This past weekend I got the chance to go inside the monolithic Brooklyn Army Terminal in the Sunset Park industrial area. It was open as part of chashama’s open studios for GO Brooklyn (you can read about my experience with that on Hyperallergic), and although I had never been inside before, I had definitely read about it and seen beautiful photos of the space online. I also had researched its history as part of a piece on the South Brooklyn industrial waterfront for Brooklyn Based.
While it now has artist studios and offices in its complex, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, completed in 1919, is one of many warehouse areas that were built up during the two world wars of the 20th century. It was decommissioned in 1960 and the area has quieted down a lot, but there are still reminders of the past. Walking into the interior atrium of the Brooklyn Army Terminal’s Building B is transporting, taking you suddenly into a past when supplies for across the oceans would have been loaded by a massive crane onto trains on the two tracks below, then transported out to waiting ships that departed the harbor.
Here you can see the old crane. The squares on the sides are the old loading docks jutting out from each floor. It reminds me of some sort of futuristic movie I can’t quite place… anyone? Or maybe just a Corbusier dream?
Here’s another angle up at the loading docks. You can see that the windows can open up on each floor, and the atrium above has actually long lost its glass and is open to the air. Although it wasn’t part of the original design, the walkway in the center between the tracks is covered now to protect from the elements.
I would love to come back during different seasons, or during a storm. It’s hard to see just how large the building is in these photos, but it’s sort of like a cathedral of industry. During World War II, the Brooklyn Army Terminal shipped out around 85% of the supplies and troops and personnel, meaning that some 38 million tons of equipment, and an astounding 3 million people left from the Brooklyn Army Terminal complex, which has 11 buildings including Building B.
Along the overgrown old tracks in the atrium are signs left over from when it was a military shipping center. You can see “Korea” scrawled above.
Here’s Portugal and Azores. The supplies would be been lined up at each sign for each place.
Here is Africa and the “odd countries.”
And the Balkans.
Inside the floors is a little less time travel-y, but still good for some stark industrial photos.
I’ll end with some exterior views of the complex and the pier that goes out into the New York Harbor:
The Brooklyn Army Terminal is open whenever chashama is doing open studios, so stop by sometime! The artists are wonderful and the atrium is something everyone should see if they have the chance.