History buffs, architecture fans, and chocolate lovers may want to check out the Brooklyn Army Terminal – now opening to the public for the first time. Brooklyn reporter Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
New Yorkers now get to see what's behind the gates at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. A new tour takes visitors inside the 95-year-old industrial complex, which up until now has been only accessible to workers.
The tour reveals the history of the complex, including what may be the most famous face to stop there: Elvis Presley, who shipped out of the waterfront site.
"In 1958, he came through here on his way to his station in Germany after being drafted into the United States Army," explains Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours.
The terminal was built in 1918 to store military supplies and ship them to American troops fighting in Europe during the First World War. But it's had many uses over the years.
"During the Prohibition era in the 1920s this was used as warehouse to store seized alcohol by the federal government," Gustafson says. "So there were millions and millions of bottles of alcohol that were stored in here and then taken down to the piers at the Brooklyn Army Terminal to be smashed and poured into New York harbor."
Tours of the facility are given twice a month, and take visitors to an atrium in one of the main buildings that's lined with diagonal concrete balconies. Their design allowed a crane to pick up and drop off items from the train system below.
The city now runs the facility and leases space to businesses like Uncommon Goods, an online company that creates and sells out-of-the-ordinary products.
"This is actually a shot glass made out of salt – Himalayan salt," says Uncommon Goods co-founder David Bolotsky, displaying a small glass.
Uncommon Goods moved from Manhattan to the Brooklyn Terminal in 2007 to expand.
"We wanted to stay in New York City and find a location where we could operate a warehouse, customer service, and the rest of our organization," Bolotsky says.
And Jacques Torres is building a chocolate factory in the facility, where there will be tours, but no sales.
"We will go around and visit the chocolate factory – the real Willy Wonka," says Torres. "That's what we want to do here."
Torres says his factory will be ready in November.
In the meantime, the next public tour of the Brooklyn Army Terminal takes place on Sunday, October 20.