US Navy Fleet Supply Base: From Bunkers to BrightFarms

By April 9, 2012blog
1918 - US Navy Fleet Supply - South Brooklyn

The recent announcement of a Huge Hydroponic Farm to be constructed by BrightFarms on the roof of the old Storehouse #2 of the US Navy Fleet Supply Base represents a fascinating evolution for this nearly 100 year old building.

Part of a three building complex that was built in a blistering 7 1/2 months by Turner Construction, the supply base was part of the massive complex of South Brooklyn buildings and piers (including the Brooklyn Army Terminal) that sprung up around Bush Terminal in the 24 months after Wilson’s declaration of war on Germany in April of 1917.

And of the many military warehouses built in South Brooklyn from 1900 – 1940, these alone announce their War Building status in the form of observation bunkers on the roof. It is stunning to consider how much Brooklyn, let alone the nature of war, has changed in the century since their creation, but heartening that this old sword is finally being beaten to a (hydroponic) plowshare.

US Navy Fleet Supply Base South facade of Storehouse #2 being rehabilitated as a center for light manufacturing called Liberty View Industrial PlazaSouth facade of Storehouse #2 being rehabilitated as a center for light manufacturing called Liberty View Industrial Plaza (click image to enlarge)

1918 - US Navy Fleet Supply - South BrooklynThe complex as it appeared, all 2,300,000 square feet of it, shortly after completion in early 1919 – a couple of months too late for WWI. It would serve as a clothing depot in the interwar years, realize its potential in WWII, then fall into disuse as the shipping industry left Brooklyn.

US Navy Fleet Supply Section thru the complex looking west (from an original by Turner Construction)Section thru the complex looking west (from an original by Turner Construction) indicating the incredible weight-bearing capacity of the floors, 200 – 300 lbs per square foot. 

US Navy Fleet Supply future rooftop farm siteThe site of the future farm, looking north to downtown Brooklyn, with the orange panels of an addition to Storehouse #1 – now a federal detention facility – visible. Note the small structure with slit windows to the close left…

US Navy Fleet Supply rooftop observation bunkersThe rooftop has a network of these menacing observation bunkers, designed to at least look like they could withstand incoming shells. Likely an artifact of the Sedition Act of May 1918, they surveyed the roof for the disloyal – whether manned or not, saboteurs could never be certain – an example of architecture serving as security camera. It would be terrific to see these unique structures reused to monitor plants in the new farm.

US Navy Fleet Supply Looking south to the water tanks of the former Bush Model Factory complexLooking south to the water tanks of the former Bush Model Factory complex
(now known as Industry City)

US Navy Fleet Supply interior at top floor prior to restoratioInterior at top floor prior to restoration.

US Navy Fleet Supply interior at lower levelInterior at lower floor – note larger diameter of column.

US Navy Fleet Supply view west past the Erie Basin, where the canal boats used to over-winter in a makeshift community of thousands, to the Statue of Liberty beyond
The view west past the Erie Basin, where the canal boats used to over-winter in a makeshift community of thousands, to the Statue of Liberty beyond (click image to enlarge)