by Kevin Walsh

This 6-story 400,000-square foot Queens Plaza North monster, built in 1911 at 27th Street, once turned out horse-drawn carriages and automobiles for the Brewster brand, and later Rolls Royce automobiles, and World War II fighter planes.  Today it’s the home of Jet Blue Airlines and has been beautifully restored, though its original clock tower has been long absent. The one at the nearby Bank of Manhattan skyscraper a couple of blocks east will have to suffice.

The building is named for a company that was founded as long ago as 1810 by carriagemaker James Brewster. Brewster was known for its “bodies,” or carriagework, from its original horse-drawn vehicles well into the auto age. Brewster luxury autos were made in the company’s LIC building from 1915 to 1925, but the Depression cost it sales and the company was bankrupted in 1937.

Brewster was well-known as an auto manufacturer. The company is mentioned in Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top”:

You’re the top! You’re a Ritz hot toddy.

You ‘re the top! You’re a Brewster body.

You’re the boats that glide on the sleepy Zuider Zee,

You ‘re a Nathan Panning, You’re Bishop Manning, You’re broccoli!

Porter’s songs, when performed today, often have his more esoteric references edited out. But to read his lyrics would provide a microcosm of pop culture in the 1920s and 1930s, when he wrote them. In June 2021, Porter continues to be relevant, as a contestant named Storm Large wowed the judges on TV’s America’s Got Talent with a new arrangement of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

After World War II, the Brewster Building ended its association with the manufacture of autos and airplanes, and its distinctive clock tower was removed as it was decaying. Its rooms were leased out to small manufacturers including garment makers. Metropolitan Life Insurance was the main tenant from 1980 to about 2000, with Jet Blue arriving in 2012, building its large illuminated billboard clearly visible from the Queensboro Plaza el station across the street. Jet Blue is contemplating moving to Orlando, Florida after its lease expires in 2023.

The only reminder of the building’s original tenement is a pair of escutcheons by the front entrance that read “B Co, Inc.”

As always, “comment…as you see fit.” I earn a small payment when you click on any ad on the site.



Sunnysider June 17, 2021 - 10:39 am

That building is one of the few I still recognize standing on the Queensboro Plaza platform. Used to be up until the last few years, waiting for a train at night, you had panoramic views all around, with the Triboro Bridge lit up like a diamond necklace to the North.

Thank you developers.

Allen Shapiro June 17, 2021 - 11:04 am

The building to the right of the Brewster, 28-11, was the world headquarters for Pan Am. The first four floors were built in 1912. I worked in that building for 20years.

chris brady June 17, 2021 - 3:35 pm

You dont mean they made custom car bodies for Rolls Royces,do you?
The only place I heard where they made American Rolls Royces were in Springfield,Mass.
These cars are called Springfied Rolls Royces.and were made from the 1920s to early ’30s.
Some car buyers were prejudiced against them because they felt that only a true Rolls could
be made in England and therefore one made anywhere else had to be inferior

redstaterefugee June 18, 2021 - 10:08 am


Try reading Walt Gosden’s work on this topic. He’s a Queens or Nassau resident & in addition to his own web page he was a Hemmings Classic Car contributing editor as well as a frequent FNY commenter. My comments about his comments attracted his attention & we became sort of pen pals & mutual admirers.

Andy Subbiondo June 18, 2021 - 1:27 pm

Chris you’re correct about Springfield being the factory for American Rolls-Royce production. High-end cars in that era were usually equipped with bespoke bodywork. Most of the
Springfield-built R-Rs wore Brewster coachwork. Brewster went back to the horse/carriage era and provided bodies for Lincolns, Cadillacs , Packards and others. Most likely a few of
the Springfield Rollers used other coach builders.
I’m a native of Astoria and a lifelong car nut but I had no idea Brewster was based in LIC.

ross June 18, 2021 - 12:19 am

How and where exactly did they get the fighter planes out of there and delivered? Somehow to the Sunnyside yards?

George Cassidy June 18, 2021 - 8:20 am

The company went toes up in 1937, so “WWII fighter planes” were not on. However, they did make one kick-ass fighter, the Brewatwer Buffalo, a biplane favored by the USAAC in the late 20s and early 30s. The knocked down planes were put on trucks and transported from LIC to Mitchel Field, Hempstead. There, I’m thinking, the AAC assembled them and flew them to wherever they were to be posted.
As well as Rolls and Bentley, Brewster sis a load of Buicks and Lincolns. They even built a body for a ’34 Dord cabriolet; whimsical but beautiful.

Lawrence Breen June 18, 2021 - 2:14 pm Reply
George Cassidy June 20, 2021 - 3:40 pm

My bad, Ford was a phaeton (four-door convertible).

Raymond E. Flood June 24, 2021 - 8:13 pm

Brewster had anther plant in LIC about 3 blocks north of the one they had on queens Plaza North. As a child in the early 40’s, we used to sneak up to the open windows as the night shift worked on planes inside the factory. Civilian guards, that. is guards in civilian clothes would shoo us away from the windows. I well remember during air raId drills when all traffic, autos as well as foot traffic CEASED MOVING, the lights and activity inside the Brewster building never stopped for a moment.As I recall, the building stood on 35 Street and either 37th or 38th Avenues.Next time I pass thru Astoria, I’ll check and see if in fact the buiiding still stands today

Walt Gosden June 30, 2021 - 11:17 am

I have the auction catalog from 1937 when the Brewster Co. assets were auctioned off and the site/location cleared of any contents. It was also a building where Pierce Arrow cars and parts were stored and that was auctioned off as well. Reams of raw material to build bodies ( sheet metal, kegs of nails, bronze castings, brass and steel channel) were auctioned off as well as office furniture and over a dozen automobiles ( complete and in chassis form) . Yes the Rolls-Royce of America factory where the chassis, engines were produced was in Springfield , Mass. Primary production of 95% of the coachwork ( bodies) were made in Log Island City.l I knew the son of a man who worked there for decades ( yes he owned a R-R made there) Vehicles (R-R) were serviced and stored at that Long Island City location as well. There was a cast bronze sign on the facade of the building that stated in raised letters Brewster & Co. Rolls-Royce that lasted about 30-35 years after Brewster ceased to exist as a coach builder that was removed and sold and last I heard it found a home in Florida.
Any information I use in my stories comes from period material – literature, periodicals, etc. I do not use articles written in the 1950s-70s as a reference since there may be mistakes. Wickipedia is not a source of information for me . I am a past Vice President, Director, and Editor of the Society of Automotive Historians.
I am still a storyteller and contribute to the new Crankshaft magazine that is edited/published by the former Hemmings Classic Car Editor.

redstaterefugee July 1, 2021 - 10:07 am

It looks like I managed to bring you out of FNY comment retirement. Welcome back. I’m glad that you & Richard Lentinello have a new platform. Automotive journalism isn’t what it once was. Car & Driver now publishes ten issues a year & has shrunk to a mere 82 pages; Hemmings Classic Car is now a mere 72 pages. I don’t blame demographics, I blame editorial policies for alienating subscribers.


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