A Historic Manhattan View: How New Jersey Turned into an American Rust Belt

To many, the wood used to build this huge, decrepit wooden box seems to have no meaning. It really doesn’t, though, according to the next-door neighbors.

The box, known as Longmoor, stands at the corner of Noyes and Plainfield Streets, on a massive site that once housed grain storage facilities for Denmark Dry Loom, a company that once produced millions of pairs of women’s jeans a year.

This story is part of a series about how scientists are looking at records of New Jersey’s industrial era to understand local environmental issues. (Published Tuesday, March 27, 2018)

It has remained anchored to the ground ever since. And it remains its focal point today.

“When they built it originally, they were probably not thinking about its historical significance,” said Erik Cullen, the community organizer and spokesman for the residents of Section 7. “It’s got a historic value.”

Paul Gaso, owner of G-Gaso Realty and Community Development LLC, has been trying to stabilize the structure with a makeshift frame that also serves as a visitor center for the nearby Guilford Park on Noyes Street.

Gaso said it has been about a decade since he began exploring the property.

The box is four stories high and 16 feet wide and fits about 100 people. It is made of clear, rain-absorbing cedar shingles, with a large metal cargo container attached as a cover.

Longmoor is a historical landmark. It is visible when the ride on the VEX ride at nearby Cedar Point park is seen over Noyes Street. Locals love taking the ride, but Longmoor is also on their minds all the time.

“It’s a historic lighthouse that the ships chug by,” Cullen said. “It’s on Noyes Street, and it gets used all the time.”

The box’s fate is uncertain now.

The preservationists working on Longmoor, if any of them exist, may not be long for this community.

It’s also gotten the attention of a global conservation organization.

The vandals and thieves who broke into the box have scattered pieces of the wood across Route 3 and into the nearby Delaware River.

The neighbors are counting on a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission to pay for more security, possibly installing a gate to keep people out.

Cullen said this situation makes its village too remote to talk about preservation in the community.

Local historians say the building was built about 1873 to house malnourished animals. It’s unknown what it was used for after that.

The dock where the box sits is owned by the Delaware River Port Authority.

“We’re not talking about a whole lot of resources in this community,” said Richard Hurst, director of historic resources at the RWJBarnabas Health Foundation and Trust.

The Community Foundation managed to acquire the lease on the area from Bristol-Myers Squibb, which once held the property.

The foundation is used to purchase large parcels, but never to preserve such an historic structure.

And right now, neither is anybody from Fort Lee.

“I’m not sure anybody really believes it’s salvageable,” Cullen said.

That’s what makes preservation work so difficult, and dangerous.

“And that’s really the essence of it – time and the weather,” Cullen said.

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