A History of Greenpoint in 25 Buildings: The Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory

The Pencil Factory, illustration by Aubrey Nolan
The Pencil Factory, illustration by Aubrey Nolan

Perhaps no local building combines Greenpoint’s proud industrial past and creative present and future than the Eberhard Pencil factory at 47- 61 Greenpoint Avenue. Like many other local factories the pencil factory building has been re-invented and is now home to an amazing variety of creative individuals and innovative firms.

The Eberhard Faber Pencil Company, originally the A. W. Faber Company, was founded by German Eberhard Faber, (1822-1879) in 1861. Faber came from a family already famous as German pencil makers. Faber received a trademark here for the production of lead pencils and started the American branch in a factory close where the United Nations now stands, making it the first American pencil factory. After a destructive fire destroyed the company’s Manhattan plant in 1872, Faber moved the to Greenpoint, where the plant remained until it shuttered 1956. The company first introduced German lead pencil making techniques stateside and Faber grew to become one of Brooklyn’s largest factories, employing hundreds of workers, most of whom were local women.

The Pencil Factory
Close-up of the Pencil Factory’s pencils, photo via Scouting New York (a wonderful blog worth donating to!)

Eberhard quickly grew to occupy six buildings on Greenpoint Avenue and Kent Street. Most of the six buildings were built around 1800, but the factory building at 47-61 Greenpoint Avenue was constructed much later in 1923. It is the most structurally advanced building in the complex. The reinforced concrete, Art Deco-style factory building was designed by architect Frederick H. Klie. The six story building features large daylight windows, concrete piers, and huge sharpened yellow pencils sticking out from the façade as well as diamonds enclosing Faber’s trademark stars. The building’s concrete piers and abstract terra-cotta ornament are trademarks of the Art Deco style. The building was interconnected internally to the other Faber buildings until the company sold the buildings in 1956.

The building languished for years and was eventually sold to investors. By the 1980s it had become the home to many architects, artists and artisans. Today the building houses many talented illustrators, art directors, and designers who have been working from various shared studio spaces in the building over the past few years. (Including our own Greenpointers office!).

About Geoff Cobb

Geoffrey Cobb is a Brooklyn high school history teacher and writer of the blog historicgreenpoint.wordpress.com. He has lived in Greenpoint for over 20years and is the author of a book on the history of the area, "Greenpoint Brooklyn's Forgotten Past."

1 Comment

  1. No Victim says:

    Nicely done! Now, if only we could do something about preventing/cleaning up the ugly, artless, graffiti scrawled over this and most every other beautiful, historic building on our waterfront.
    The perps should clean it up themselves and then be given a historical tour of these beautiful old buildings. Perhaps even they might come to appreciate them.

    Reply

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