Former Maas & Waldstein Company

In 1666, the foundations of Newark were laid, and by 1830, the city had eclipsed all other communities in New Jersey with its population boom and sprawling industrial growth. The city's flourishing industries, ranging from myriad factories that manufactured an assortment of products, were principally fueled by its strategic location along the Passaic River. The river served dual roles – a transportation route and a power source that fueled Newark's burgeoning riverfront factories.

1831 marked a turning point in Newark's industrial journey, with the inauguration of the Morris Canal, a 98-mile artificial waterway laden with locks and channels, connecting Phillipsburg to Newark. This waterway transported raw materials from New Jersey's heartland and coal from Pennsylvania directly to Newark's factories. The canal's termination at Newark Bay bolstered the city's significance as a port. But, in an irony of progress, the advent of more efficient railway systems relegated the canal to obsolescence just forty years later. In 1924, the abandoned canal bed paved the way for Raymond Boulevard, Lock Street, and the inception of the Newark subway.

However, the rapid industrial progression had a detrimental effect on the Passaic River's health. Like many upstream towns, Newark dumped untreated industrial and septic waste into the river, culminating in severe pollution. The river's contamination in 1889 forced Newark to forego the Passaic as a water source and public space for recreational activities. The pristine riverfront, once brimming with swimmers, rowers, pleasure boats, and gracious homes, became a memory.

One of Newark's manufacturing behemoths, the Maas and Waldstein Company, was established in 1876 near the now-sullied Passaic River. This factory expanded over time, its repertoire ranging from soda flavoring to explosives utilized by the French Army during WWI, before its closure in 1990.

During its 114-year tenure overlooking the Passaic River, Maas & Waldstein produced a vast range of products – specialized coatings, flavoring extracts, explosives, essential oils, adhesives, resins, varnishes, lacquers, corrosives, pigments, and nail enamel for heavyweight cosmetic giant Revlon. The company zealously guarded its trade secrets – its patents, processes, and formulas – often resorting to litigation to protect its trademarks, most notably its 1949 Plextone trademark (United States Trade-Mark Registration No. 547,125), which encompassed colored film coatings used in a wide variety of products. Plextone finishes enjoyed widespread popularity during the 1950s.

The company's innovations extended to special military-grade lacquer for protecting military communication equipment from fungus and humidity. Further, the company also ventured into the food and beverage industry, supplying colorants, flavored syrups, fruit essences, and acids to drugstores and independent bottlers. It even introduced a carbonated soda drink, IRONBREW, in 1889, which competed with Coca-Cola in terms of popularity and prestige.

However, the factory's lifespan was not without challenges. A fire in 1975, sparked by workers handling lacquer, resulted in one death and several injuries. By 2020, Newark sold the property to Sherman Avenue Development LLC, which planned to repurpose it as a truck storage facility, repair center, and eventually, a cement mixing production site. Today, only the towering smokestack and a lone building bear testament to the site's industrial past.

During my visit, my exploration was limited to just two buildings, partly due to their invisibility from the neighboring trucking business, and partly due to hungry swarming mosquitoes from the stagnant water pools in the area. Nevertheless, it is apparent that the neighborhood, dense with tractor-trailer services and warehouse hubs, is on the brink of transformation. Newark's economic resurgence can be seen in projects like the Passaic Riverfront Revitalization, Shaq Towers, and the Triangle Park economic hub. With proposed plans for mixed-use development along the river, the city and the New Jersey Department of Transportation have the chance to reimagine McCarter Highway Route 21, transforming it into a picturesque city boulevard harmoniously integrated with the urban development.

Current status: Truck storage and parking facility. Feb 2023


1. "Maas & Waldstein Company", Newark Business

2. "Maas & Waldstein Company", Vacant New Jersey

3. Kofsky, Jared, "Newark to Sell North Ward Property to Cement Production Company for $425K", Jersey Digs, April 21, 2020

4. "Explosion Strikes Factory in Newark", NYTimes, July 8, 1975

5. Leishman, David, "“Original and Best”? How Barr’s Irn-Bru Became a Scottish Icon", Études Écossaises

6. Willey, Dr., "Are Energy Drinks Helpful or Hazardous?", Dr. Willey, March 6, 2019

7. Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office. (1948). United States: U.S. Patent Office. [Page]

8. Leishman, D. (2020). Consumer Nationalism and Barr’s Irn-Bru in Scotland. Germany: Springer International Publishing. [Page]

9. Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. (1930). United States: U.S. Government Printing Office. [Page]


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