07/25/14 3:00pm

110 Wolcott Street, Christ Church Chapel, KL, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally Christ Church Chapel, now Red Hook Pentecostal Holiness Church
Address: 110 Wolcott Street
Cross Streets: Van Brunt and Conover Streets
Neighborhood: Red Hook
Year Built: 1899
Architectural Style: Romanesque/Gothic Revival
Architect: W. & G. Audsley
Other Buildings by Architect: Prince’s Road Synagogue, Liverpool, England. Also Bowling Green Offices, Manhattan, (NYC Landmark) and the Church of Edward the Confessor in Philadelphia.
Landmarked: No, but should be.

The story: Few cities in the world are as blessed with as much great natural harbor space as New York City. When the Red Hook coastline of Brooklyn became one of the busiest ports in the metropolitan area, blocks of houses and tenements were built to house all of the people who made their living from the docks or the many factories and warehouses spreading out and away from the shore. Most of the inhabitants were the working poor, struggling to survive on the low wages and long hours required to keep their jobs. They certainly did not have the resources or time to build fine institutions for worship or education.

The churches in the more established areas of Brooklyn, in nearby Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill, saw Red Hook as a field full of souls ready for harvest. There were both spiritual and physical needs to be met there, so many of Brooklyn’s churches established mission churches in Red Hook. One of them was established by Christ Church, the venerable Episcopalian Church on the corner of Clinton and Harrison Streets in Cobble Hill. (more…)

07/02/14 10:00am

62-64 ferris street red hook 62014

A huge commercial property near the Red Hook waterfront is in contract after asking $22,000,000, according to an agent close to the deal. The 100,000-square-foot site at 62-64 Ferris Street (pictured) is currently being used as a parking lot and is zoned for manufacturing. A building as large as 200,000 square feet could be constructed on the site. The property last sold in 2004 for $2,550,000, according to public records.

About a block away is another large Red Hook development site for sale. The property at 145-165 Wolcott Street is an 80,000-square-foot former bus depot asking $24,000,000. A potential developer could build up to 135,000 square feet there, according to PropertyShark. Realty Collective is the listing agent for both sites.

Update: Italian developer Est4te Four is the buyer of 62 Ferris Street, along with neighboring 219 Sullivan Street, according to the Brooklyn Eagle.

Photo by Kate Leonova for PropertyShark

06/26/14 4:00pm

new york water taxi

Getting to Red Hook this summer will be a little easier with the relaunch of the water taxi, which will make its first trip tomorrow between the Financial District and Van Brunt Street. The free ferry runs from Pier 11, which is at Gouverneur Lane and South Street, to the Fairway Market Ferry Dock at 480 Van Brunt Street in Red Hook. The first ferry leaves tomorrow at 9:30 am from Pier 11. It will run in a continuous loop every weekend through Labor Day.

Photo by Jason Kuffer

06/06/14 10:00am

160-imlay-lr-060514

A full site is up and construction has started on the condo conversion of 160 Imlay in Red Hook. The broker has also changed, from Town to Douglas Elliman. Sales, which were originally planned to start in January, are set to launch in July, agent Patty Larocco of Douglas Elliman told us.

The new website has new and more finely detailed renderings. In fact, they are so detailed we can make out a Louis Poulsen Artichoke light, Norman Cherner chairs and paintings by Jean Michel Basquiat and Donald Baechler in the living room.

There is also tons of descriptive detail about the design, which is by Aldo Andreoli of AA Studio. Some of the details include exposed cast-in-place concrete that was part of the original building and ceiling heights of 12 to 16 feet. Floors are wide plank European white oak. The white matte lacquer kitchens were designed by Aldo Andreoli and Italian manufacturer Dada Molteni. All appliances are by Miele. The windows are triple paned and designed to maximize the views, which look extraordinary.

Pricing is not yet available. Construction is supposed to wrap in 2016. Click through to the jump for more interior renderings. What do you think of it?

160 Imlay website [160 Imlay]
Renderings and Teaser Site out for Red Hook Warehouse Conversion [Brownstoner]

(more…)

06/05/14 4:00pm

Red Hook Festival enters its 21st year this weekend and brings dance performers, interesting musical acts, and barbecue to the waterfront. The party kicks off tonight from 6 to 8 pm with a free BBQ and dance party at the P.S. 15 playground, located at 71 Sullivan Street. On Friday night, Jalopy Theater will host an evening of youth performances, including Dance Theatre Etcetera’s In Transition Hip Hop Theatre Company, from 5:30 to 7 pm. Finally, Saturday’s main event will feature free kayak rides in New York Harbor, face painting, a Red Hook trivia contest, and performances from the Dance Cartel, Dende and the Band, Godsell Dance Collective and Underground System. All the fun will happen at the Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier, on the corner of Coffey and Ferris Streets. Check out the festival website for all the details.

06/05/14 10:45am

Sing Sing, wikipediaOn May 23rd, 1889, the trial of the Electric Sugar Refinery miscreants began in a Manhattan courtroom. All of the defendants were there; Olive E. Friend, Rev. William Howard and his wife Emily, as well as two brothers, George and Orrin Halstead, who were arrested in Michigan. Assistant District Attorney Davis had them all gathered, but this was the trial of William Howard only. He was seen as the head conspirator, after the now deceased Professor Friend, Olive’s husband.

They were on trial for a massive operation of fraud, larceny and deception all originating from the acceptance of investment money for an enterprise called the Electric Sugar Refining Company. The New York and London stock markets had been abuzz for over a year over Professor Friend’s claim of inventing a new process of converting raw sugar into refined sugar through the use of his secret formula involving the use of electricity.

Had it worked, the process would have cut the time consuming and difficult process of refining sugar down to hours from days, saving refiners a boatload of money in processing and worker’s costs. Had it worked, it would have made its inventor and his board of directors filthy rich. The company would have also made the initial investors and stockholders quite wealthy too. But then the Professor died in 1888, and the whole thing fell apart, and was exposed as a massive fraud and a swindle that would make any grifter proud. For more details on the whole story, please read Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

All of the defendants sat in the courtroom that day. Olive Friend, the wife of the deceased Professor, was much younger than her husband had been, and was a plump woman who said she suffered from heart palpitations. She sat in the courtroom in black silk widow’s weeds with diamond earrings glittering from her ears. Also at the table, the defendant William Howard, Olive’s step-father, sat with his arm propped up on the table, his hand cupped around his ear so he could catch every word of testimony. Still dressed in his clerical collar and suit, he looked like a fierce Calvinist elder, despite his years, still ready to go forth in the ultimate battle for his freedom. (more…)

06/03/14 10:30am

Tombs I prison, NYC, nyc-architecture.com 1The dawn of 1889 began with a small financial panic as hundreds; perhaps thousands of investors, both in New York and in England began to realize that they had been taken for fools. Whether through basic greed, misinformation or just blind faith, they had invested their money in a company that was a complete scam. The Electric Sugar Refinery Company, through its owners and managers, boasted that it could take raw sugar and turn it into pure refined sugar, bypassing all of the time consuming and expensive methods used at that time by every sugar refiner in the world.

Through the use of a super-secret electric method of refining sugar, invented by an eccentric inventor named Professor Friend, the company told its investors that they would make themselves and everyone connected with them very rich. In truth, they had only made the owners of the company rich – namely the inventor, his wife, her step-father and his wife. When the death of the Professor meant they couldn’t sustain the con game anymore, the remaining people took the money and headed for parts unknown, leaving behind an empty factory and emptier wallets.

Parts One and Part Two our story give more details of Professor Friend, his wife Olive, and her step-father and mother, the Reverend William Howard and his wife, Emily. We also learn about the president of the Electric Sugar Refining Company; an Englishman named Cotterill, and the Secretary/Treasurer, another Englishman named Robertson. They were responsible for getting the ESRC in the British press, and gathering hundreds of people in England to invest, both rich and poor.

We also learned about the machine whose use prompted so many to open their wallets and donate, as if they had seen a miracle in the making. Perhaps that was the worst of it. Many of the investors, especially in England, were pious religious people who had followed men of faith, and been duped. In New York, it wasn’t so much God that moved investors, it was money. Faith and money, a dangerous combination sometimes, and in this case a faith shattered when the inventor of the machine, Professor Friend, suddenly died, in 1888. His passing shattered the carefully crafted operation, and exposed the empty core within. (more…)

05/29/14 10:45am

Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times. viola.bz 1In the old Grimm’s fairy tale, the boastful miller told the greedy king that his daughter could spin straw into gold. Against all reason, the king believed him, and locked the girl in a room full of straw and told her to get busy, or she would die. Thanks to the magical help of a little man named Rumplestilskin, the proud boast came true, and the next day the straw was gone and the room was filled with gold. Surely the men who invested in Professor Friend’s marvelous invention must have had Rumplestilskin in mind, because with the help of his mysterious machine, the Professor could turn raw sugar mash into pure refined sugar. It had to be magic, and that magic came from the power of electricity.

In the first chapter of this story, we met Professor Friendly and his wife Olive, who hailed from the Midwest. In the 1870s, the Professor boasted to Chicago commodities traders that he could cut production time for refining sugar from weeks to hours, with the help of a secret process that he had developed. By feeding raw sugar into his machine and subjecting it to his secret electrical treatments, the end result after a few hours would be pure refined white gold.

The Chicago men howled with disbelief and sent them packing, so they came to New York, and enlisted the help of Olive’s stepfather, a charismatic and forceful street preacher named William Howard. He was familiar with the investors and traders on Wall Street, because that was his territory, the field upon which he sowed his seeds of faith, and harvested his souls for the Lord. Before long, he had convinced people to invest, the money allowing them to move to better housing, and start recruiting overseas.

In a short amount of time, they had two English allies: the new President of the newly formed Electric Sugar Refining Company, William H. Cotterill, and the Secretary-Treasurer, a man named J. U. Robertson. Cotterill was a lawyer, living in New York, and Robertson had been a successful shipping company owner in Liverpool. They also recruited an architect for their project, one Elisha Sniffen.

Thanks mostly to Robertson, who was a member of a British religious sect called the Christadelphians, the money started rolling in. The Christadelphians were a growing, but insular group originating in the Birmingham area, but spreading throughout Great Britain. With the zeal of the converted, Robertson had been pushing the Electric Sugar Refining Company in person, and in the sect’s newspaper, and they responded by investing in the company, many spending their hard earned pennies to buy just a share of common stock. But pennies add up, and with the addition of Robertson’s rich relatives and friends also investing heavily, the ESRC soon had more than enough money to start production in Brooklyn. (more…)

05/27/14 10:30am

Havemeyer Sugar Refinery, WB. Bklyn Museum, 1891

Far from being the name of a psychedelic band from the ‘70s, the Electric Sugar Factory is a true story, taken from the Brooklyn and New York City newspapers of the day, and repeated in papers all across the country. It has everything, beginning with a poor eccentric inventor with a wonderful procedure that would revolutionize an industry. It also had the opportunity for wealthy businessmen both here and in England to invest in said invention and the company around it, a pious man of God who champions the company, the inventor’s much younger wife, an obscure British religious sect, a very uncurious Brooklyn architect and an English solicitor. Our tale starts in the Midwest, because that’s where Professor Friend developed his great invention.

Professor Henry C. Friend was from the Chicago area. He called himself a manufacturing chemist and an electrician, at a time when the field of electricity was still at its beginnings, and the currents and bolts of raw electricity still were mysterious and marvelous. Sometime around 1875, he announced that he had invented something that would change the world. He had come up with a new method to refine sugar, harnessing the mighty and mysterious power of electricity. It had to be seen to be believed. (more…)

160-van-brunt-street-042414

Real estate investment firm LIVWRK Holdings is in contract to buy an industrial building in Red hook for $21,500,000, which it plans to convert into offices and “creative spaces,” The Real Deal reported. The renovated property should be ready for move-in by mid-2015, the firm estimated.

Located right at the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, 160 Van Brunt Street has 98,650 square feet and is two stories high. A bidding war drove the price past the $19,700,000 ask.

LIVWRK Holdings is also working on similar projects for two buildings in Gowanus and is a partner with Kushner Companies and RFR Realty in the $375,000,000 parcel of Jehovah’s Witnesses properties in Dumbo.

What do you think of their plans for the building?

LIVWRK Inks $22 Million Contract for Red Hook Conversion: Sources [TRD]
Photo by Kate Leonova for PropertyShark

04/11/14 10:00am

trolley-red-hook-041114

A reader sent us the photo above with the headline “are they back?” last night. As you may recall, some of the vintage streetcars were carted off in February.

Coincidentally or not, their collector, Bob Diamond, a historic railways buff, has just finished a new report about setting up a streetcar system that would run from Red Hook to downtown Brooklyn and re-opening the unused 169-year-old subway tunnel under Atlantic Avenue that has been closed since 2010, DNAinfo reported. He has also set up a Kickstarter fund to ask for $5,000 to print up copies of the study to send to elected officials.

Do you think a streetcar from Red Hook to downtown sounds like a good plan?