The Lucas Paintworks aka Silver Lake
Foster Avenue in the Business Complex
Gibbsboro, New Jersey
Sometimes, I don’t like to write a book and I just enjoy showcasing cool places to check out in South Jersey… Well, this special little place is one of them!
The small town of Gibbsboro, in Camden County, was founded in 1714. Mills were very prolific in the surrounding landscape in this timeframe. In 1766, the Gibbs Mill sat situated on Silver Lake and obviously the town was soon named after it.
Today, Silver Lake is most known for the historic paintworks (or paint works, whichever you believe fit) factory. Beautiful brick beams rise above the landscape of the lake.
To give a little history…
In 1849, John Lucas “painted his way” into Gibbsboro history. He developed a manufacturing plant right here on Silver Lake. Local legend has it, that he searched all over and tested every waterway in South Jersey to find the best water to develop and produce the best paints. Silver Lake produced extraordinary results… leading to the Lucas factory being born. Lucas pioneered the painting industry with his liquid paints. Before this time period, most paints were a dry mix and then water was added. Most folks, preferred their paint to be “ready-made”, stirred and applied. His business thrived and helped revolutionize the paint industry. His first factory was established in 1848 in Philadelphia and then he created his second location right here on Silver Lake. John Lucas and Company was purchased by Sherwin-Williams in 1930. The plant closed its doors in 1978. The paintworks provided many jobs throughout its long-span in Gibbsboro.
In June 1981, the majority of this Sherwin-Williams plant was sold to developer Robert K. Scarborough. Scarborough was a well-known South Jersey developer. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he constructed single-family homes in developments including Wedgewood, Wexford Leas, Kings Croft, Tavistock, Charter Oak, Barclay Farm, and Tenby Chase. In 1969, he built the townhouse complex Tenbytowne in Delran, and in the 1970s, he built apartment complexes. I know him most for the Scarborough covered bridge, aptly named after him, in the Barclay Farm section of Cherry Hill. This bridge is the last covered bridge in all of South Jersey.
After Scarborough purchased the Paintworks property, he developed the former plant into a light industrial complex and named it, The Paint Works Corporate Center aka PWCC. In December 1987, the former plant property was sold to Brandywine Realty Trust.
In 1976, the EPA had to step in with an investigation… and according to the EPA..
The EPA directed the Sherwin-Williams Company to conduct an environmental investigation in the former lagoon area. According to the report, a sludge pit was located in the area of the lagoons. The depth of the sludge pit was over 20 feet. On August 17, 1978, NJDEP issued an AOC to the Sherwin-Williams Company to remove the sludge in the area of the lagoons and to monitor ground water. In 1979, a total of 8,096 cubic yards of sludge was removed from the lagoon area. After the sludge was visibly removed, the lagoons were filled with clean fill.
After the area was tested fit for use and considered safe, citizens banded together to keep the remnants of the paintworks (they were going to be knocked down). It is now a 0.75 mile paved trail, recreational and wildlife spot enjoyed by many residents of South Jersey. This is a nice trail to walk on a pleasant spring, summer, or especially fall day (to see the beautiful changing foliage). I have been here a few times in my lifetime and have thoroughly enjoyed it and my son as well!
Weddings and events are often enjoyed on the grounds of the old paintworks!
Until our next adventure, my friends!!