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Atlantic Sugar Refinery - Santa Rosa Sugar Refinery - Birkbeck & Co.

36-60 Hamilton Ave (at Conover)

Indian Wharf was at the northern end of the Atlantic Basin.

The 1869 map of Brooklyn shows R W Adams Lumber and coal yard at the corner of Hamilton and Conover backing on India Wharf. This is where the Atlantic Sugar Refinery later stood. In 1869 R. W. Adams is also shown to have a lumber yard between Imlay and Van Brunt and Summit and Bowne. The location is listed a "Lumber Yard" on the 1886 map. The location was listed on the 1880 map as "Sugar Refinery" and on the 1886 map as "India Wharf Storehouse". In 1889 it was the home of the India Wharf Brewery. No longer standing. See Adams Lumber - India Wharf Brewery -

Atlantic Sugar

There was a business called "Atlantic Sugar" on Hamilton Ave in Brooklyn as early as 1871 as evidenced by an article in the New York Times of January 15, 1871
John Fitzgerald, engineer at the Atlantic Sugar Refinery on Hamilton-avenue, was injured severely, yesterday, by falling from a scaffold on which he was at work. He was carried to the Long Island College Hospital"
1882: Over twenty cargoes of molasses were received at the Atlantic sugar Refinery on the northwestern part of the Atlantic Basin. "The refinery turns out what is known as American refined molasses" (BE)

The building known on the 1886 maps as the "India Wharf Store House" was originally constructed as a sugar refinery in 1873 by a wealthy Cuban, Miguel de Aldama. De Aldama, born in Havana in 1820, was a sugar planter who became a Cuban revolutionary. His property was confiscated and he was forced to flee Cuba. He came to New York where he engaged in sugar refinery. Due to financial losses the refinery was closed and according to information on Aldama the refinery sat idle for more than ten years. Aldama returned to Cuba where he died in 1888.

There was a "rebellion" in Cuba against Spain from 1868 to 1878. It was known as the Ten Year War or Big War. The Ten-Years War / The Big War (1868-1878) and/or 1868-1878: Ten Years' War in Cuba

The following description of de Aldama's house in Havana gives some indication of his situation.

"Many Havana houses are of immense size, and cost enormous fortunes. The city was the home of a large class of wealthy sugar planters, whose incomes were reckoned by the hundreds of thousands, and who, leaving their rarely visited sugar estates to the control of the manager (mayoral), built themselves palaces here and lived in the midst of every luxury money could buy. Such a home was that one built by Miguel de Aldama, at the corner of Amistad and Reina streets, facing Colon Park. Aldama was Havana's richest man; his income was estimated at $3,000,000 a year, when in 1860 he built this home, which cost $400,000 and was famed as the largest and most magnificent house in the city. Aldama was a Cuban patriot, and when at the breaking out of the rebellion of 1868 he was obliged to flee from the city, the Spanish Volunteers ransacked the house and wrecked the ornaments and destroyed the paintings and statuary; and the house was afterward converted into a tobacco factory, in which room was found for 450 cigarmakers."

(Standard guide to Cuba By Foster & Reynolds Co, 1905)

1889: George Golding a machinist, was reported employed by the Atlantic Sugar Refinery in 1889 but lost his job. He had been a widower with four children when he remarried.The second marriage seemed to have problems and the second wife left. The family lived on the second floor over a tea and coffee shop at 321 Columbia street. It was said that Mr. Golding moved to 6 Manhassset place "a much pleasanter neighborhood than Columbia street. 1890: George Golding 6 Manhasset Pl., Carpenter Publication Title: Brooklyn, New York, City Directory, 1890

Aldama's Santa Rosa Sugar Refinery 1873-1892

The Aldama family owned a sugar estate in Cuba called Santa Rosa where they had entertained the likes of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.

In August 1873 Santa Rosa Sugar, owned by Messrs. Aldama and Fuller, was under construction. There were about 60 men employed in various aspects of the building encluding masons and carpenters. (Brooklyn Eagle Thursday, August 07, 1873)

New building under construction - 1873 - India Wharf on Hamilton Avenue - 125 feet by 200 feet on India wharf - two main buildings.

Note: The following descriptions of the Sugar House, the Filter House, and the Chimney are what was planned. It does not mean it was actually built.

THE SUGAR HOUSE - 125 feet wide by 55 feet deep -nine stories - 110 feet tall - 88 windows avergaging 6 feet by 3 and a half feet - south end of Hamilton ave building is an arched doorway leading to a rear yard on the warf - wall of two feet thick brick.

THE FILTER HOUSE - ten stories tall 81 feet by 48 feet by 120 feet - for refining syrup - devised on a system whereby the syrup is filtered from the tenth story and when it reaches the ground it will be ready for shipping - walls of two feet brick

THE CHIMNEY - in the center of the filter house - 13 feet square - 140 feet high - a building on either side 0- one containing a boiler house - both 73 feet long.

The property contained fronting on the wharf, and seven lots 200 feet deep and 70 feet wide to be used for storage. Building incomplete at the time the article was written in October 1873 (BE)

By March 1875 the House of Aldama & Fuller, sugar refiners, was in "trouble". (BE)

In March 1877 Miguel de Aldama resigned as Cuban agent in New York due to failing health.

There was a lot of court action against him in 1878.

In February 1879 the Santa Rosa Sugar Refinery was described as a nine story building standing at the north end of the Atlantic Basin on Hamilton Avenue and belonging to Aldama and Fuller.

It was built in 1873, and is a very substantial structure. Its frontage on the avenue is 125 feet. It is 89 feed deep and had, in all, 250 windows. It has never been used, although thoroughly equipped with all the latest improvements up to 1873 for refining sugar. (My emphasis).

(Brooklyn Eagle Monday, February 24, 1879)

The article says that Mr Aldama's situation regarding the Cuban Revolution and the confiscation of his property in Cuba "did not flatter him". However, by 1879 his properties in Cuba were restored, he had settled with his creditors in the US and was ready to commence business at Santa Rosa.

In 1882 Miguel de Aldama was still listed as the owner of the Inida Wharf, East side.

Miguel De Aldama died in 1888.

In 1899 it was said that the "costly plant was broken up and sold for junk". Called a "white elephant" until it was turned into a brewing company by Mr. Ceballos.

In an 1889 article in the New York Times it was said that the plant cost $800,000.

"After the first trail of the machinery the fires were lit but once and the refinery was closed up owing to the financial embarrassments of Aldama."

The property is listed as a sugar refinery on the 1880 map.

In February 1882 the Santa Rosa Sugar "near the Hamilton Ferry" was bought by Havemeyer And Co.. Havemeyer had a sugar refinery on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg. The Havemeyer and Elder Sugar Refierny was destroyed by fire in 1882. They rebuilt on the same site.

By 1884 Brooklyn was one of the largest sugar refining cities in the United States. Atlantic Sugar House and John Birkbeck & Co. were both listed among the larges sugar refiners in Brooklyn.

The Atlantic docks had good access to the water to receive and ship goods, it was near a large consumer market and it had good rail access to other parts of the country. Most of the raw materials came from Cuba and the West Indies on tramp vessels. Tramp vessels do not have regular schedules and published ports of call, instead they pick up cargos when and where they can.

In 1883 638,091 tons of raw sugar were received in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn sugar refineries employed 6,000 men.(BE 1884)

In 1885 The Atlantic Sugar Refinery at 32 to 46 Hamilton avenue about 2,500 hogsheads of molasses from Cuba which was "converted into crude sugar and sold to refiners throughout the country to be refined and placed in the market." When the sugar left the Atlantic sugar refinery it like "dark dirt" not at all like the "clean white sugar of table use". (BE, September 14, 1885).

John Birkbeck

By 1871 John Birkbeck was refining sugar at a much smaller scale in a "sugar house" location to the west of Aldama's refinery in a building that later became the bottling plant for India Wharf Brewery.

1871: Limited partnership between John Birkbeck of Philadelphia, and Edward Crabb of Brookly purpose refining sugar and molasses, no address.

1877: Second hand fire bricks were offered for sale "cheap" John Birkbeck & co. Atlantic sugar House 38 Hamilton Ave.

1886: Birkbeck, John Co. sugar refiners, 32 Hamilton ave, & India Wharf dock, city directory.

1886: Articles of incorporation filed for the Brooklyn Sugar House, capital stock $45,000, to manufacture and refine sugar, corner at Bridge and Marshall streets. Incorporates: John Birkbeck, S. Georgina Crabb, Albert Burker, Ann Eliza Birbeck, Cassine G Wilson.

1886: Sugar refining was seasonal work - the refineries closed in the summer. Many workers found employment in the "malt houses" which are busiest in the summer.

In February 1888 "Mr. John Birkbeck, the sugar refiner of Hamilton avenue and India Wharf" died and was buried from St. Ann's in Brooklyn Heights. He left a wife and six children. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

1889: March, Mr. John Birkbeck proposed to repair a building damaged by fire at India Wharf cost $500 (BE).

John Birkbeck was listed in an 1891 ad as John Birkbeck & Co., Atlantic sugar, 38 Hamilton Ave. The company extracted sugar from raw molasses. His son Alexander continued with the business for a number of years.

In a appeals trail of a suit of the New York Dock company against India Wharf Brewing in 1906 Hubert Worth of 59 Irving Place Brooklyn had been connected as a clerk and bookkeeper with the John Birkbeck company from "1877 to 1897". The business was "that of boiling molasses - extractors of sugar from raw molasses". The molasses was transported in brigs, barks, schooners, brigantines and lighters. When a vessel arrived the warfinger of the Atlantic Docks, George Martin, would provide a berth. The customs permit was presented. Then the stevedores took charge of the cargo and unloaded the barrels of molasses. The barrels were hoisted out of the vessel and rolled across the dock.

The Atlantic Sugar company was still in business in 1891 when a Brooklyn Eagle article explained a scheme for saving money on refining sugar. Molasses had been shipped in wooden "hogsheads" costing about $7 each. Once the molasses was removed the wooden barrel was junked. The new system would ship the molasses in "bulk" in "tank" steamers. To facilitate the process the John Birkbeck Sugar Co. erected a large iron tank forty feet in diameter and thirty feet high. It rested on 184 piles driven 20 feet into the ground. When filled with molasses it weighed 1,952 tons. On aspect that made the whole process cheaper was that the molasses would be pumped from the ship to the tank by a steam pump eliminating the need for longshoremen to move the hogsheads from the ship to the dock and into the processing plant. The molasses "season" lasted from March to July. In the sugar house the molasses was boiled down to sugar. (BE March 31, 1891)

In April 1891 a three masted schooner Senator Sullivan unloaded 138,500 gallons of molasses from twenty two tanks in her hull at India Wharf. A six horse power boiler on the deck pumped the molasses to the tank at India Wharf. (BE, April 21, 1891)

In 1892 machinary from the Atlantic Molasses House was sold to sugar companies in San Domingo and Macoris, Cuba. "The removal of the duty on sugar killed" the industry in the States. (BE, November 07, 1893)

1890: More than 2,000 sugar workers were idle in Brooklyn, mostly in Greenpoint. The men maged an average of from 5 to 10 dollars a week when the works were running full force. Most of the sugar workers in Greenpoint were Poles.

1891: Mr. John Beckel was the superintendent of the Atlantic Sugar Refinery.

In January 1893 the Atlantic Sugar House was dismantled and most of it moved to Cuba. The large molasses tank was sold as a storage tank to a tar roofing company "whose works were at the end of Court Street" and it was to be used as an "oil reservoir". Note: In 1886 Brooklyn Roofing Co. was located at the end of Court Street. (BE January 03, 1893)

Sugar Refinery Employees

Thomas H White - Atlantic Sugar Refinery

Baltimore, Md., Thomas Hurley White senior member of Thomas H. White & co. died May 31, 1902. He was born in 1838 in Baltimore to Ambrose White who had been the head of a large coffee importing business - White and Elder. In 1861 Thomas H White went to New York. From 1867 to 1872 he was head of the Atlantic Sugar Refinery in Brooklyn "whose failure some years later was the end of Baltimore's prominence in the sugar-refining business". Thomas H White returned to Baltimore in 1874 where he founded Thomas H White & co. (New York Times June 2, 1902)

Miquel De Aldama, Sugar Refinery

1839: Miquel Aldama, travler, Port of Arrival: London, England form Boulogne in Harlequin ??? Arrival Date: 3 Mar 1839 Country of Origin/Native of: Havana, Cuba

1872: Naturalization, May 20, De aldama, Miguel, vol 396, 31 47th st NYC occupation, merchant, formeer nationality, Spanish, Common Pleas NYC

1870: Aldama, Miquel, business, 50, $40,000, born Cuba, Ann 45, $16,000 Cuba

1876: Miguel Dealdama Residence Year: 1876 Street Address: 56 Hamilton av Residence Place: Brooklyn, New York Publication Title: Brooklyn, New York, City Directory, 1876

1877, 66 Hamilton

1880: Miquel Alsama 60 planter, born Cuba, widower, Delmonte, Leonardo, 48, son in law, corn merchant, Cuba, Rose, age 30, daughter, Cuba, Leonardo Jr 16 Flora 10, Deanna 7 Alfonse Gustaf nephew 19, born Cuba and four live in servants.

June 1883 Passport, Miquel de Aldama born Havana Cuba May 8, 1820, age 63, 5 ft 9 inches, light brown eyes, grayish hair, 35 Broadway, New York City


Miguel de Aldama, whose death took place at Havana, Cuba, Thursday, was well known to the Cubans resident in New-York, he having been engaged in the sugar business in this city for a number of years. One of his daughters married leonardo Delmonte of the firm of L. Delmonte & co.

He was born in Cuba in 1820 and his father was one of the richest men on the island. He was educated partly in the United States and Partly in Europe. He succeeded to the estates in Cuba upon the death of his father. He returned to Cuba in 1885.

March 18, 1888, New York Times

Miquel DE Aldama Burial Date: 29 Mar 1888 Burial Place: Kings, NY USA Greenwood

John Birkbeck (1827- 1888) - Sugar Refiner

1885: Passport application John Birkbeck born October 1, 1827, 5 ft 10 1/2 inches, blue eyes, iron gray hair, witness Herbert Worth (he was an employee of the company)

1886: Birkbeck, John Co. sugar refiners, 32 Hamilton ave, & India Wharf dock.

birth: Circa 1827

Marriage: Laura Rust born Vermont. Children: Emily c 1853, Eleanor c 1855 (may have later been called Georgina), Rosita 1859 (born Cuba)

Death of Laura Birkbeck: 1861 or 1862 per Greenwood burials

1874: Mrs. A. E. Wilson, 58, and Emily, 21, Georgina 19 and Rosita Birkbeck arrived from Europe on the Mosel from Bremen June 20, 1874.

Remarriage: Jane

Children: Alexander and Mary

1888: John Birkbeck, sugar refiner, home 15- W. 94th street died February 17, of heart disease. He had consulted doctors in Paris to no avail. He left a wife and six children.

John B Birkbeck Birth Date: 1 Oct 1827 Age at Death: 60 Death Date: 17 Feb 1888 Burial Place: Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, USA

BIRKBECK JOHN 1888-02-21 38071 1 +

1850: Ward 4, Sarah Birkbeck 53, $9,000, John Birkbeck 22, engineer, Laura Birkbeck 21 Georgianna Birkbeck 18 Thomas C Birkbeck 6 Edward C Birkbeck 4 Ann E Wilson 32 John B Wilson 14

1855 Census: Ward 4, frame, $5,000, John Birkbeck 28, engineer, Laura Birkbeck 27, Vermont, wife, Emily W Birkbeck 2, child, Elenor Birkbeck 1, child, Sarah Birkbeck 58, mother, *Ann E Wilson 35, daughter, *John Wilson 20, son, engineer, *Edward L Crabb 30, son in law, Cuba, *Sarah G Crabb 24, wife, *Thomas C Birkbeck 11, grandson, *Edward C B 9, grandson, Ellen Demsen 19, servant, Margaret Sulivan 19 servant *These must be in relationship to Sarah. Edward Crabb was in business with John Birkbeck.

1870: Philadelphia Ward 7 District 18, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania John Birkbeck 45, merchant, $25,000, $52,000, Jane Birkbeck 38, New York, Emily Birkbeck 17, New York, Georgina Birkbeck 15, New York, Roseta Birkbeck 11, Cuba, Alexander Birkbeck 2, Pennsylvania, Mary Birkbeck 7/12, Pennsylvania

1892: Flushing Queens, Rosita Birkbeck age 32 born West Inides with the family of her sister Georgina Moore. See 1900 census. Rosita was still alive in 1940 living in Ulster co..

1888: Steamship Eider, from Bremen/Southampton to New York, Jany 10, 1888, John Birkbeck, Mrs J. Birkbeck, Misses, Rosita, 28, Mary E, 20, (two initials I cannot read), 15, Alice, 15 Mabel, 12, Alexander W. age 17, tourist

1899: Jane M. Birkbeck Death Date: 28 Feb 1899 Burial Place: Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, USA. Greenwood. She was not buried in the same plot as John Birkbeck.

1891: Birkbeck, Alexander w, sec. Atlantic dock, h. Gt. Neck, L.I.

1900: Queens Ward 3, Queens, New York Edward J Moore 54, respiratory medicine, Georgiana Moore 45, Benjamin M Moore 16, son, Frank R Moore 16, son, Edward C Moore 13, son George B Moore 18, son Rosetta Birkbeck 42, sister in law, Cuba, immigrated 1885, Mary Smith 27, cook

BIRKBECK ALBERT F 1939-03-11 38071 1 +
BIRKBECK ALEXANDER 1868-12-26 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK ANN E 1916-01-10 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK ANNE E 1911-10-05 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK BESSIE 1867-08-23 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK ELEANOR C 1935-04-24 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK EMILY W 1874-09-08 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK FRANK 1858-03-07 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK GEORGE 1915-08-06 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK JOHN 1872-07-09 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK JOHN 1888-02-21 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK LAURA 1861-07-16 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK LAURA 1862-03-30 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK LEONORA 1898-11-01 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK LOUIS 1872-10-14 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK MARY 1943-04-03 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK SARAH 1850-10-11 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK SARAH JANE 1896-11-17 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK WILLIAM 1861-04-04 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK WILLIAM L 1916-02-05 3807 11 +
BIRKBECK, JR.GEORGE 1875-09-07 3807 11 +

BIRKBECK JANE M. 1899-02-28 30020 196 +

Hubert Worth

In 1909 Hubert Worth 59 Irving Place, Brooklyn testified in a trail between The Atlantic Dock Co and the India Wharf. He stated that he had worked for John Birkbick and Co for 40 years as a clerk and bookkeeper.

He was a witness to John Birkbeck's passport application in in 1885.


1880 Map, New York Public Library

India Wharf with The Atlantic Flour company, J. Birkbeck and Company sugar refinery and the abandoned Santa Rosa Sugar Refinery. The red indicates brick buildings. The yellow indicates a wood frame building. The "white" indicates open spaces including yards, streets, piers etc. The grey lines indicate water.

See India Wharf Brewing co. and/or Atlantic Flour

1886 Map, New York Public Library

India Wharf with The Atlantic Flour company, Sugar House and the abandoned Santa Rosa Sugar Refinery as a storehouse in 1886. The red indicates brick buildings. The yellow indicates a wood frame building. The "white" indicates open spaces including yards, streets, piers etc. The grey lines indicate water.

See India Wharf Brewing co. and/or Atlantic Flour

1906 Map, New York Public Library

India Wharf with Sonoma Wine and Brandy co. Atlantic Sugar Co. India Wharf Brewing company. The red indicates brick buildings. The yellow indicates a wood frame building. The "white" indicates open spaces including yards, streets, piers etc. The blue indicates water.

Sugar Workers

Sugur refining emitted intense heat.

If you have any suggestions, corrections, information, copies of documents, or photos that you would like to share with this page, please contact me at maggie@maggieblanck.com

Red Hook Liquor Stores, Bars, Saloons and Restaurants -
India Wharf Brewery -
Adams Lumber -
Atlantic Flour -
Red Hook

Liquor Stores Red Hood 1870 and later
Red Hood Industry mid to late 1800s
Life in Red Hood mid to late 1800s

A fabulous source of information from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (1841-1955) and Brooklyn NY Daily Star (1898-1933) and other New York newspapers is Tom Tryniski's Old Fulton Postcards

If you wish to use any of the images or information on this page please feel free to do so provided that you give proper acknowledgement to this web site and include the same acknowledgments that I have made to the provenience of the image or information. Thanks, Maggie

© Maggie Land Blanck - Page created January 2013 - a branch of a 2004 page - update January 2014