The Roebling Museum is dedicated to telling the story of the Village of Roebling, the family and the Company’s history. Roebling, New Jersey was built as a company town and operated as such for four decades.
When the Roebling brothers bought three farms here to build a steel plant, as Washington Roebling recalled, “Perhaps the most troublesome feature of Kinkora – so named at first – was the utter lack of houses where the working man could live. This could only be overcome by building an entire town, a so-called ‘model town.’”
The Roeblings had many precedents to draw upon, including George Pullman’s famous town of Pullman, which he built outside Chicago in 1881 for employees of his Pullman Palace Car Company. Like Pullman, the Roeblings laid out their town on a grid plan, built in brick for enduring value, and erected several types of housing plus amenities like stores, meeting and entertainment places, a park and recreation fields.
The Roeblings avoided Pullman’s efforts to influence the moral lives of his tenants by controlling alcohol, entertainment, and social activities, which had not produced his anticipated results. As Charles Roebling said, “It is pure business for us, though we would not go into it if we did not find it good business, and if the men find it as good business for them we shall be satisfied.”
The Roeblings built over 750 houses for families, two workingmen’s hotel’s for single men, an inn, a general store, a drug store, a bakery, an auditorium with a library, a recreation hall and a Boy Scout hut, and they helped pay for the school. The Roebling Auditorium (pictured here) hosted dances, boxing matches, symphony concerts, minstrel shows and movies. It housed the town’s first library upstairs and functioned as a community gathering spot.
Hourly workers and their families lived in row houses near the plant, skilled workers lived in semi-detached houses further in town, and managers lived in big houses facing the river. The Company maintained all the buildings, the front lawns, the streets and the park, while charging rents below those for similar housing in Trenton.
The Roeblings sold the houses and commercial buildings in 1947 with first preference to their tenants and then to other employees, with extra seniority for veterans. By the time CF&I shut the Kinkora Works in 1974, Roebling, N.J., had made the transition from company town to suburban community; it survived the closing intact and has prospered with residents exceptionally proud of their heritage.
January through March:
Open by appointment for groups over 10 and for researchers.
April through August:
Wednesday through Sunday 11 am-4 pm
September through December:
Thursday through Sunday 11 am- 4 pm
Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Easter.
$6.00 Adults; $5.00 Seniors and Children 6-12; FREE for members and Children under 6
For tickets and additional information, please click on the event.