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Manufacturing Works, Red Hook, Brooklyn

In the mid to late 1800s Red Hook Brooklyn was the home to numerous factories or "works".

These included:

  • The iron works of Lidgerwood, Pioneer, Worthington, and others.

  • Chesebrough Vaseline works

  • The Brooklyn Clay Retort Company

Red Hook was an ideal location for the transportation of both raw and finished products. It also had the advantage of a sizable work force.

The buildings of these manufacturing complexes were constructed in whole or in part in the American Round Arch style.

American Round Arched Style

American Round Arch Architecture was also knowns as Romanesque Revival and Rundbogenstil. In addition to factories (or works) it was a popular design type for churches, houses, public buildings (such as the old Smithsonian building in Washington D. C.).

Fashionable in Germany, the Rundbogenstil was further developed in America with the influx of German immigrants from 1840 onward.

The style provided an inexpensive and practical form for industrial buildings. Frequently constructed of brick, which was both cost effective and fire resistant, the basilica format allowed for monitor roofs, skylights, and side windows to produce a building with an abundance of natural light and ventilation.

Features of the industrial architecture in the Round Arch style were: a large central doorway, an oculus, pilasters and corbeled brickwork near the roof line.

Other Parts of the Building

  1. Clerestory - A series of windows on the side of a monitor roof, they let in tons of light.

  2. Corbel - horizontal courses of brick each projecting out from the course below. Sometimes this brickwork was quite elaborate.

  3. Monitor - a type of roof raised for light and ventilation

  4. Pilaster- a small vertical projection on the outside of the wall to increase the strength of the wall.

Work Site

The work site was composed of different elements where various parts of the production operation were carried out.

  1. The blacksmith shop was a place where iron was heated and then beaten into shape. The blacksmith shop can be identified by the number of small chimneys in the roof.

  2. Boiler House - Engine house - Boiler Room - Power House - was usually a free standing structure which contained steam boilers used to generate power. There was a constant dager of steam boiler explosion. The boilers were fueled by coal. Later gas powere was used and later still electric power.

  3. Erecting Shop was uses for the final assembly of large products. Erecting shops for heavy industry were large open spaces sometimes as high as a two or three story building. Cranes were used to move move and assemble large pieces.

  4. Boiler shops were erecting shops were larger boilers were riveted.

  5. Foundry was frequently a free standing building near a yard where supplies were kept. In the foundry pig iron was heated and molten liquid was poured into molds. The foundry was also noted for its chimneys. It had a reputation for being very hot, smokey and dusty - real dirty work.

  6. Machine shop was were machines were used to refine parts of a product. The machine shop was located near a powere source from which the machines were driven by belts.

  7. Production shed - a tall one story building with travelling cranes and hoists.


Wood and metal patterns (or templates) were made for all parts of machinery to be constructed. After construction wood patterns are cast into metal. The metal patterns are refined and then became the working patterns. They serve as casing molds. An impression of the pattern is made in a special sand which is held in a wooden divice called a flask. The molten metal is poured into the impression. You can see how this is done on YouTube Metal Casting at Home (about a 10 minutes video but a much longer, in fact, process)

The fabrication and storage of the patterns was an important part of the business. Wooden patterns needed to be stored in fireproof rooms which were frequently behind large heavy iron door and iron shuttered windows.


Administrative and sales offices for Brooklyn manufacturers were frequently located in lower Manhattan.

Employee Welfare

Toiling in an iron works was hot dirty labor. Employers made an effort to provide good ventilation and light. They provided their workers with toilets, washing rooms and changing rooms.


Letterhead and other images of 19th century factories frequently show large amounts of smoke spewing from multiple chimneys. In the days before concerns about air pollution this was a way of indicating how busy and successful the factory was.


Fire and explosions were constant threats.

La Forge by FERDINAND CORMON, 1893

Burmeister og Wain Iron Foundry, (1885) Peder Severin Kroyer (1851 - 1909) wikimedia

Machine Shop
Machine shop training for returned servicemen, 1919, National Archives of Australia

Engine Works machine shop interior circa 1894 wikimedia

Dry Docks Engine Works circa 1915 wikimedia

Erecting Shop - Eastern Car Co. Ltd. - Erecting Shop Waldren Studios - Dalhousie University Library

THE WORKS THE INDUSTRIAL ARCHITECTURE OF THE UNITED STATES by Betsey Hunter Bradley, 1999 is a comprehensive look at industrial architecture in the United States.

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

Liquor Stores Red Hood mid to late 1800s
Red Hood Industry mid to late 1800s
Pioneer Iron Works
Worthington Pump works
Clay Retort
Life in Red Hood mid to late 1800s

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© Maggie Land Blanck - Page created November 2013 from a previous page.