NJ Local History – Amatol & The Raceway

Here and there we like to post up a MG Newsletter article/essay. This one I wrote about a month ago.

A few newsletter essays ago I talked about the abandoned Circus Drive-In. That adventure also had me explore a bit on the old abandoned town of Amatol with the only surviving building left standing as of now.

Below is this building. It was a barracks for the NJ State Police for a time and although they still have a presence nearby, this structure is empty and falling apart.

Amatol is the name of a munition manufactured during WWI here in southern NJ (around what is now Hammonton) and a small town was built (1918) around the production plant and given the same name as the explosive. Pretty cool, eh?

The idea of an abandoned town always fascinated me for some reason and the tale of Amatol fired my imagination.

Although short lived, this town was a key producer of munitions/shell loading for the war as TNT was being depleted. It was built on 6,000 acres of land in south Jersey. The town consisted of theatres, YMCA, Swimming pool, Mess halls, stables, dormitories, resident housing, office and administration buildings, railway, etc.

If you decide to explore – Coordinates for parking: 39°36’4.59″N, 74°44’37.10″W on public land so you don’t need permission.

Watch this video for more AND info about the wooden racetrack that also was on this site after the town went defunct. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UiboQgO0Bk&feature=youtu.be 

The Amatol Raceway (officially called the Atlantic City Speedway) was a 1 and ½ miles oval, elevated, and made out of wood. That’s right, a wooden racetrack with a grandstand that could hold 60,000 fans.

Rare video footage (no sound) of the raceway – (driver Harry Hart was the winner of the race and set a World Record, too) – https://www.britishpathe.com/video/at-americas-brooklands

The first race was on May 1st, 1926. The track only lasted 2 years but was popular nonetheless. For a few years thereafter, the track was used to test cars and motorcycles. The grandstand and track were eventually abandoned then demolished in 1933 and the lumber sold off. 

In the photo below, see that wide, white structure in the foreground? Below the oval outline of the racetrack? There is a circular hardscape in front of it and a large white patch of parking lot adjacent to it. That’s the Amatol administration building I was telling you about that is still standing and the one I took a photo of.

In google maps, you can still see the outline of the oval track within the trees. I get chills just thinking about it. This shit calls and fascinates me. Note, in the middle left hand edge side of this photo you can see the amphitheatre fan-like geography of the Circus Drive-In visible as well.

More photos and town layout and structure – http://www.evfc160.com/main/staticpages/index.php/20091027221001323

The NJ Pine Barrens have reclaimed this once thriving town, munitions plant and race track. All that is left is the ghost of the past amongst the pines.

The wind in those pines has a story to tell if you’re willing to hear it.

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