Photo by Nathan Kensinger
Yet one more remnant of Queens’ manufacturing past, the West Chemical Building, a.k.a. the CN Building, has been claimed by the gods of redevelopment this week. It’s just one of many manufacturing, storage and warehouse buildings along the array of cul-de-sacs off Jackson Avenue between Queens Boulevard and 21st Street to be repurposed or razed in favor of high-rise luxury housing in recent years.
A five-story poured concrete structure, marked by a siding entering the building, housed the manufacturing plant known variously as “CN Building”, “West Chemical Products”, or “West Disinfectants, ”an arched roof parapet on its east side with a truncated corner. An angled structure, likely containing a conveyor belt connected the building from its left side to a brick/poured concrete three-story building sporting a CN logo in relief.
The former CN plant at one time hosted the Department of Elections Queens Bureau and this was where all the voting machines for Queens were stored. If you needed to change your voters’ registration or get an absentee ballot, this is where you had to come and endure not only the bureaucracy but the stench of the former tenant. The building was also home, in recent years, to QPs (a kind of flea market or swap meet) and served as storage for Modell’s Sporting Goods; latterly, it became
squatters artists’ housing. Intrepid Curbed.com explorer Nathan Kensinger entered the building just a few months before its final destruction and snapped a few photos of the leavings of these various incarnations.
CN, founded in 1883, specialized in home disinfectants and developed the first machine that combatted restroom odors in hotels. While its developer and owner Emil Taussig went down with the Titanic in 1912, the company stayed in business until 1978. The just-razed structure went up in the 1920s on what was then known as Barn Street, but then became West Street, named for the dead-end’s chief tenant.
At sometime in the dim past, a clock faced the Queens Boulevard overpass, with the words “It’s Cleaning Time” ringing the clock.
You might have thought that the bridge that boasted the surprisingly modern CN digram (it had been used as early as the mid-19-teens) would be preserved as a last sign of the company’s presence. After all, it seemed perfectly functional. Alas, this, too, has been placed out of sight behind wood “post-no-bills” and its continued existence is doubtful.