Save Brooklyn's Industrial Heritage
The Municipal Art Society of New York

DUMBO Industrial District


Landmark Status: On December 18, 2007, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the DUMBO Historic District. Congratulations to the DUMBO Neighborhood Association and the other groups who have been advocating for protection for many years. Click here to read the Municipal Art Society's testimony in support of the DUMBO Historic District.

What You Can Do: Write to the Landmarks Preservation Commission and thank them for designating DUMBO as a historic district.


The DUMBO Industrial District is unique to New York City for its nineteenth and early twentieth century industrial buildings, Belgian block streets, and its location on the East River by the imposing anchorage of the Manhattan Bridge. The name DUMBO, an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, was coined by the Brooklyn Loft Tenants in the late 1970s.

The DUMBO Industrial District is significant for its association with the rise of the city of Brooklyn as a major American industrial center and the related growth of some of the most important industrial firms in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including Arbuckle Brothers (coffee and sugar), J.W. Masury & Son (paint), Robert Gair (paper boxes), E.W. Bliss (machinery), and Brillo (steel wool).

The industrial buildings in the historic district were designed by various architects, ranging from little-known figures to designers of major local importance. The earlier buildings in the district are representative of the slow-burning construction popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These buildings have brick facades with massive wooden posts and beams. In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, terra-cotta floor arches and steel frames began to appear and, more significantly, factories of reinforced concrete were erected. These reinforced-concrete factories, erected by the Gair Company and by other firms, were among the earliest large-scale reinforced-concrete factory buildings in America.

The roughly one hundred buildings in the district retain a relatively high degree of period integrity, which is surprising considering the changing needs of the industrial users over more than one hundred years and the conversion of many buildings to non-industrial uses. Many of the buildings retain their industrial use, while others are now artist lofts and residences. The film industry has long used the dramatic industrial streetscapes and the mesmerizing views of the waterfront as a backdrop.

Photo Credits:
Left: Municipal Art Society
Right: courtesy archiveofindustry.com

National Register Status: The DUMBO Industrial District was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in September 2000.

Landmark Status: The Landmarks Preservation Commission conducted a public hearing on the proposed DUMBO Historic District on October 30, 2007.

Threat: The trendy neighborhood faces intense development pressures. In November 2006, a property owner began to demolish a 19th-century foundry built by Brooklyn Bridge builder E.W. Bliss to make way for new development. Furthermore, large new development and inappropriate alterations threaten to change the character of the neighborhood forever.

What you can do: Write to the Landmarks Preservation Commission and support the designation of the neighborhood as a historic district, using the same boundaries as the National Register. Join the DUMBO Neighborhood Association, who is working for the designation of DUMBO as a historic district, among other important issues.

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