The GAF Power Plant is located in Gloucester City, Camden County. Built in 1901 it was originally
part of the New Jersey Ship, Shipyard. Built to provide Steam, and Power to the various mills,
machine shops and offices of the shipyard. Than, sometime after WW2 the shipyard was closed, and
soon smaller companies moved in and started to utilize the various buildings on the site. In 1967
GAF moved into three buildings located at the intersections of Water Street and New Jersey Avenue.
Utilizing two mills on the waterfront and the power plant, GAF started to produce vinyl products and
paper products. The power plant continued to supply both mills with power and steam to run the
various machines located at the mills. Than in 1985 as the demand for those products fell and the
cost of updating the outdated machinary rose, the mills closed along with the power plant. They
remained that way for 22 years. Now as a major redevelopment of that area approaches the future of
the power plant sits in the eyes of a wreaking ball. The paper mill was torn down many years ago,
and now the vinyl mill has met the same fate. One only wonders how much longer the power plant
can stand strong on the waterfront of Gloucester City.
I visted the GAF Power Plant one warm winter day in mid December, 2006. Seeing an easy way in I
wondered threw the gate and into the open garage door, as my friend kept guard by the gate.
Wondering in by myself, I had the fear of spooking someone whom might have called that place
home, but luckily it never happened. Turning on my flashlight I was transported into the past.
Valves, gauges, panels, stairways, and ladders all called to me, as if they all had a story to tell.
Passing threw the baghouse I entered into the heart of the power plant. Huge boilers, with ladders
and stairways sat cold and dark infront of me. And the setting sun that was coming in threw the
cracked glass brick windows, added to the sense of solitude. As I walked past the boilers I made my
way up a set of steps and entered onto the turbin floor. Sitting in front of me were three huge turbins,
with there control room, next to them. The ceiling seemed to go one forever into the sky, and the
sense of wonder came over me. Feeling that I had spent all of my time I ventured back the way I
came in, promising to return again very soon. Two weeks later I did just that. But this time I had one
goal in mind. Knowing that this place had certain demise in its near future, I had to retreive some sort
of reminder of this place, being that my father worked there at the time of its closure, I had to bring
him a piece of this place in which he called home for those first few years of his career in the power
industry. Again I followed the same route, except this time I had a partner for the journey, I quickly
made my way to the locker room, and found an old hard hat, heck it could have been my fathers old
hard hat, and placed it under my arm and continued on taking pictures every step of the way. After
about 2 hours I called it quites and not wanting to press my luck to much longer we exited the site.
The GAF power plant was probably one of the coolest sites I have been to. The feel of the history of
the place looms around every corner, at the top of ever ladder and in the hearts of the boilers. But it
also remains in the hearts and minds of the people that worked there, and called that place home.
Many of the guys who worked there have met there end, just as the same will come for the power
plant. But as long as there is someone to tell its story it will remian alive, just as alive as it was many
many years ago.