Town - Roebling

John A. Roebling(1806 - 1869)

John A. Roebling was born in Mulhausen, Prussia in 1806. "He attended the Royal Polytechnic Institute in Berlin, where he and many others studied engineering and construction disciplines."(1) It was in 1831 that he and his brother sailed to America to start a promising future. They first started in Pittsburgh then headed north and to begin a farming colony which was later known as Saxonburg.

Roebling found the traditional hemp rope used for portage railway systems was unstable, so he came up with the idea of wire rope. The first wire rope mill was in his backyard in Saxonburg. This new concept of wire rope made his business increase and he found himself needing a new location better suited for expansion. Roebling then bought 25 acres in Trenton, New Jersey. One of his most famous achievements is the design of the East River Bridge, otherwise known as the Brooklyn Bridge.(2)

John Roebling suffered an injury during the early stages of constructing the bridge and unfortunately didn't live to see it completed. His oldest son, Washington A. Roebling took control of the operations from here. He eventually caught the caisson disease, or the bends, and had to supervise the project from his apartment in Brooklyn Heights using a telescope. Meanwhile, the Trenton plant was growing and his brothers Ferdinand and Charles Roebling needed to purchase more land. They found an area between Trenton and Burlington at the Kinkora rail station on the old Camden and Amboy Railroad.

Charles knew that he needed workers to build and work at his mill, so he started one of the first company towns in the United States. Construction began in 1904 when the Roebling Inn was built to house and feed the workers.

(1-2) Images of America: Roebling (San Francisco: Arcadia Publishing, 2001).

Part of the old Roebling factory. Photograph by K. N. Ogden, 2004.

Houses in Roebling. Photograph by Mike Bencze, 2005.

Auditorium Building, Roebling. Photograph by Wendel A. White, 2004.

The town of Roebling was founded in 1904 beginning with the completion of the Roebling Inn. After that, buildings were added to house mill workers, supervisors, and managers. The town also was in need of a general store, bakery, drugstore, and school. While designing the water and sewer systems for the town, Charles made sure to include fire safety and police protection with a jail and medical facilities.(1)

The village people were never bored with the Marshall Band playing in Roebling Park, silent films being played in the second floor of the drugstore, and later, movies with sound at the Roebling Auditorium. The town's first sports teams, the Blue Centers and the Bulldogs, played football. Roebling boasted championship teams in football, baseball, and girls' softball and also became well known for its boxers.(2)

Roebling became home to many different ethnic groups, including Hungarians, Romanians, Slovaks, and Swedes.(3) The churches were always there to help members with their spiritual needs and even assisted the unfortunate families of workers who died. The mill produced submarine and torpedo nets for the U.S. Navy during World War II while over four hundred of Roebling's young men served their country. In December, 1952, the John A. Roebling's Sons Company announced the sale of the entire company and a great era came to an end.(4)

(1-4) Images of America: Roebling (San Francisco: Arcadia Publishing, 2001).

About the Authors | Essential Bibliography | NJ Museums & Collections | Acknowledgments