5. The National Packing Box Company, 543 Union Street, ca. 1910

The National Packing Box Factory Building
Picture courtesy of The Gowanus Landmarking Coalition

The Gowanus area became a center for industrial construction and activity thanks in large part to the Gowanus Canal. Previously a creek, this canal was created in the 1860s and quickly made Gowanus an important cargo transportation hub. The surge in the canal’s use ran parallel with the predominance of waterborne shipping.

James A. Dykeman chose to buy lots on Union Street for his box factory because, among other things, the lots backed onto the canal, making it easy and cheap to receive shipments of materials, as well as to ship products. The National Packing Box plant grew from a single building to a five-building complex. and 543 Union Street is still used today to house an array of small businesses and art studios, such as Footnnote, Footnote is an interdisciplinary project that uses art to shed light on forgotten histories and their effect on memory and place. You may be familiar with the interior of this building as the former location of Proteus Gowanus and the original location of the Morbid Anatomy Library.