Abandoned Glue Factory
The Peter Cooper Glue Factory in Carrollville, WI.

Who was Peter Cooper? He's the guy who created Jell-O. I'm not kidding.


The plant is a fantastic place to shoot. But all the attraction has garnered the attention of the government.

Excerpts from a government report on the health hazards of the plant.: www.atsdr.cdc.gov/hac/pha/FormerPeterCooperandHynitePrope... PropertiesHC242008.pdf

This area of Oak Creek is historically referred to as Carrollville, though many current Oak Creek residents may not be familiar with the name (Cech 2005). In 1899, the Milwaukee tanning industry established the U.S. Glue Company factory in Carrollville to make glue from remnants and scraps of animal hides, both tanned and untanned. During the 1930s, the U.S. Glue Company sold the factory to the Peter Cooper Corporation, who then sold the factory in 1976 to the French pharmaceutical company Rousselot. Manufacturing of glue continued at the factory until it closed in 1985. In November 1987, a fire broke out in the main buildings of the vacant Peter Cooper facility. This was one the largest fires in the history of Oak Creek, and the wooden structure was consumed by the blaze and fire fighters focused on saving adjacent buildings (Oak Creek FD, 2007). Cech (2005) states, “three of the four stories of the main building had been destroyed, the entire west wall had collapsed, and the remaining ground floor was gutted.” The Hynite Company reportedly opened in Carrollville during the 1920s to manufacture nitrogenous fertilizers leather meal from waste leather. It is not clear to DHFS when such manufacturing halted at the Hynite property.

DHFS staff first conducted a drive-by visit of these properties in October 2006. The 80-acre former Peter Cooper property was fenced along South Fifth Avenue, and from there staff could see three large industrial buildings, and a smaller single-story office building that was apparently in use. The two large industrial buildings on the northwestern portion of the property were estimated by staff to be 175,000 and 50,000 sq ft (square feet) in area. Approximately one-half of the 175,000 sq ft building had a second story, and most of the door ways and ground floor windows were open or broken out. Aerial photographs show the roofs of both buildings to be in poor condition, with visible holes and plant growth. Near the south boundary of the Peter Cooper property is a newer, single story warehouse-like building that is estimated to be 150,000 sq ft and apparently in good condition. DHFS was informed this was structure was currently being used to stockpile sludge received from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District South Shore Treatment Plant, which is immediately north of the Peter Cooper property. DHFS assumes this newer structure was built on top of where the main glue factory building that burnt down in 1987. Aerial photos show a number of concrete foundation footprints of prior buildings on the north side of this 150,000 sq ft building.

Tucked behind the southeast corner of the former Peter Cooper property is the 8-acre former Hynite property. Viewed from the end of East Depot Road, staff saw two buildings, a smaller, brick office with a vehicle scale on the south side, and larger multi-storied brick building estimated to be about 22,500 sq ft, with a newer 13,500 sq ft structure attached to the east side. Aerial photos of the Hynite property also show that on the northeast side of these buildings are several concrete foundation footprints of one or more prior buildings.

During the October 2006 visit, from South Fifth Avenue, staff saw several large holes in the fence and well worn footpaths leading onto the Peter Cooper property. At that time they also observed several adolescent children walking eastwards on East Depot Road to where it ends at the gated entrance to the Hynite property. These children walked around the locked gate, onto the Hynite property, and went into one of the abandoned buildings through one of many open doorways or windows. Staff also talked with a resident who lives near the intersection of South Fifth Avenue and East Depot Road, and she reported regularly seeing people walking and driving down East Depot Road and going onto these properties, particularly during the summer.

On the morning of November 2, 2006, staff from DHFS and the City of Oak Creek Health Department visited the Hynite property. While the East Depot Road entrance to the Hynite property was a locked gate, it was simple to walk or drive a vehicle around the fence across a flat, grassy area. Staff saw worn foot paths and other signs that people were regularly going onto the Hynite property, as well as the adjoining Peter Cooper property, and observed numerous physical hazards around and inside of buildings. There was a substantial amount of graffiti on the internal and exterior walls of all levels of the Hynite building, and the glass of most windows and skylights were broken out. Inside of the building it appeared all industrial machinery had been removed. Despite this, staff saw a make-shift skateboard ramp, a swing made from old fire hose and hanging above a floor covered with broken glass, rusty stairways of questionable stability leading to the upper floors, and there were many other apparent physical hazards.

DHFS staff used an x-ray fluorescence (XRF) meter to screen for heavy metals in the dust and dirt on the floors inside and outside of the Hynite building. The XRF meter indicated there were unsafe levels of lead and cadmium in the dust and dirt. While staff did not visit the adjacent Peter Cooper property, there was no fencing between the two properties and it was easily accessible from all portions of the Hynite property. From this distance staff could see the poor condition of the larger and more expansive buildings on the Peter Cooper property, and it is very likely there are physical hazards similar to what was observed in the Hynite building.
There were many homes close to these properties, with many homes recently built. During the visits staff noted that across South Fifth Avenue and less than 500 yards from these properties are over 50 older Carrollville homes and a recent residential development that can accommodate dozens of new homes. There were five homes on the corner of South Fifth Avenue and East Depot Road that abut up against the southeastern corner of the former Peter Cooper property. There were also four single family dwellings on South Fifth Avenue that abut up against the northeastern corner of the Peter Cooper property.

The City of Oak Creek has initiated redevelopment plans for these properties and this was scheduled to begin in mid-2007. These plans included the demolition of buildings, investigating and cleaning up chemical contamination, and resulting actions would abate physical hazards and investigated for environmental contamination. Unfortunately, these plans were not implemented.

On November 27, 2007, DHFS staff again visited Oak Creek. From South Fifth Avenue staff saw no evidence of investigative, remediation, or redevelopment activities on these properties. Staff also observed clear indications of more frequent visitation by the public than what was seen during the 2006 visits. Two new holes cut into the fence on South Fifth Avenue, with well worn footpaths on either side of the holes. At the end of East Depot Road, where in 2006 there was only crushed grass from vehicles driving around the gate, there were now barren soil ruts from more regular vehicle traffic. There was new graffiti on the outside walls of the 2nd and 3rd floors of both the Hynite and Peter Cooper buildings, which was not in photos taken in 2006.

Once DHFS staff returned to their offices, they came across a number of recent photographic and written accounts on internet websites from people who visit the Hynite and Peter Cooper properties. These entries describe going onto the property and inside buildings for general curiosity, exploring, photography, thrill seeking, alleged paranormal encounters, and vandalism.

Not only do these accounts independently demonstrate that people are visiting the properties, this online information promotes interest among others and likely results in increased visitation.
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