Reader Emails About The Little Abandoned Terra-Cotta Building!

I was thrilled that so many of you love the little building under the 59th Street bridge as much as I do. I received a bunch of emails about the old Terra-Cotta Works, including one from someone whose great great grandfather worked there from around 1910 to 1920 and took of the building when it was in operation – perhaps you car aficionados can identify the approximate year by the cars pictured?


Compare it to today, and it’s simply amazing how well it has weathered the years:


He also included a copy of the company’s letterhead from 1911…


…which includes a great etching of the property.


Horse-and-buggys pass by as a trolly drives down Vernon Boulevard…


Behind it, the actual factory building – note the four kilns in front:


I also received a note that an old photograph of the Terra-Cotta Works’s complex was up on the Greater Astoria Historical Society’s Smugmug site. The obvious difference  is in the electrical lines spanning the block – but even more impressive is the 59th Street Bridge slowly crawling toward Queens in the background.


Finally, a lot of you were hoping I’d figure out a way to get some interior pictures. As I was looking into it, I received this letter from someone who has been inside recently:

“It was totally gutted inside. Floors and walls all gone. There was one small alcove of original work left: a 2nd floor fireplace, right under the triple chimneys. Completely covered with about 45 layers of paint. Ugh. We brought cameras in, thinking to get some great shots, but got bupkiss.”

Very much looking forward to seeing 401 Vernon come back to life in the near future.


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  1. I can’t say for sure, but the car on the right looks kinda like a 1928/29 Ford Model A. The upright windscreen and long cowl in front look right for one at least, though the grille doesn’t look quite the same.

  2. I love the letterhead and pictures! These are great.

  3. luckily its a designated NYC Landmark..designed by Francis H. Kimball in 1892. same architect as my fave Montauk Club (which no longer has the lovely ancient bowling alley in the basement)
    any word on work happening finally?

  4. I would guess that the engraving was based on that photo. The angle and field of vision is identical.

    • Good catch! I wonder where the picture was taken from? The vantage point is above the power lines and appears to be at the same elevation as the fourth floor of the factory’s windows.

  5. Did you notice that it also appears that at one time or another the chimneys’ on the roofline of the little Terra Cotta were hacked down? Seeing the original factory and kilns creates a clearer picture of what this complex must have been like. I love old factory buildings & warehouses; I get goosebumps whenever I find myself in Sunset Park!

  6. The front car is a 1938 Plymouth and looking pretty new.

  7. So glad it is a designated landmark. The Dutch influence in the architecture is interesting – at least I assume it is Dutch.

  8. I love the building; if I had the money…and lived in NY I would love to make it my home. Great site.

    Happy Christmas

  9. But does anyone know what Silvercup will be using the building for? Office? Open to the public???

  10. I was by the building yesterday and they just put up scaffolding…looks like work will start on this great building soon. I hope they do a good job.

    In the etching, it looks like there is a round building in the background of the Terra Cotta building. Is that the round building that still stands in the park nearby? If so, what is that building now…I always though it was just an odd parks building but this makes me more interested.

  11. Did that building make a cameo appearance in “Queens Logic?”

  12. The car in front is a1938 Plymouth.

  13. Any update on this place?