In 1919, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle devoted some glowing coverage to Greenpoint, calling our slice of North Brooklyn “the first manufacturing center of the Empire State,” where “the smokestack is as sacred as the steeple,” and “public spirit…is not surpassed in any district in the City of New York.”
Our intrepid content manager, Megan, found the article earlier this week, and we thought the paper gave such a detailed view of life in Greenpoint 100 years ago, we’d do a series on life in the ‘nabe back in the day.
So, Welcome to our first installment of Do The Time Warp, when we look back on life in Greenpoint 100 years ago. In today’s post, we’ll check out Greenpoint’s housing market circa 1919, and delve into what life was like for people who lived here.
It seems that some of the same advantages that draw New Yorkers to Greenpoint today, exerted a similar pull 100 years ago. For example, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that “the close proximity of this district to the center of business life in Manhattan has been fully recognized by the far-seeing manufacturers of the metropolis,” and by homeowners alike.
In fact, homeownership was common in Greenpoint. The paper maintains, “Housing conditions have been remarkably good, and despite the fact that Greenpoint is generally known as a manufacturing district, a large percentage of the dwellings are owned by persons who live on the premises and are employed in or near Greenpoint.” Happily, this seems to have kept Greenpoint “particularly free from that class of undesirable citizens known as ‘rent profiteers’.” Continue reading →
Today at The Pencil Factory at 47-61 Greenpoint Avenue, you can get an amazing haircut, or see an exciting new art exhibit, or even stop by our very own Greenpointers office, but between 1924 and 1956, that building lived up to its name and turned out pencils for the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company, one of the largest pencil manufacturers in the world. Faber had additional factories located in Germany, Canada, and Argentina, but Brooklyn was the heart of the enterprise. In fact, the Greenpoint Avenue plant was “one of Brooklyn’s most important factories, employing hundreds of workers, many of which were women.” Ace local historian Geoff Cobb included the Pencil Factory in his history of Greenpoint in 25 buildings, and 10 years ago this month, the City of New York recognized the importance of The Pencil Factory’s industrial and architectural history, and landmarked the building, establishing The Eberhard Faber Pencil Company Historic District. The district includes properties on Greenpoint Avenue, West and Kent Streets which were all originally part of the Pencil Factory complex.
The Eberhard Faber Pencil Company was a pencil industry Game Changer! The ingenuity of its products foreshadowed the creativity of businesses working out of the building today. For example, according to the site’s Historic District Designation Report, “Faber was responsible for many breakthroughs in the production of pencils and related items, including having been the first pencil manufacturer maker to merchandise pencils with color tips (known as Mongol pencils, they became the world’s most popular color pencil), the first to apply polishes in bright colors to the wood encasements, and the first to offer color pencils in sets.” That’s right. No Faber, no color pencils. We stand on the shoulders of giants, people! Continue reading →
Is one of Greenpoint’s most unexpected features—a stretch of historic wooden block paving on West Street near the Greenpoint Terminal Market—in imminent danger? Many say that this is the last place where original wooden paving exists in New York City. These blocks are so rare that one from this section of sidewalk is included in the collection at The City Reliquary. But a new bike path down West Street could mean this final vestige of obscure New York City history will be put on the chopping block. Continue reading →
For anyone interested in exploring the history of Brooklyn, TheWooden House Project offers fantastic tours for lovers of Brooklyn’s wood-frame row houses. The walking tour I took through the streets of Greenpoint was an hour and a half long and was led by Elizabeth Finkelstein and Chelcey Berryhill. Continue reading →