In 1879, Scottish-born businessman Robert Gair stumbled upon an invention that would transform packaging and consumer products forever: a fast, mechanized way to manufacture cardboard boxes. This invention would grow into an empire of paper mills, box factories, printing plants, and even marketing and advertising arm—a vertically-integrated packaging company, based in today’s DUMBO, Brooklyn. This virtual program will look at how, a century ago, this present-day corner of the “Brooklyn Tech Triangle” was also a center of innovation for packaged food and household products.
Concrete is the world’s most ubiquitous building material, and many important milestones of its development took place in Brooklyn. In this virtual program, we will examine concrete’s history, production, and chemistry, then discuss some of the landmark structures that drove the development of steel-reinforced concrete in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From Gowanus to DUMBO, Prospect Park to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, we will look at monumental buildings and small details designed by some renowned architects, including Cass Gilbert, Albert Kahn, and Calvert Vaux.
The neighborhood today known as DUMBO was once the center for the agricultural hamlet of Brooklyn, and grew into a center of commerce, shipping, and manufacturing. On this virtual walk, we will look at several eras of the neighborhood’s history reflected in its architecture. From the storage warehouses of the 1860s, to the reinforced concrete industrial buildings of the Gairville complex, to the last remaining tenement building in the neighborhood, we will also examine how these buildings have been repurposed to create one of the most expensive residential and office districts in all of New York City.