July 25th, 2011

The Ruins of White Lake

I have a thing for ruins. By "ruins" I mean old remains, typically stonework or brick, and almost always lost in the woods.
These places are unique in that unlike an abandoned asylum or similarly large facility, these kinds of locations often leave
little information as to their original purpose. Some may look upon a place like this and feel it "boring" in comparison to the before-mentioned asylums,
or larger/more popular kinds of places. To me though, there's a certain kind of charm found here that simply isn't present anywhere else.

Enough about that though, onto the entry...



The wooded shoreline of White Lake in Warren County, NJ is home to some curious things. Being public land you can expect the normal sights one associates
with a preserved lake and the parkland that surrounds it. Beautiful woods, hiking trails, and plentiful wildlife is not why I find myself here though.
This day I am in search of ruins. Somewhere not far off the shore lie the large remnants of a long-gone structure. It's remains have come to be so covered by the canopy of the forest
that they are invisible from the lake during the summer months, making my work to find them a bit more difficult than I had anticipated.

As it turns out, if one simply takes a few correct turns down the trails that snake through the wood, the ruins can be easily found.
However I discovered this after almost three hours of following the wrong turns down the wrong trails. That is part of the experience though,
and really what fun would any of this be if you knew all the specifics beforehand (and weren’t exhausted, cover in sweat, and being eaten alive by various flying insects in the hot summer sun)...

At any rate, I had finally arrived at my destination; the ruins of the old Marl Works. First I shall explain what marl is, for I had no idea myself until reading up on it.
Marl is a kind of lime-rich mud which can only form in fresh-water. It is was/is used in a variety of things from fertilizers to a component of cement.
Interesting as all this is, the building which once stood here was not initially constructed to take advantage of the marl deposits found under White Lake.
The original purpose of these ruins was actually as an ice-house. Built in 1888, the ice house would harvest 2-foot square blocks from the frozen surface of the lake
during winter months, and keep them insulated with sawdust and straw. The ice would then be sold during the warmer months, mostly locally, but also transported by train.
The ice-house was not terribly successful however, and only operated on-and-off until around 1914, when the ice-harvesting was ceased altogether.

The main use of these ruins, as I previously eluded to, was as a marl refinery. The Marksboro Fertilizer Works was established here in 1891 and went to work dredging the marl-rich lake.
The sediment from the lake bottom was conveyed to the second floor of the plant, where it was refined and dried. According to an information placard which stands amongst the weeds
next to one of the ruin's remaining walls, this plant harvested between six to eight tons of marl in an average day. Marksboror Fertilizer went under only a couple years after it began,
due to legal issues at the parent company. After the facility was vacated, several other companies tried (and failed) to make a viable marl refinery on the shore of White Lake.
By 1929 the building had come to be without use. It has sat ever since.




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