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History of Bush Terminal
Founded by Irving Bush in 1895, Bush Terminal took up the majority of the waterfront in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. Nestled between the water of Gowanus Bay to the west, 3rd Avenue to the east, 27th Street to the north and 50th Street to the south, the innovative shipping and manufacturing site sprawled across 200 acres of land. Crisscrossed with over 20 miles of railroad track, the terminal hosted 50,000 rail cars that moved cargo from 25 different shipping lines into the New York region from all over the globe. The terminal employed thousands and played an intricate role in the expansion of New York manufacturing, the development of working class Brooklyn and even supported American troops overseas through two world wars.
Today, the parade of steamships and trains are gone and the terminal has given way to smaller manufacturing, but remnants of the area’s industrial heritage are clearly present. Our space was constructed in 1914 and served as a storage facility for goods and materials coming into Bush Terminal until the 1970s when the area feel into decline. When the shipping business moved on to other areas in NYC and NJ, ownership of the building transferred to a wholesale coffee roasters.
As often happens, when large-scale industry and manufacturing leaves an area, innovative people looking for affordable creative space move in. This is how areas like Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Long Island City came to be what they are today. When searching for spaces to open our studio, we looked at dozens of spaces across all of these neighborhoods. There were some locations that felt promising, but we didn’t just want to be another shoot space in an area already full of creativity. We wanted to be pioneers and set up in a neighborhood where we could help establish a new creative community.
This is how we ended up in Sunset Park and choosing the space we did. With the creative gravity being generated by the redevelopment of Industry City and the presence of large anchor businesses — like the New York Nets and the Hospital for Special Surgery right across the street from us — Sunset Park felt like the right place to be.
Much of our renovation involved dealing with removing the remnants of the roasting process. Aluminum chutes cut between floors for moving raw beans to the roasters had to be cut out, ancient industrial electrical switches used to power equipment needed to be replaced, and thousands of spilled coffee beans needed to be cleaned out of every nook and cranny. In fact, we’re still finding beans to this day between the floorboards.
We’ve done our best to maintain the original warehouse feeling. We did as little cleaning up as possible and kept the original wood floors and brick walls. Our goal was to