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Remembering The Cape May Magnesite Plant

Remembering The Cape May Magnesite Plant

Sunset Beach in Cape May is the go-to place if you want to catch one of the best sunsets in the State. It’s strange to think that at one point this beautiful view used to be blocked by an ugly Magnesite Plant.

In 1941 the United States was getting ready for war. Here in Cape May County, many changes were made to help the U.S. win the war. From building bunkers and lookout towers to creating a military airport, Cape May County was on the front line.

If you want to see a detailed article about what Wildwood was like during World War II, click the link below.

Wildwood During World War II

 By 1940, the U.S. was already helping our Allies without being directly in the war. The war department was supplying military supplies to Britain which included weapons.

Remembering The Cape May Magnesite Plant

Remembering The Cape May Magnesite Plant

Though it wouldn’t be until December 1941 when we could enter the war, Congress had already started diverting money to help get our national stockpile built up.

One of the materials needed for the stockpile was refractories or magnesite refractory bricks. These bricks were used to line steel factories’ furnaces. Knowing that we would need to start mass-producing materials, these bricks were essential to the war.

In 1941 Dresser Industries opened the Harbison Walker – Cape May Works plant in Lower Township at today’s Sunset Beach.

This plant would later be known as the Northwest Magnesite Plant.

According to, “Operations at the plant consisted of reacting softened, clarified seawater from Delaware Bay with limestone to produce a magnesium hydroxide solution.”

This liquid would then sit in tanks before being filtered and fired in rotary kilns to produce the magnesite refractory bricks.

After the bricks were produced, they would then get loaded onto a train and moved around the Tri-State.

After forty-two years of operation, the plant closed in 1982 demolished. Dresser Industries was required by the Environmental Cleanup Responsibility Act (ECRA), to clean up the site.

By the time they were done all that was left, which can be seen today, was the fence and the water tower.

On September 17th, 1999 the land, which was made up of 125 acres, was listed as open space by the New Jersey Green Acres Program and now we get to enjoy sunsets.

Did you know about this lost history?

Check out these other Wildwood videos and articles.

Update – Saving the Oceanview Motel Lobby