19 June 2008

Remembering Hamberger


As the clock ticks down on the life of the Hamberger Christmas display factory on Warren and Hicks Street, I thought—before it's converted into rubble to make room for more condos—it would be a good idea to take a moment and contemplate what will be lost. Helping me in this is a good friend who lives near the building and, due to her attachment to the old factory, has sleuthed out various facts about the address' long history.

Most of us know the red-brick edifice at the former producer of mechanized elves and bunnies that animate holiday window displays. It was founded in 1922 by David Hamberger. The Hamberger family employed many people from the neighborhood; a few of the descendants of these employees actually still reside on the block today.

Prior to the Hamberger days, however, is was the gymnasium for St.Peters Church on Hicks Street, which was built by prolific church architect Patrick Charles Keely. Rumor has it that The New York Knicks practiced in the gym prior to becoming an NBA team. It was also, at one time, a recreation destination called the Brooklyn Lyceum, where dances were held. Our amateur historian encountered one lady who said she met her husband at such a dance. Brownstones used to stand on either side of the building, but they were torn down in 1942 to prepare for the BQE.

Hamberger sold out in the early '90s to Center Stage Productions and moved out of Brooklyn. He's still alive and well today in Queens. I found a couple of photos of the company's handiwork below.


11 comments:

ekl said...

Wow where did you get those photos Brooks?
It is great that the Hamberger Display Company is finally getting some well deserved press before they tear that beautiful building down.
Thank You Lost City.

Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

I did an environmental review of the site today (long story). I was intrigued by the building when I spotted it via Google Street View, and grew more interested when I saw the past uses (kindergarten, library, gymnasium). It even had a pool at one point! But I almost missed the Christmas Display factory. So that's where all the elves came from. Thanks for running this story.

Stu said...

This brings back such wonderfull memories! I was a a customer of David Hamberger for many years. when they had a showroom on 31st street in NYC and the factory in Brooklyn. I remember being treated as part of the family. They were so warm, and not just business. my children used to play and ride an the displays, and David and Rose Hamberger always had a gift for my children when we left. It really was just a big family of customers that was more than just customers.
It's hard to find that today.
This is what this country was built upon. Sorry to see this one instantance to disapear!
Stuart Kutcher

Lizzie deeCEE x3 said...

I recently passed by the old Hamberger factory and was saddened to see condos in place of the factory. I lived across the street from the factory and I remember the workers carrying the giant pencils and candy canes from one part of the factory to the other. My dad, who has passed away used to work for Mr. David from time to time so this place holds sentimental value for me and my family. Thanks for the memories.

Esther

mazelman said...

I was a salesman for David Hamberger Displays from 1969-1985, and then bought from them through my own company for many years after.

Dave, Rose Jerry, Marty, Glady, Joe, & Iris were a big part of my life.

They were the best ever.

Jules Schreider

RDGTexas said...

Rose was my 3rd cousin (and so was Dave ... through marriage). I remember visiting their house in Queens wheevern I was in NY and we would go to the showroom on 31st Street, with Dave fighting his way into Manhattan in the big Cadillac he used to drive. They both came to my wedding in Ohio in 1973 and also visited my house around 1976 when I lived in Florida. Such nice people. I miss them. I never met Marty or any of my 4th cousins.

Dennis said...

I have a nonprofit in Peculiar Mo and had a 6 ft Santa Claus donated to us. It was appraised on the Antique Roadshow and we found that it was made in 1942 by Mr Hamberger. I have pics of it and we are so proud of it. It was made for the Klien Dept Store. We have it for sale if you know someone that may be interested in giving him a good home. He is in unbelievable great condition to this day.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Dennis, I am interested. Can you send me a photo of the Santa at lostcitybrooks@gmail.com?

kenintexas said...

I worked with Jerry for many year on holiday decor for the malls I managed. What a great, inventive guy and a wonder ful family owned business. Imagin, products made in America by Americans. To walk through the factory was like being behind the scenes at Disney - people making animated characters, dressing elves, plaster casting life-like faces. It's been a decade and the business has long gone to the far east but it was a great experience. Miss it.

Darrid Morris said...

To mazelman

Do you have any of the old catalogs? I would love some old pictures. I have collected these for years.

Feel free to contact me darridm@gmail.com

JJOD said...

I have an old ( I was told (Hamberger) Mannequin of a woman and drummer boy with old Salvation Army clothing. Please look on ebay as we just posted it and I have gotten several emails telling me who made them. How can I tell if they were made by him. Any help would be greatful.

JJ