The Port of New York Grain Terminal, the “Magnificent Mistake” in Red Hook, Brooklyn, has been shut since 1965 and is slowly crumbling into the Gowanus Canal. The ruins are now privately owned, apparently used only as a photo/movie backdrop.
The silos were built by the State of New York in 1922 in an attempt to revive Erie Canal traffic: Midwest grain could travel by barge through the Great Lakes, Erie Canal and Hudson River to this terminal, for onward shipment and/or local consumption. Unfortunately, New York’s labor costs drove the traffic to other ports.
Meanwhile, the site has become a challenge course for graffiti artists and photographers: The building is guarded on the north and west by a 12-foot concrete wall and chain link fence; on the east and south by the Gowanus Canal. I got my closeups by accident: The guard apparently went to get his lunch, leaving the gate wide open, when I wandered by. I spent a half hour shooting the grounds unchallenged. When I left, the guard had returned – and was furious. I suspect that the only reason I didn’t get in trouble is that he’d have more explaining to do than I would.
Port of New York Grain Terminal Vital Statistics
- Location: Columbia Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn
- Year completed: 1922
- Architect: ?
- Style: Brutalist
Port of New York Grain Terminal Recommended Reading
- The New York Times Streetscapes: The Columbia Street Grain Elevator; Recycling Red Hook’s 1922 Magnificent Mistake May 13, 1990
- Museum of the City of New York archive photo
- Curbed New York article
- Abandoned NYC blog
- Atlas Obscura blog
- Trespassers blog