demolished or destroyed, several buildings still remain. A 32 room mansion is the center of the village, surrounded by cabins, a general store, blacksmith shop and church. The site is a popular place for reenactments and living history demonstrations.
6. Amatol, Mullica Township
Amatol was a planned community built during WWI and centered around a munitions factory. The town was meticulously thought out and designed to be both attractive and stimulating, combining the best of country and city life. When the war ended, much of the town was dismantled. Still, some streets, cellars and foundations remain.
7. Long Pond Iron Works, West Milford
The Long Pond Iron Works were built in 1766 and with them came an influx of German immigrants. The owner of the iron works, Peter Hasenclever, brought 500 iron workers and their families to the US from Germany to start a northern "plantation." His business thrived until 1882 when it was bankrupted by booming businesses in Pittsburgh. Many structures still remain in various states of disrepair. Renovations are ongoing.
8. Gloucester Furnace, Egg Harbor City
Gloucester Furnace operated from the late 1700's until the mid 1800's. At one time there were several dozen homes and structures surrounding the furnace but years of flooding has left only remains. Some are easily visible while others are hidden below the surface of the creek.
9. Pleasant Mills, Mullica Township
From 1822 - 1916, Pleasant Mills was a prosperous paper manufacturing village. The business eventually waned and the mill was turned into an art gallery. This was short lived and the mill currently acts as a playhouse theater. Visit not only for the shows but the surrounding abandoned buildings including a mansion and a church.
10. Walpack Center, Walpack Township
Though 20 people reside in the 24 square mile Walpack Township, the town center was abandoned in the 1960's to make way for a dam. Thousands of residents were evicted but the dam was never built. The area remains empty though the buildings are all intact. Visitors can enjoy a museum and some stunning 19th century architecture.
Though these towns may be ghosts, mere shells of their former selves, the history remains very much alive. They remind us of a simpler time and take us back. Through current restoration efforts, many of these towns will serve as a portal to the past for years to come. Have you visited any of these spectacular villages? Are there any other ghost towns you would add to this list?