Sunday, February 2, 2014

Greenpoint's Pencil Factory

Historic District Map
Pencil Factory Historic District
The Eberhard Faber Pencil Company owned nine buildings in Greenpoint between West Street and Franklin Avenue, comprising what is now the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company Historic District. Some of the buildings were existing structures purchased by Eberhard Faber while others were built to expand the companies manufacturing capacity. The district's nine buildings were constructed at different times and represent various architectural styles including Italianate, German Renaissance Revival, German Romanesque Revival, Neo-Grec and Art Deco.[1] Many of the pencil factory buildings can be identified by the star insignia located on the building's window lintels and parapets.

Founded in Stein Germany in the 1700s, the company began manufacturing pencils on 42nd Street in Manhattan before relocating their US operations to Greenpoint in 1872 when their Manhattan factory was destroyed by fire.[1][2] The Eberhard Faber Pencil Company produced one of the "best known brands" of the ubiquitous #2 pencil and was the first to mass produce lead based pencils in the United States.[2] The pencil company was responsible for many innovations in pencil manufacturing and marketing including the production of pencils with colored tips, merchandising pencils in sets and manufacturing pencils with bright colored polishes to the wood encasements.[1] As one of the largest pencil manufacturers in the world, the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company employed hundreds of workers and had factories in the U.S., Canada, Germany and Argentina.[1]

The Eberhard Faber Pencil Company stopped manufacturing pencils at its Brooklyn location in 1956 when it moved its U.S. Operations to Pennsylvania. Today the Pencil Factory buildings have been repurposed to suit the neighborhood's changing demographics. The buildings are now being used as apartments, commercial space, and artist studios.

first pencil factory building in Greenpoint
Pencil Factory - 100 to 106 West Street
Built in the mid 1860s by Francis Gove and purchased by Faber in 1872, this red brick structure (pictured above) was the first of the Greenpoint Pencil Factory buildings. The building was designed in Italianate style but was altered in the 1880s with German Renaissance features including a corbelled parapet and gable. The alterations also included the addition of a fourth story on the south wing, designed by architect Philemon Tillion, around 1901.[1] 

Pencil Factory - 98 West Street

Located at 98 West Street, the second building purchased by the pencil company was adjacent to the first. Constructed circa 1870 in Italianate style with German Renaissance additions, this building was likely originally built for pottery maker Faience Manufacturing Company. Like the first pencil factory building, 98 West received additions designed by local architect Philemon Tillion who took the opportunity to unify the the neighboring structures by extending the corbelled parapet, creating a cornice that spans the buildings.[1]

Pencil Factory office building
Pencil Factory Offices - 37 Greenpoint Ave
Another building purchased by the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company was the red brick Neo-Grec style building at 37 Greenpoint Avenue that was constructed in 1881. The building was constructed by S.A. Valentine to be a store and tenement but was instead occupied by the Fience Manufacturing Company. By the end of the 1880s the building was purchased by Faber to be used as office space for his company.[1]

Former Pencil Factory Stable and Loft
Pencil Factory - Stable & Loft
Built sometime between 1886 to 1904, the brick structure at 76 Kent Street likely served as a stable and loft. It is unknown as to whether the structure was purchased or built by Faber; however the building features German Renaissance Revival style elements typical of some of the companies' other buildings. The structure was repurposed for residential use in 1980.[1]

three two story buildings in one facade from fifty eight to seventy Kent Street
Pencil Factory - 58 to 70 Kent Street
Three buildings existed in this aggregate of facades including one (originally 60-64 Kent Street) designed in the German Renaissance Revival style by Brooklyn architect Theobald Engelhardt circa 1895. The other two buildings were designed in the German Romanesque Revival style and the Italianate style.[1] The facades of the two story buildings are all that remains of the original structure; behind the facades is new construction. The rehabilitation of these Pencil Factory building facades was recently completed with new corten steel liners being installed in the doors and windows. While not an original component of the structure, the oxidized corten steel is a respectful nod to the building's industrial past. The building is now Kickstarter's corporate headquarters. 

Pencil Factory - 72 to 74 Kent Street
Another German Renaissance Revival style structure, this building (above) was constructed circa 1904-1908.[1] While the first story has been altered, the second story remains mostly intact. 

59 Kent Street Pencil Factory Building
59 to 63 Kent Street
Designed by architect F. Nelson, the building at 59-63 Kent Street was constructed around 1910-1911. Unified in appearance to the other buildings in the complex, the factory continues the use of German Renaissance Revival style detailing and has the star in diamond motif of the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company. The building was once linked by sky bridge to the Pencil Factory building across the street at 58 Kent street.[1]

Art Deco Building
Pencil Factory Art Deco Building

Terracotta Pencil Building Ornaments
Terracotta Pencils

Sweet Toof Street Art on Pencil Factory Building
Sweet Toof

The six story Art Deco building embellished with terracotta pencils is the most prominent of the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company structures. Designed by architect Frederick H. Klie and built in 1924, it was the last building in Greenpoint to be erected by the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company.[1] The building was paid a visit by British Street artist Sweet Toof in 2010 and many of his teef can still be seen near the roof and on the cistern. The building now serves as studio space for artists, illustrators and designers.[3] 

  1. New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Eberhard Faber Pencil Company Historic District Designation Report. New York, 2007
  2. Dunlap, David "Pencil in Landmark Status for a Brooklyn Factory" New York Times Online. 23 July 2007.
  3. Walker, Rob "The Pencil Factory, an Oral History" 15 January 2013.

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