A vestige from the golden age of grain shipping, the Red Hook Grain Elevator is a monster of an anachronism on the Brooklyn waterfront.
Alone at the mouth of the Gowanus Canal, its industrial brethren (the Todd Shipyard and Revere Sugar Refinery) having been demolished, this century-old relic is quite useless in this modern era, but then it was never really useful, even in its own time.
12 stories high and 430 feet long, containing 54 cement silos, each 120 feet tall and with walls eight inches thick, this grain terminal is not only monstrously larger than most, but was also opened seven years after the last grain terminal in Brooklyn was converted into a storage warehouse, leading it to be dubbed the “Magnificent Mistake”. Built in 1922, the space is essentially a bomb shelter, the silos having been made fireproof in order to hold the combustible grain.
In 1944, after 22 years of profitless operation, the state deeded the elevator to the Port Authority. By 1965, even the Port Authority gave up on the hulk, and it was officially deactivated. In 1997, John Quadrozzi Jr., a longtime Gowanus enthusiast, bought the building.
But alas, unless a market appears for large, windowless silos, the Red Hook Grain Elevator looks like it is condemned to continue its unloved life until it crumbles into the Gowanus.
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