In 1922, the New York Times announced that the Gowanus Canal was “one of the dirtiest, one of the shortest and one of the most important waterways in the world.” At the time, more than 26,000 barges and boats would chug up the 1.8 mile long waterway, dropping off precious cargoes of everything from coffee to coal amidst the pungent regular overflow of Brooklyn’s combined sewer system.
Untapped Cities is thrilled to produce a tour of the Secrets of the Gowanus Canal led by writer Joseph Alexiou, author of Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal, a source for our popular article on the canal’s historical secrets. On this tour, learn how real estate speculation and Gilded Age denizens transformed the once naturally-occurring creek and salt marsh into a stinking cesspool and toxic dump. Although the barges are long gone, the sewage remains—as does toxic waste and the architectural monuments to Brooklyn’s industrial heyday. The landscape of industrial buildings that remained are transforming the neighborhood into a creative hub, in turn encouraging a flurry of new development.
On this tour, you’ll see sites and landmarks like the Coignet Stone Company Building, one of the first moulded concrete buildings in the United States, the former Batcave/BRT Powerhouse, the National Box Packing Factory, the Green Building, the 4th Street Basin and more.
Gowanus: Broolyn’s Curious Canal was published in October 2015 by NYU Press. Alexious also worked as an associate editor at Time Out New York and Out Magazine, wrote the sixth edition of Paris for Dummies, and is a licensed New York CIty tourguide. His freelance work has appeared in the New York Observer, Gothamist, and New York Magazine’s Daily Intel.
Here are additional photos of sites on the tour: