Did You Know the Brillo Pad Was Invented in Brooklyn?

The renovated 200 Water Street condos. Photo via building’s official website


Everything ends up here eventually, but Made in Brooklyn is a column exploring native, born-and-bred borough creations.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a revolution in home cookware was taking American kitchens by storm, with aluminum pots and pans supplanting their unwieldy predecessors: cast iron cookery. But new wares also required new cleaning methods.

Coal-fire cookstoves were still the norm, and shiny aluminum pots were soon blackened by smoke and grime — so a Brooklyn salesman and his brother-in-law came up with a novel idea: to create a steel wool sponge to scrub off the gunk.

The brothers-in-law began manufacturing their immediately popular “soap cake” and “jeweler’s rouge scrub brushes” out of a plant in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, located at 200 Water Street, beginning in 1917.

In 1921 Brillo expanded to London, Ohio, where it opened a second plant and went on to become one of the country’s most recognizable cleaning brands. While the Brooklyn plant stopped production in 1955, the one in Ohio is still operating today, 95 years later.

As for the Water Street factory, after being landmarked, it was converted into 15 luxury condominiums beginning in 2014, with units selling in the range of $2.9 to $5.5 million.

Designed by Aufgang Architects, the building’s residential conversion was afforded a surprising amount of leeway by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which allowed Aufgang to add two stories, turn a former skybridge portal into a large window, and demolish 30 feet of the building to create outdoor space.

The building’s developer is Megalith Capital Management and Urban Realty Partners. Many of the units are already in contract since a teaser site was launched for the building in September.

The renovated 200 Water Street condos. Photo via building's official website

The renovated 200 Water Street condos. Photo via building’s official website

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