In all the years I’ve been coming to Red Hook, this lengthy red brick building at the corner of Coffey and Ferris streets, opposite the Louis Valentino Pier, has always stumped me regarding its identity. With its two peaked pediments on both the Coffey and Ferris Street sides, and relatively long, narrow windows, I had guessed its identity may have been a church. The usually reliable 1929 Belcher Hyde atlas identifies it as “Brooklyn Edison Co.,” and electrical equipment and dynamos may well have been located there.
The definitive answer didn’t come until just this week when a post on the Historic Districts site identifies it as a factory owned by the Lidgerwood Manufacturing Company, a foundry used to build equipment (engines, boilers, conveying machines) used in the construction of the Panama Canal and Croton Reservoir. The company was founded in 1873, and their Red Hook complex was built in 1882. Edison took over in 1926. In recent years, its evocative appearance has been used in TV and movie shoots, such as in Boardwalk Empire. Once again, the Indispensable Maggie Blanck has the complete scoop, which includes several photos of the interior…
The basilica form brick construction with central large doorway, side windows, a bulls eye window, clerestory widows, skylights, corbeled brickwork near the roof line and pilasters, was typical of the late nineteenth century industrial work shops in the American Arch Style. I have read that the oculus was included for light and ventilation. How much more light and ventilation could it have afforded in a building full of windows? The oculus was a common feature of industrial buildings of this period. I believe it is a nod to the oculi and Rose widows of the basilica churches of Europe and was part of the iconography of the American Round Arch Style. [Maggie Blanck]
Unfortunately it seems the old factory’s days are numbered. United Parcel Service has purchased the site and will probably elect to build a new facility on the site instead of refitting the old Lidgerwood building. A construction fence has appeared around the building, and when you see one of those, the jig is usually up.
[UPDATE: Sadly, the Lidgerwood Building was torn down by the developers on May 24, 2019, before there could be any move to landmark it, a common occurrence.]
Photos: Robert Mulero