Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fredericksburg's Forgotten Saviour

Fredericksburg felt very little impact from The Great Depression because of the opening of the Sylvania plant on May 21, 1930. The headline in The Free-Lance Star read:

350 Wage Earners Employed in Manufacture of New Type of Wrapping Paper Known as Sylphene. Regular Production Begins On Anniversary of First Public Announcement Of Location At Fredericksburg Huge Building Project Completed in Record Time.

The Story went on to say the plant, “was ready to supply Sylphene (cellophane) the modern attractive and sanitary product for wrapping an infinite variety of articles and packages, to all corners of the United States and perhaps later to foreign countries with every shipment bearing the label: Made in Fredericksburg, Va by the Sylvania Industrial Corporation.”

Thus the world will be shown that “Americas Most Historic City” is likewise a thriving industrial community.”

The plant itself was located off of Rt. 17 in Spotsylvania. However, large amounts of water were needed to cool down the equipment. Due to the slow movement of the Rappahannock River the pumping station was built up river in Fredericksburg to ensure that the hot water discharged was not recirculated into the system. It was said that the water discharged into the river was so hot that a person could not put their bare feet down on the bottom of metal boats when passing by the facility. There was also an awful smell coming from the plant. The cost of the facility was $1,000,000.00. At the height of its operation it employed 2,700 people. It was closed in 1978.

The Last Pump Station (Ignore the Bridge)

This was the pumping station facility built to support the plant in 1947. Located at the City Dock the structure was purchased by Frederickburg luminary, and former Mayor, Bill Beck. He and his lovely wife Susan, have converted the structure into a nice little river retreat with a kitchen, living room/dining room and a small study. This is where, "The Party" is on the 4th of July.

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