“Ambler was a one-factory town. It was Keasbey and Mattison. . . . To go to school, we had to walk by the shingle plant every day, and they had, like you see in the old movies, the whistle [that] would blow at eight o’clock, and the guys would go in, and another shift went on at two o’clock, and then another shift went on . . . [until] they got off at 6:00.”Victor Romano
Like many northeastern American towns, Ambler once relied on a single factory for its economy and identity. Keasbey and Mattison, a producer of asbestos-containing products, opened its factory in Ambler in 1881. The company employed residents, built homes, opened businesses, founded cultural institutions, and created utility companies. After several sales the factory closed in 1987, leaving behind several waste sites—the “White Mountains” of asbestos. In 1983 and 2009 the EPA designated these former factory sites for Superfund cleanup, igniting community members to examine their history and contemplate Ambler’s future. How the town grew and changed post-factory, and how it continues to grapple with its environmental reality, is a story told best by its residents. Today, Ambler is a vibrant town with a complex legacy: of a material, of an industry, and of dedicated groups of residents looking toward the future.