Standing outside the Brooklyn Army Terminal’s “Building B,” you might assume it to be just another of the many warehouses scattered throughout the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.
But Building B has a secret…
Built in 1918 as a military depot and supply base, the Brooklyn Army Terminal complex is in pristine condition, with a ton of unique locations. But for some reason, in all my scouting trips there, I’d never been inside Building B.
Then, a few months ago, I was working on a job with a scout who showed me pictures of the interior…and I quickly made an appointment to take a tour.
Because Building B isn’t just another warehouse…
It’s one of the most amazing buildings in all of Brooklyn:
This is Brooklyn’s skylight atrium train station. Measuring 980 ft x 360 ft, with 52 acres of floor space, it was the largest individual building in the world when it was completed in 1919. You can see the two tracks on either side – and yes, that’s a train on the right.
More incredibly, very little has changed since its heyday. Below, a picture from November 1947, as seen in Life:
The glass is now gone from the skylight, but the framing remains, creating a fascinating open-air courtyard:
The Brooklyn Army Terminal was designed by Cass Gilbert in 1918. Unlike his work on such properties as the Woolworth Building and the US Supreme Court, the BAT has a utilitarian design, for which it has been highly praised. The five million square-foot complex was finished in just 17 months.
The Brooklyn Army Terminal was active from 1918 through 1981, and at its peak during World War II, employed more than 56,000 workers.
Over 3 million troops passed through its gates over the years, including one Elvis Aron Presley. Arriving at the BAT on September 22, 1958, Presley signed autographs for fans and held a press conference, in which he assured the NY Times that, should rock’n’roll die out during his absence, he planned to take up acting. He then boarded a boat for Germany.
Though the rail aspect of the facility is no longer in use, the tracks remain. I love the moss, a nice living complement to an otherwise industrial building:
On the adjacent tracks are a pair of old train cars, a great addition which really take you back to another era.
According to one website, these are LIRR P72’s, said to have coincidentally once been used in an Elvis movie.
One of the most fascinating design elements of Building B are the many loading docks extending from its eight stories, arranged in diagonal intervals:
During its lifespan, over 37 million tons of military supplies passed through the Brooklyn Army Terminal, much of which was unloaded here:
This photograph, taken in 1948 for Life Magazine, captures the unloading the process during World War II. A crane suspended at the ceiling, which could travel the length of the building, would raise and lower freight to the various loading docks:
The crane remains in place today…
…though its days of hauling cargo are finally over.
A peek at one of the unloading docks:
The ground floor is lined with traditional loading docks…
…and I noticed some wall lettering, apparently dividing them up by region:
Below, Portugal and the Azores:
Africa, and “odd countries” that did not fit classification:
In 1981, the city purchased the Brooklyn Army Terminal and has since transformed it into a flourishing office and light manufacturing center. It has also been featured in dozens of movies, TV shows, and print ads. The site is very film friendly, and is without question one of the most unique spaces in New York City.
I don’t think pictures can really convey the sheer size of Building B; this thing is a cathedral, and it’s nice to see it still bustling with activity nearly 100 years after it was built.
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