The Brick’s Mincemeat Factory is a significant building in the history of Crosswicks Village, representing both the contributions of the prominent Brick family and one of the earliest and most successful commercial establishments in the Township. The threat to the historic Brick’s Mincemeat Factory, currently known as the Hamilton Uniform Company, is demolition by neglect. This iconic building sits in a prominent location in the Crosswicks Village National and State Register Historic District in Chesterfield Township. The building has been vacant for several years, is in severe disrepair and has been deemed a safety hazard by Chesterfield Township. The factory building was created in 1879 by moving two local farm houses to the property and joining them together. Over the years, several additions were made, resulting in the wood and concrete sprawling structure that exists today.
Edgar Brick, the founder of the mincemeat manufacturing company that occupied the building until 1968, moved to Crosswicks in the 1850s with his wife, Susan, where they opened a general store on Main Street. Edgar Brick began making mincemeat in 1874 because he was dissatisfied with the Philadelphia-made mincemeat that he had been selling in his store. The first year he sold 76 pounds of his own mincemeat, and after five years of increasing sales, he found it necessary to move his operations to a larger building. It was then that he bought the two farm houses and moved them to the current site of the factory.
By the turn of the 20th century, Edgar Brick & Sons became the largest mincemeat manufacturer in the state. After Edgar Brick’s death in 1920, the company was taken over by his three sons, Arthur, Josiah, and Charles, and Brick family members were involved in running the business for the remaining 48 years of the company’s existence. At its peak during World War II, Edgar Brick & Sons employed 40 workers and produced three million pounds of mincemeat per year, making it the largest manufacturer of mincemeat in the United States. The Brick family played a very prominent role in the history of Chesterfield Township – members of the Brick family were instrumental in bringing electricity to Crosswicks, establishing a mill and an ice plant along the Crosswicks Creek, and forming the Chesterfield Township Historical Society.
In the 1960s, mincemeat consumption began to decline, and in 1968, the company began producing alcoholic beverages and ceased manufacturing mincemeat entirely; it closed in 1979, and much of the original equipment and furnishings were auctioned off. In 1980, the building was purchased by the Hamilton Uniform Company, which maintained the business for many years until it closed its doors more than a decade ago.
The proprietor of the uniform company is still the owner of the building and a local resident. She has been trying to sell the property for a couple of years, but has been hampered by conflicting zoning designations — half the property sits in an “agricultural zone” and half sits in a “village zone”. There was some interest in the property last year from a local developer who intended to develop the building as residential units and preserve as much of the original exterior as possible. Unfortunately, this developer has since put the project “on hold” indefinitely, and the property is on the market with a new realtor, being advertised by the new realtor as a tear-down. The historic factory building, sitting on 3.28 acres, may yield as many as 16 building lots in the center of the Crosswicks Historic District.
In response to the request of the owner’s family, the local Planning Board is presently considering rezoning the entire property as one zone to facilitate the sale of the building. A new single zoning designation would also determine the density of any new development, so it remains to be seen how this will affect the historic building. We encourage the Township to work with the owner and any interested buyer to try to preserve as much as the original fabric of the factory building as possible. Fortunately, Chesterfield Township passed a historic preservation ordinance last year, and the new Historic Preservation Commission will also participate in any discussions over the fate of the mincemeat factory. However, any decisions may come too late to save the rapidly deteriorating building – sections of the roof have recently collapsed, leaving parts of the interior open to the elements.
Chesterfield Historic Preservation Commission