The Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory

Address: 58 Kent Street, Brooklyn, New York
Year Built: 1895-1904
Project Status: Complete

In 1872, after a fire at his Manhattan factory, German-born Eberhard Faber moved his pencil manufacturing factory to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Faber purchased the original structure at 100-106 West Street from iron-merchant Francis N. Grove, an 1860s Italianate-style factory building with German Renaissance-Revival additions designed by Philemon Tillion.

The Engelhardt Addition to the Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory was constructed in stages from ca.1895-1904 and today is part of the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Eberhard Faber Pencil Company Historic District. The structure consists of the unified free-standing façades of three buildings constructed as the company expanded. The western-most section stands on the land that was part of the Grove factory building. In 1895, Faber commissioned Theobald Engelhardt, a well-known Brooklyn architect, to design and build the central section of the structure in the German Renaissance-Revival style, including brick dentil courses and corbelling, bluestone watertables, cast-iron lintels and radiating brick lintels. Lastly, the eastern-most section was constructed from 1898-1904 in the German Romanesque-Revival style, including projecting brick header arches at windows, iron shutters, cast-iron door lintels, and an iron bridge linking it across the street to 59 Kent Street. However, during the mid-1980s the building’s upper stories and interiors were entirely demolished, leaving only the street and rear façades.

Each distinct façade segment was built with different brick and mortar types, and architectural detailing. Additionally, the building had undergone decades of wear, successive modifications and repairs, and a palimpsest of graffiti that gave it a unique character. Due to the district’s rich history, characterized by continuous expansion and addition, it was important to the project team that the chronological nature of the building’s development be preserved at a very detailed level. The intent was for every aspect to be conserved, from the historic brick and mortar types to the contemporary graffiti, anachronistic masonry repairs and severely spalled facebrick from the passage of time.

The rehabilitation and redevelopment of the Engelhardt Addition as a major internet company’s headquarters has been hailed by local media as a catalyst for Greenpoint to be included alongside nearby established tech-industry centers such as DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn. As newer and more innovative companies continue to migrate to the neighborhood, it is critical that stewards of historic restoration and rehabilitation are recognized for their attention to historic accuracy so that future developments are encouraged to follow their lead. This method of rethinking restoration as the preservation of a building’s evolution through time, instead of an exact reconstruction of the past, can be a vital tool in the continued redevelopment of historic neighborhoods.

The project has been recognized by the New York Landmarks Conservancy with the Lucy Moses Preservation Award for outstanding preservation work in New York City in 2013, and The Municipal Art Society Award for Best Restoration 2014.