In 1881 the Keasbey & Mattison Company decided to move their manufacturing business from Philadelphia to Ambler, which was already a thriving farming and industrial community. Entrepreneurs Henry G. Keasbey and Dr. Richard V. Mattison began constructing factory buildings and warehouse facilities such as the Ambler Boiler House, creating jobs that brought many new people to the Ambler area.
In 1887, while working in the lab one day, Mattison accidentally discovered that milk of magnesia would adhere to a hot metal pipe and, in combination with asbestos and other products, could be turned into an insulating material for pipes thus lowering fuel costs. Recognizing the market potential of this discovery, the Keasbey & Mattison Company moved away from the manufacture of digestive aids and started manufacturing asbestos building materials and industrial supplies.
A true philanthropist, Mattison introduced Ambler’s first electric street lights, built the first water tower and the opera house, as well as the building that housed Ambler’s first library. By World War I, the Keasbey & Mattison Company was the world’s largest manufacturer of asbestos products. The business would continue to expand as asbestos roofing became more popular but the company would not survive the great depression.
The Ambler Boiler House is one of only a few remaining Keasbey & Mattison structures, reminding the area’s inhabitants of the company’s significant impact on the local community as well as the long standing consequences of its industrial operations. The Keasbey & Mattison Company left an indelible imprint upon the Borough of Ambler in a legacy of unique buildings that lend this community its special character.