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Brooklyn, New York

Brooklyn Clay Retort and Fire Bricks Works Storehouse

The factory that helped produce a dominant form of lighting before Thomas Edison. 

Historians believe that this factory produced the first clay retorts and fire bricks in the United States starting in 1859.

Clay retorts and fire bricks were essential in allowing gas to burn as a light source, a new innovation in the mid-1800s. Prior to gas, candles and oil lamps were the only artificial light sources. Thomas Edison’s initial experiments in incandescent lighting were still 20 years off. 

Fire bricks are used to line heat-intensive environments like kilns and furnaces. Clay retorts are airtight vessels used for burning goal to produce gas. The factory originally had three kilns, with chimneys rising from the south end of the building.

The factory produced fire clay products until the early 1930s. The next tenant was the American Molasses Company. After a vacancy in the mid-1980s, Red Hook developer Greg O’Connell bought and restored the building. Now it is home to the Carvart Glass Company which manufactures beautiful architectural glass products for posh Manhattan hotels, the Brooklyn Museum, and the New York Stock Exchange. Note the stained glass sign over the main entrance.