What was the Connaughtown Moon?

MoreThanTheCurve.com is working with the Conshohocken Historical Society to publish an ongoing series of articles about the history of the Conshohocken and the immediate area. Below is the first article:

Stories from the Conshohocken Historical Society – Series 2016, Volume 1

What was the Connaughtown Moon?

Hello Everyone. In an effort to highlight the rich history of the Conshohocken area we at the Conshohocken Historical Society are starting a series of articles called “Stories from the Conshohocken Historical Society”. Each article will concentrate on one historical “theme” or maybe answer a question from Conshohocken’s past. Some articles will talk about well-known facts of Conshohocken’s past while others will highlight the more obscure (but to longtime residents perhaps well known) facts about Conshohocken. Some articles may also highlight facts about Conshohocken’s neighbors (West Conshohocken, Plymouth Township, and Whitemarsh Township) because many Conshohocken stories are in fact stories about the connections between Conshohocken and its surrounding communities. We will try to publish one article every two to three weeks. We hope you will enjoy these stories.

The question to be answered in today’s article is “What was the Connaughtown Moon”? Was it the name of a planet from a science fiction novel? Or the result of the earth colliding with a meteor in some distant archeological past?

Well….the answer to both of these questions is no. The Connaughtown Moon had nothing to do with science fiction novels or meteors from space. But the explanation will only take a minute or two so stay with me and all should become clear.

First the name Connaughtown. Connaughtown is the local/unofficial name of an area bordering Conshohocken and Plymouth Township. It actually lies partially in both Conshohocken and Plymouth Township and runs roughly (since there are no official borders) from Colwell Lane and West Elm Street, westward across Plymouth Creek to the entrance of Tees Driving Range on West Elm Street. How Connaughtown developed, etc. could be another subject of this column…but today’s story is about the moon from Connaughtown.

Connaughtown was/is located right next to what was the Alan Wood Steel Mill which was in operation at the western edge of Connaughtown from about 1903 until the late 1970s. Alan Wood made steel 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for many years. My own personal memory of Alan Wood steel (and the Connaughtown Moon) dates from the early 60s as I grew up within sight of the Alan Wood facility.

Now during the manufacturing of steel a waste product was produced called “slag”. This slag would be dumped along Plymouth Creek roughly following the Blue Route’s current route starting from (more or less) beyond where West 5th and West 6th avenues end to the entrance of the Schuylkill River. This area was/is still considered Connaughtown.

When the slag was dumped it was generally red hot and when it hit the cold water of Plymouth Creek it would make very loud “banging” noises. I would not call them explosions but rather just very loud “bangs”. If the slag was dumped at night you would see a very distinctive red glow in the sky. And since this glow was coming from Connaughtown the name adopted locally for this phenomenon was the “Connaughtown Moon”.

Now I know some of you are asking “How could a steel company get away with dumping hot slag and thereby pollute our water, air, and ground?” The answer to your question is that up until roughly the early 70s a) Not many people really thought about it and b) There was no Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It was just something that was part of life. Most of my memories of the Connaughtown Moon date to the pre-EPA era . Alan Wood Steel may have actually been within their legal rights to dump this slag. There are other Conshohocken Stories with this similar theme (pre-EPA of course) which may become the subject of future articles.

Well thank you and I hope you have enjoyed this story. All comments are welcome.

Mike Poniatowicz – Conshohocken Historical Society