The Dream of Industry: Bush Terminal

By November 17, 2010blog
Bush Terminal working waterfront, 1914

The recent issuance of EDC’s Bush Terminal Ground-Up Development RFP recalled research we’d done earlier this year for another site at this former industrial marvel.

Bush Terminal Site Plan from 1916Site Plan from 1916.

Completed in 1913 and consisting of over 200 acres of “model factories”, warehouses, and double-decker piers, it was at the time the largest single warehousing facility in the world and offered a turn-key shipping arrangement for tenants: if you set up an enterprise in one of Bush’s model factories, they would handle loading and unloading of rail cars as part of the rental agreement.

Bush Terminal working waterfront, 1914The working waterfront, 1914.

This facility, in connection with the former Navy Supply Depot to the north and the Brooklyn Army Terminal to the south, made South Brooklyn/Sunset Park an oceanic & rail shipping port with few peers until the era of containerization and the interstate highway system made its transport systems mostly obsolete.

Bush Terminal Rail yard looking north, 1914Rail yard looking north, 1914.

Despite the loss of all of its piers, much of the original landside infrastructure remains and is still being used, at relatively high occupancy rates, for manufacturing & warehousing. It is a remarkable testament to the flexibility (and durability) of these 100 year-old buildings that they can still support these uses, and there are lessons here (for better and worse) for those of us who may be tasked with their refurbishment and replacement.

Bush Terminal rail yard

Bush Terminal rail yard now, photo by David GriderThough the rails are gone, and the ships of the sea are no longer ‘longside, these yards are still used to load & unload vehicles, and though not obvious there are goods in storage and small manufacturing outfits behind the windows.