Did you know that there used to be a town, just outside of Hammonton, called Amatol, that contained a munitions plant and the residences of the plant's workers? There was also a "Speedway" there. Today, if you look closely, you can still see parts of Amatol...
During World War I, a new explosive was invented by the British so that they could stretch their depleting supplies of TNT. This explosive was a mixture of TNT and another high explosive, and it was called Amatol.
In 1917, the US entered the War. Then, in 1918, the US built a plant to supply munitions to the armed forces. It purchased 6000 acres of land a few miles east of Hammonton, NJ, and built a munitions plant and a town to house the 10,000-20,000 plant workers. The plant made munitions of many different types and sizes, and was called Amatol.
The town of Amatol was built two miles away. This distance was to protect the workers and families in the event of an accident at the plant.
This town was planned out well and was built quickly. It included a residential section consisting of houses, dormitories, bunk houses, schools and churches. The industrial section had water, electric and sewage plants. There was a bowling alley, swimming pool, YMCA, tennis courts, and a movie theater for entertainment. The Amatol Railroad was built to transport workers between the plant and town.
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When the war ended, the plant closed down and the town was deserted. Within five years, the town and plant were demolished. In 1926, Charles Schwab bought part of the land where the plant had stood and built a "wooden bowl" speedway. The track was one and a half miles long and was made of wood planking, sort of like an oval "boardwalk".
On May 1, 1926 thousands of spectators watched Harry Hartz win the first race of 500 miles. The drivers that came to Amatol Speedway were the same drivers that raced at the Indianapolis Speedway.
The racetrack was only open for two years. On May 30, 1928, the last event was held; a combination stock car and motorcycle race.
Schwab had lost interest in racing and he leased the site as a test track for automobile companies.
In 1933, the wooden track and grandstands were torn down and sold as lumber. The administration building was later remodeled and now houses the Hammonton New Jersey State Police.
Deep in the woods can still be found the concrete foundation of some unknown structure, a blacktop covered floor of another, and the ruins of two concrete buildings now looking more like some long-lost hidden bunkers.
The only thing left of the speedway is the oval layout of the racetrack. The oval can still be seen on aerial or satellite photos of the Hammonton area, and on some old maps. You can still hike around the mile and a half oval, too, but it's well overgrown.
Most of the layout of the town has been lost to the woods.
The Mullica Township recreational park has taken over a little section of the town. Another section of the town is now a large pit used for recreation by ATVs and dirt bikes.
If you dig a bit, you can still find some remnants of Amatol's roads. And if you hike back in the woods, you can still find a few small remnants of the town - chimneys, foundations, concrete slabs, and piles of rubble that used to be houses. In the middle of the "pit," are large concrete blocks that used to be the foundation of Amatol's water tower.
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For more articles about South Jersey History, visit our History page.
Author: Editorial Staff--SouthJersey.com
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