The history of the Autofina property on Pennsylvania

Gerald Perry

Here is an answer to the question of what happened to the vacant property on Pennsylvania Road just west of the Railroad tracks and east of Reno Street. 

The property was purchased by Curtis Longsdorf, (and yes the street was named after him) a wealthy real estate and business man, prior to the 1930s. 

Mr. Longsdorf purchased the property and put in all the improvements, including the sanitary and storm sewers and did the grading of the area for the future streets.

Timing was bad, however, as the Great Depression set in just as he was about to build houses. The area never was developed any further and eventually was sold to the Sharples Chemical Co., which later placed a fence around the property and used it as a drilling site to extract deep salt deposits. 

The method of extracting the salt from the deep was rather simple: They drilled two holes several feet apart and would pump water into the one hole under great pressure and the water would return up the other pipe, along with the water, the salt would come up with it and then was piped over to the processing plant on Jefferson where the salt was separated from the water. 

The property has been owned by several companies over the years. The original chemical company was the Sharples Chemical Co., in the 1930s. It was then bought up by The Pennsylvania Salt Co., then in 1957 by the Penn Walt Co. That company was sold or merged with several other companies over the years to become AtoFina Co., Elf AtoChem, Arkema Co. and Taminco Amines Co. 

On July 14, 2001 at approximately 4:30 in the morning, an explosion and fire at the AtoFina Chemical plant, left three men dead and nine others injured. 

In August of 2001, the plant announced plans to restart the operations not affected by the July explosion and fire. In October of 2004 the AtoFina Co. announced the creation of a new global Chemical Co. called Arkema. 

The Riverview Arkema plant was sold to the Taminco Amines Co. in May of 2007. 

In 2009, the Taminco Co, started to phase out production and the subsequent shut down. And now only a cyclone fence surrounds the empty property, including the empty property on the west side of the Railroad Tracks.  

Lest we forget February 9, 1968
A Sad day 

As any first responder will tell you, you go into work and most of your shifts start quietly, but can go from 5 miles an hour to 100 miles an hour in an instant. 

It was that type of day on Wednesday, February 9 1968. 

At around 11 a.m. Trenton policemen Robert Pare and Thomas Vollmerhausen, were both in their patrol cars alone, on routine patrol, when their radios announced, “Bank alarm at Trenton State Bank.” 

Both men responded, but only one would live out that day. 

City of Trenton police Department Patrolman Robert D. Pare was killed while attempting to apprehend a bank robbery suspect. 

Patrolman Pare had stopped the suspect’s vehicle and placed the suspect against the patrol car. The suspect began to struggle, causing Patrolman Pare to slip and fall. The suspect then grabbed Patrolman Pare”s service weapon and fatally shot him. 

The suspect fled the scene in Patrolman Pare’s patrol car but was later stopped by Detroit and Lincoln Park police officers after a pursuit on 1-75. 

The suspect was convicted of Pare’s murder and sentenced to life in prison in September of 1968 where he later died in prison in August 18, 2003. 

Patrolman Pare was 34 years old at the time of his death, a six-year veteran of the Trenton Police Force and was survived by his parents, his wife and five children. 

Rest in peace Bob, We will not forget your sacrifice! 

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