June 8, 2004
The Hecla Iron Works Building, constructed in 1896-97, is located on North 11th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Four stories tall, the front and rear elevations are faced with cast-iron panels enriched by simple classical details. While most iron fronts incorporate rows of weight-bearing columns, this facade is only a few inches thick, suggestive of skin rather than structure. In combination with metal frame windows, which are all original to the building, it anticipates the decline of masonry fronts and the rise of the modern curtain wall.
Niels Poulson, who co-founded the company with Charles Eger in 1876, is likely to have supervised the building’s design and construction. During the 1880s, Hecla pioneered various technologies, most notably the Bower-Barff process which was used to treat the iron. In contrast to most cast-iron facades, which were painted to resemble stone and prevent corrosion, the panels were exposed to super-heated steam that converts rust to magnetite, creating an unusual black, velvety, surface that is unaffected by moisture.
*Excerpt from the Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report
STATUS Designated Individual Landmark
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