We are excited that our studio/workshop is located in an historic rope factory. As supporters of historic preservation and industrial retention in New York City, we are interested in the preservation and reuse of old factories and warehouses, especially for manufacturing purposes. For those interested, here is a brief overview of our building's history :
The H. Lawrence & Sons Rope Works/Columbia Products Factory is a complex of nine buildings located at 221 McKibbin Street in the East Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Constructed over the course of approximately 100 years, this complex of buildings reflects the industrial development of Brooklyn’s Eastern District, the northern portion of what is now the Borough of Brooklyn.
At each step along the way, 221 McKibbin Street has reflected and been shaped by the dominant local industry. When the oldest building on site was constructed in 1850 and extended in 1870, it housed a rope manufacturer, H. Lawrence & Sons Rope Works. This section of the building was the spinning house and was attached to the rope walk, a 1,200 ft. structure that extended down the block and over the street to the east of the building. Rope and cordage manufacture was a major industry in the Eastern District of Brooklyn through much of the 19th century and into the 20th century. As new technology developed in the 1870s and 1880s, rope manufacturers no longer needed very long structures to twist strands of spun hemp into rope, and the old ropewalks and spinning houses were abandoned. The spinning house of the H. Lawrence & Sons Rope Works is the last such structure known to survive in Brooklyn.
The H. Lawrence & Sons Rope Works complex has been in continuous use for industrial purposes. In the late 1870s, Lawrence & Sons ceased operations at McKibbin Street. From ca. 1880 to ca. 1898, the former Lawrence factory was occupied by the S. Trier & Son cardboard manufactory. By 1901, the spinning house and extension were occupied by the Manhattan Leather Company; at about the same time, the complex began to be expanded to the north with the first of a series of one-story additions. Manhattan Leather was succeeded by Laitman & Laitman, another leather goods concern in the 1910s. The Laitman family controlled the site from about 1918 until the mid-1960s, and added six new structures to expand the complex to its current configuration. The family used the site for both leather goods manufacture and later as the Columbia Products Corporation, for the manufacture of cosmetic accessories. From the 1880s through the 1950s, the factory complex also housed a series of subtenants, including glass manufacturers and knitwear manufacturers. Since the 1960s, Casa Stradivari, a company that manufactured furniture for the hospitality industry, operated at 221 McKibbin Street until they sold the building to GMDC in 2007.
(original source: GMDC)