Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Dean Street Industrial Corridor

The stretch of old warehouses and lots walled with corrugated iron can make Dean Street between Grand and Franklin feel a bit like the wrong side of the tracks in a Springsteen song, especially late at night in November. It's not likely to end up a landmark district anytime soon, but a few trips down the street during early morning hours have given me a newfound admiration for it.

The warehouses are fascinating repositories of history. Some, like the one above, did time as factories before being converted to storage space, some of which has since become lofts and studios and some of which has been taken over by Chinese merchants. The Pirika Chocolate Company bought their lot on Dean Street in 1919 and erected this building for $125,000 (the same sum that brought Babe Ruth to the Yankees in the same year). The factory was part of a $4 million dollar boom in candy operations that the NY Times reported as a response to the newly-passed prohibition amendment (the folks at Pirika, and several other NYC candy makers, apparently thought that candy was a substitute good for booze). The building was designed and built by local architect Theobald M. Engelhardt. No word on when the factory stopped producing chocolate.

Meanwhile, the sinister-looking red metal gates across the street from Pirika open in the mornings to reveal these fabulous symbols of the benign: rows and rows of school buses, operated for the city by the Superior School Bus company. Somehow, I think that will comfort me the next time I'm dragging along Dean Street humming "My Hometown" and worrying about the rattling sounds behind me.

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