Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 29, 2019
CONTACT: lpcpressoffice@lpc.nyc.gov, (212) 669-7938

LPC Designates Five Historic Buildings in Gowanus as Individual Landmarks
These five industrial buildings represent the area’s most prominent, architecturally distinctive and historically significant properties.
 

NEW YORK – Today, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) designated five historic buildings in Gowanus as individual landmarks: the Somers Brothers Tinware Factory (later American Can Company) at 238-246 3rd Street; the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT) Central Power Station Engine House at 153 2nd Street; the Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel Pumping Station and Gate House at 196 Butler Street; the Montauk Paint Manufacturing Company Building at 170 2nd Avenue, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Brooklyn Office, Shelter and Garage at 233 Butler Street.


LPC prioritized the designation of these buildings as part of the Administration’s multi-agency effort to plan for Gowanus’ future. The agency worked with the Department of City Planning, key stakeholders, and the community to inform the planning process and identify preservation opportunities in the neighborhood. These five buildings represent the area’s most prominent, architecturally distinctive and historically significant properties.


“I am thrilled the Commission voted to designate these five architecturally and historically significant buildings in Gowanus as individual landmarks,” said Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Sarah Carroll. “These buildings stand out in the neighborhood as tangible reminders of the rich history of the neighborhood and the Gowanus Canal. They are all inherently connected to the manufacturing industries and institutions that developed around the canal in the late-19th and early-20th century.”


These five properties recognize the unique development history of Gowanus, which became a hub of industry and commerce after the construction of the canal in the 19th century. Built between 1884 and 1913 for utilitarian purposes, for industry and manufacturing, these buildings are prominent within the neighborhood and have adapted over time in response to the changes in industrial activity and the neighborhood itself.

  • The Somers Brothers Tinware Factory (later American Can Company) at 238-246 3rd Street was built in 1884 for Somers Brothers, the first known tinware lithographers in the United States and the largest American decorated tinware firm at the time of construction. In 1901, Somers Brothers was absorbed by the American Can Company, which became the largest producer of tin cans in the world. This highly distinctive former factory complex remains remarkably intact to its time as a major manufacturing presence in Gowanus and remains one of Gowanus’ most-distinctive industrial buildings. It also led the neighborhood’s transition from industry to a lively mix of arts and manufacturing. Since the 1970s, the former Somers Brothers factory has housed artists’ studios. Today, Old American Can Factory is used by more than 300 artists, performers, designers, publishers, non-profit organizations. 

 

  • The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT) Central Power Station Engine House at 153 2nd Street was built in 1901-03 by the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company, which gained a near-monopoly over Brooklyn’s railroad and streetcar lines since its establishment in 1896. The new power station consolidated operations for Brooklyn’s various mass-transit lines on a single site, marking the company’s emergence as one of the country’s largest transit providers and representing an important step towards the creation of an integrated mass-transit system. It remained in operation, providing electric power to the Fourth Avenue subway, until 1972. The engine house remains largely intact and is a significant presence in the Gowanus neighborhood. In 2012, it was acquired by the Powerhouse Environmental Arts Foundation, which plans to reuse and rehabilitate the structure for conversion into an arts center and industrial workshop.

 

  • The Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel Pumping Station and Gate House at 196 Butler Street was completed in 1911 as part of a major infrastructure project intended to cleanse the polluted waters of the Gowanus Canal. At the time of the flushing tunnel’s opening it represented one of the most ambitious efforts ever attempted to clean a polluted American waterway. The Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel Pumping Station and Gate House continued to operate until the 1960s when the propeller mechanism broke. The tunnel was offline until 1999 when the the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reactivated it after a five-year-long renovation. Today, the Pumping Station remains in active use as part of the tunnel system, which pumps more than 250 million gallons of bay water into the Gowanus Canal each day. It has changed little since its construction and remains well-preserved.

 

  • The Montauk Paint Manufacturing Company Building at 170 2nd Avenue was built in 1908 for William Kelly, president of the Brooklyn Alcatraz Asphalt Company, whose factory and stables occupied the rest of the block. Its first tenant was the Montauk Paint Manufacturing Company, one of the most prominent manufacturers in the early 20th century. In the mid-20th century Norge Sailmakers moved in to manufacture yacht and sailboat sails as well as covers for pleasure crafts until 1952. Today, it is a handsome and highly intact former factory building that reflects the industrial history of the Gowanus neighborhood and stands out for its simple yet refined design.

 

  • The ASPCA Brooklyn Office, Shelter and Garage at 233 Butler Street was hailed as “the largest, most complete animal shelter in the world” when it opened in 1913. It was originally constructed as the Brooklyn dog and cat shelter of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In the early 1960s, the shelter was said to “handle more animals than any shelter in the country,” and thousands of Brooklynites adopted pets here before its closure in 1979. The elegant neo-Romanesque-style design of the Butler Street facade by the firm of Renwick, Aspinwall & Tucker is a testament to the organization’s civic and social importance. It is the finest surviving ASPCA building in New York City.

 “DEP invested more than $177 million to rehabilitate and upgrade the Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel and Pump Station in order to improve the health of the Canal while also ensuring that the facilities retain their historic character,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza.  “We deeply value the architectural integrity of these historic structures and thank the Landmarks Preservation Commission for their commitment to preserving and celebrating industrial architecture that inspires civic pride.”

“The buildings that the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate today are among the most striking examples of industrial development in Gowanus from a century ago,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “Landmarking these structures will help us to retain and enhance the arts and industry that have long shaped this neighborhood, one important element of our work together toward a more inclusive, sustainable, vibrant, and mixed-use future in Gowanus.”

“The Historic Districts Council is thrilled that the Landmarks Preservation Commission has taken this crucial first step to preserving the historic character of Gowanus,” said Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council.

“Landmarking these five properties will help to preserve some of the significant architectural and industrial structures in Gowanus,” said Brad Vogel, Co-Founder of the Gowanus Landmarking Coalition. “These buildings represent and illustrate the Gowanus corridor's authentic industrial past.”

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About the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC)
The Landmarks Preservation Commission is the mayoral agency responsible for protecting and preserving New York City’s architecturally, historically and culturally significant buildings and sites. Since its creation in 1965, LPC has granted landmark status to more than 37,000 buildings and sites, including 1,435 individual landmarks, 120 interior landmarks, 11 scenic landmarks, and 149 historic districts and extensions in all five boroughs. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/landmarks and connect with us via www.facebook.com/NYCLandmarks and www.twitter.com/nyclandmarks.