Building of the Day: 480 Van Brunt Street


The BOTD is a no-frills look at interesting structures of all types and from all neighborhoods. There will be old, new, important, forgotten, public, private, good and bad. Whatever strikes our fancy. We hope you enjoy.

Address: 480 Van Brunt Street at Beard St.
Name: Red Hook Stores/Fairway Market
Neighborhood: Red Hook
Year Built: 1869
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architects: Unknown, builder was William Beard
Landmarked: No, but should be

Why chosen: The group of warehouses called the Red Hook, Beard St. and Van Brunt Stores are among my favorite buildings in Brooklyn, and the Red Hook Pier is one of my favorite places, although I’m not able to get there often enough. William Beard built his Erie Basin empire here in the mid 1860’s. He was an Irish immigrant to became a millionaire through his building and railroad contracting businesses. By the end of the Civil War, there were so many goods coming into NY Harbor, that Manhattan’s smaller docks couldn’t handle it all. Brooklyn’s wide open waterfront was an obvious alternative, and warehouses and piers went up from Red Hook to Greenpoint. Beard built this massive warehouse complex to offload sugar, grain, cotton, hemp, jute, indigo, leather, fruits and vegetables, tobacco, cocoa beans and coffee, among other things. The building now housing Fairway Market and the apartments above, mostly stored coffee and other foodstuffs. The massive iron shutters, now purely ornamental, were crucial to protecting the goods from the elements. When shipping faded, and the BQE further isolated the neighborhood, these majestic buildings were almost lost and lay empty. Former police officer Greg O’Connell bought the buildings, developed them and now rents out space to artists, small manufacturers, performers, as well as to Fairway and the apartments above it.

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