Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sweet Home Brooklyn

A walk through Fort Greene awhile back took me past the former headquarters of Candy and Confectionery Workers Local 452, which served as the home of the Medgar Evers Head Start program until last summer, when the building went on the market. Exceedingly brief research didn't yield a date for the closure or move of the local, whose sign predates the merger of the AFL and CIO in 1955 (they've also got a great "union made" seal that looks a bit like the royal arms of the UK), but it was most likely a hopping place in the first half of the 20th century, when Brooklyn was a major manufacturer of candy.

The legacy of candy manufacturing and its infrastructure looms large in the neighborhoods that surround the old union hall. Nearby factories included Barton's Candy Company at 80 DeKalb and Peaks Mason Mints Factory at 20 Henry Street, both of which are currently slated for big-time residential developments. The Pirika Chocolate Company, still standing close by on Dean between Classon and Franklin (last photo above), was one of several confectioneries that opened in the wake of the prohibition amendment, under the assumption that sweets would function as a substitute good for booze. Some former breweries were retrofitted for candy production as well. And of course, candy-making in the borough was made possible in large part by the easy access to refined sugar provided by the famous Domino refinery--soon to be condos as well--and the lesser refineries that surrounded it.

I hope whoever buys the building preserves the signage. Maybe some enterprising young confectioner can open their own boutique in the space.


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