The Cattie Galvanizing Plant
Referred to by residents as the "galvo", this hot-dip galvanizing plant at the corner of Gaul and Letterly Street has been a site of contamination of metal particulates throughout the history of our neighborhood.
On November 9 2017, ORCA held a briefing with residents detailing the concerns we have with the property and that ORCA would begin to get involved in any planned demolition of the existing property. Attending that meeting was the Environmental Protection Agency, state representatives and District Councilman Mark Squilla.
Click here for what we intend to do.
History of the site
Olde Richmond's present form was shaped by the conversion of the Sepviva Estate into part of the expanding Kensington street grid as the ports further south in Philadelphia reached their capacity for handling traffic. Industries that required frequent shipping of heavy goods and material expanded along the Delaware River with Kensington becoming the the nexus of manufacturing for the region.
Overhead view showing the Port Richmond coal terminal. Also visible is the Aramingo Canal, which is now covered-over and forms Aramingo Avenue.
Solomon B. Rowley
Street plan of Gaul and Hagert. The streets have changed names as the City of Philadelphia deleted duplicate street names after Consolidation.
Olde Richmond was the location of many different industries that refined, processed or manufactured metals; the largest of which was the National Lead Company that forms the Aramingo shopping center on either side of the original Aramingo Canal.
Entrepreneurs located companies close to the canal including Solomon B. Rowley who had built and expanded a large glass works business at the present-day site. This is what it looked like in the 1870s:
The Hero Fruit Jar Company owned by Rowley mass produced glass containers here. For a time it was was a competitor to the most well-known Mason canning jar.
The fasteners needed to clamp the fruit jars were made from wire and needed to be pass produced.
And this cover of a catalog of Hero products clearly shows that Rowley had expanded his glass works to get involved in the smelting business to manufacture metal parts, advertising "all kinds of sheet, white and cast metal goods made to order."
The mass manufacture of sheet metal products in Olde Richmond eventually gave the neighborhood a new name which is still used by some residents today: Flatiron.
Bankrtupcy and progression to the Cattie Family
By 1879 the company Solomon B. Rowley entered bankruptcy and eventually sold off to other metal manufacturers. One of the creditors in the Rowley bankruptcy was Lehigh Zinc Company which was supplying the company with zinc to electroplate on to its sheet metal products.
This industrial land survey conducted in 1911 showed that the original Rowley buildings on both the 2400 and 2500 block of Hagert Street were still in operation, but were in the hands of Lowry Top & Body Company who manufactured truck shells.
Conversion to the Cattie Galvanizing Company
As railroad extensions grew into the neighborhood in the late 1880s, the Hero Fruit Jar works at the site took on new meaning. The site eventually ended up in the hands of Joseph P. Cattie and became the Cattie Galvanizing & Tinning Works.
The original brick structures on the 2500 block of Hagert Street were razed and replaced with the present-day shed encompassing the entire city block with rail spurs that carried deliveries up Letterly Street and through the building.
On the 2400 block of Hagert, modifications were made to the original structures for use as storage of materials and finished products until a massive industrial fire destroyed the complex in 1975, leaving almost the entire block entirely vacant.
Once the remains of the building were razed the Cattie company continued to used the site to store finished metal that had been hot dipped in the plant across the street.
The new Cattie plant has a simple design: four rows of steel columns stiffened by spandrels, holding up an expansive sheet metal roof laid upon lightweight trusses.
On the shop floor are the galvanizing pits which is where ORCA and the residents have our concerns.
Click here more to learn about the galvanizing process.