It has been months since I grabbed my Nikon DSLR and hit the road in search of things that inspire me. Sometimes I’m inspired by the smallest flower, the loftiest cloud and sometimes I just cruise until I find a place that begs me to stop and photograph it. Today that place was the abandoned Helmetta Snuff Factory.
When I lived in South Carolina for a brief time, I marveled at the history of it through photos. When I returned New Jersey, I guess I saw its history through new eyes and with a new appreciation. I also had the bonus of knowing all the back roads and places of unique beauty.
The Helmetta Snuff Factory is one of those places that I’ve wanted to shoot for years. I believe that everything happens when it’s supposed to, but honestly, as I read a little about the history of this place that I’ve seen almost weekly since high school back in 19-somethingorother, I wish that I had photographed it years ago.
Despite the fact that it’s been abandoned for as long as I can remember, the property still changes all the time. Now there are fences around it, and even though it’s still blocks long, some of the original buildings have been torn down.
I think a lot about how much I have known just in my lifetime – things that didn’t even exist when I was born that came soon after and are now gone. I also have a real reverence for history and what was here before my time. All of it is part of an amazing journey called, Life.
The Helmetta Snuff Factory is iconic – in its place in history and also in its size. It spans the equivalent of a couple of city blocks and goes back even farther. Here’s two links that I found most helpful – for a small town, there is a huge amount of information on the internet about it – but here’s an information-rich article from the archives of The New York Times and a YouTube video that shows awesome photos of the factory in its day, the workers and where they lived, the products they made there and sadly, some “new” information about plans for the future site of a new adult community that never happened. Obviously this video was made just before the famous “economic downfall.” I’m glad it wasn’t torn down completely because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to take these photos.