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Watts Campbell Corliss Engine Factory - Situation as of 10-21-2012

Mike Piersa

Sep 13, 2007
Poconos/Lehigh Valley, PA
Chad is having some technical issues, so he asked me to post the information contained below. I hope everyone here reads it and forwards it to anyone who might be in any capacity to offer assistance. You will see that money ($85,000 in back taxes to be exact) will soon become the most urgent issue, but there are many ways people like us can help, so if you have an idea, don't hesitate to email Chad at [email protected] and let him know! This message has two parts. The first states the historical significance behind the Watts Campbell project and the second part is a detailed description of the situation that Chad is in, how he got into it, and his plan to move forward. Please keep in mind that the plan is exactly that, just a plan. If it is to become a reality, whether in its current form or in a revised version, it will only happen with our help.

From Chad:


Established in 1851

Incorporated in 1883

Believed to be the last existing manufacturer of Corliss Stationary Steam Engines, owned by the same Family, in the U.S.A.

Registered by both Federal and State as a Historical Site.

Operable, unique, probably one of a kind Vertical Boring and Turning Mill manufactured by W.C.Co. for building steam engines. Designed by, cast by, machined by, and erected by company. 1877-1878 With swing of 30 feet.

Operable Horizontal Drilling Machine - Built by W.C. Co. 1893

At least eight machines manufactured before 1900.

Most other machines built before WW2 and possibly before 1930

Few machines newer than 1950

Wood patterns-possibly thousands

Spare, new, cast iron valve parts. Some as cast, others semi machined. Hundreds,if not thousands.

Drawings, some on linen. Includes Engines, customer machinery, and individual parts.

Record books, Payroll, Sales, Order, Receipt, and engineering etc.

Special portable equipment used to perform “field” operations.

Gauges, gages, tooling, fixtures and special equipment used on special jobs.

Most Company Records are in the possession of The Henry Ford Research Center.

Legal and personal documents located in office vault. Includes deeds, mortgages, notes, etc.

One semi assembled Watts,Campbell Engine # 775 16 x 30 [bore and stroke in inches] built 1917

One semi assembled Engine built by Successor to Hewes & Phillips 16 x 30 [bore and stroke in inches]

One Wooden Beam bridge Crane Circa 1880 Not sure of age, but assume built by W.C.

Two Wooden Jib Cranes age unknow

[I would also add the following - location, location, location. This was once thought to be a curse, but I cannot help but see it as a blessing in disguise. Visitors can step outside and see the Manhattan skyline. The facility is within walking distance of mass transit that serves the NYC metropolitan region. The shop's grimy, industrial feel should be a natural for photo shoots, filming, and special events, not to mention activities related to our historic interests.]

This is being sent to you because you are a friend,relative or,more importantly, one who has the foresight and understanding that Preservation and American History is important to us and to generations to come.
We all know what has happened to too many companies that after closing their doors the scrapyard has come and destroyed everything for pennies. Those of us that lived before WW2 should remember the stories and pictures of scrap being sold and delivered to Japan---shipload after shipload and you know how that was used against us. That should not happen to The Watts, Campbell Co. especially when we have the opportunity to have it Preserved,
Not to say that this company was the best, or the biggest, or wealthiest, but we have the opportunity to save part of the Second American Revolution. Our schools today are failing to teach ALL subjects as they could, would, and should as in the past. History and Geography are even being distorted to our younger generation.
This company was established in 1851, incorporated in 1883 and continued in machine shop activities until 2008 when the last [paid] job was taken in. Our goal now is to form a museum and include almost everything the eye can see and a huge amount relates to work done long before 1900 let alone 2000. Gone are the foundry--- and the land it was built on was sold years ago, but inside the remaining building are many objects, from huge machinery built before 1900 and patterns, jigs, fixtures, drawings, records, you name and we may have. Those of you that have been through the building should know that you have never seen many items, from a vertical boring and turning mill capable of turning 28 ft.flywheels because of its 30 ft swing to foundry tongs, ladles etc. used in the foundry across Passaic Street. Rails remain in the floor to show how materials and castings were moved to the machine shop.
Many of the company records now reside at The Henry Ford Research Center in Michigan. In our vault in the office are many official documents, deeds, mortgages, loans, notes, ledgers, sales books, payroll data, even huge books with orders etc pasted in.
This company was started by several young men in Newark as a metal working business and grew to employ over 300 persons and a prime builder of Corliss Stationary Steam Engines----not to be confused with many other types of steam powered engines, such as used in boats, on farms etc [these Corliss engines were the massive machines that powered mills and factories or generated electricity for schools, prisons, office buildings, etc.] Customers were not only American concerns, but Mexico, Cuba and off-shore islands. Many of these sales and other bits of information are recorded, including working shop drawings. The company brochure was printed in both English and Spanish.

One can find information by searching the internet----Watts,
Campbell and a short video-----vimeo Watts,Campbell.
Watts Campbell in History on Vimeo
The video was not rehearsed,remarks were off-the-cuff even though my son Larry had access to a professional studio. No opportunity for a second take and I am sorry to say I made a few “mis spoken” remarks.
Lots of links available and pictures can be found taken by hobbyists, semi-pro and some Professional Photographers.
Watts Campbell/NJ - a set on Flickr
Watts Campbell, Newark, NJ - a set on Flickr
BEST MADE PROJECTS • The Watts-Campbell Factory by Jeremy Blakeslee,...

This is background only, but is written to say that the company is in serious trouble. We are facing possible foreclosure on the building due to unforeseen circumstances. After we stopped taking in work the taxes were bleeding us and financial difficulties arose. [A non-profit is currently in the process of being established, but is not ready yet. Everything is still in the company's name as of this writing.] The idea of our own Museum was actually born when a plan to donate all large, valuable, and historic machinery and equipment [to an existing museum] fell through. Actually these plans were originally only ideas, hints and individual thoughts, until it became a real possibility. Unfortunately these two primary individuals could not get support from their “people.” Search for another group failed, because no one had the resources, financial, as well as space, labor, etc and I wanted it all to stay in New Jersey.

There were many persons that supported a W.C. Museum. The building was under contract to be sold [to the unnamed party mentioned in Plan A and B below], the building needed extensive repairs, there was absolutely no parking area, no wheel chair access no m/f rest rooms and some said Newark was not a good location.These factors made it seem like the present site was out. A suitable site was searched for. We needed 10,000-15,000 sq,ft, of enclosed space. Residential, commercial, and industrial properties were not considered because of the costs.
My personal choice was for an agriculture environment [a farm in Sussex, N.J.]. Being a farm boy at heart and being brought up in the rural area of Denville Township, NJ, during the depression I often worked at local farms, had my own chickens, ducks, and access to a horse on one of my places worked on.
The idea of this environment extended the idea to add to our museum all kinds of animals for an attraction for kids. With 45 acres available, lots of enclosed space, price that was reasonable and less than 50 miles from Newark all sounded good. There has always been the financial problem.

Time to try to summarize: Existing location, Newark N.J.
Plan A.
Person in default wants to renegotiate
Apparently has financial problems,but claims he can resolve if we agree to new terms.
Owes the company a large sum
In default on original agreement
Owes City huge back taxes (Due to sale/lease the ownership still in W.C. name.)

Plan B.
Terminate all relations with referenced person
Eat loss of money due.
Assume back taxes and thus eliminate foreclosure.
Clean shop of all unnecessary materials and equipment.
Prepare ground floor for museum.Eliminates problem of stairs/elevator
Repairs to building. Roof primary concern. Exterior mostly cosmetic

All machinery can be left in place
Many say museum should be at existing site. Unique building and over all setting.

Plan C.
Purchase property [farm in Sussex]
Move ALL
14,500 sq. ft. building deemed suitable,with minor repairs, but would need septic system----could not be heated or air-conditioned. Staging area if necessary. Property consists of 45+ acres(some wetlands) one suitable dwelling, one silo, two hay/cow barns and one building 14,500 sq.ft. building

Surplus enclosed area
Huge outside area would allow large farm equipment display
Next door to Sussex County Farm and Horse Show Fairgrounds. Site of yearly N.J. State Fair which draws 150,000 persons during its 10 days.
Provides safe,suitable site that protects everything.

At the present time there is no request either for donations or for volunteers, but this may change day by day. We feel all should know and to be aware that trouble is imminent.
Without support this could be the downfall of an important part of our heritage.The company and I cannot do it alone. One person recently posted on a Forum, ”One old man trying to do it all by himself”, another wrote that it would be the shame of N.J. TO LET THIS TREASURE GO TO THE SCRAPYARD.
There are many things that could (and should) be added ,but this is enough for now----thank you, if you read all of this,
Sincerely Chad
[email protected]

Rick Rowlands

Jan 8, 2005
Youngstown, Ohio
Even though I am crunched for time on the Tod project, I have offered to Chad to set up a non profit corporation and prepare the tax exemption application that could take ownership of the plant and equipment, and then apply for property tax exemption once the current tax bill is paid.