I've written about Brooklyn's old Knox Hat Factory in the past. The other day, I finally saw it with my own peepers.
I was strolling through an industrial section of Prospect Heights when I caught the profile of a blocky, handsome, yellow-brick building. It looked familiar. As I suspected it was the Knox Hat Works, which was built in 1890 and now functions as an apartment building. It dominates the intersection of St. Mark's and Grand Avenue. At the time of its erection, it was purported to be the largest hat factory in the world, and they made every conceivable type of headgear here, from top hats to straw boaters to policemen's helmets.
The building is in good shape. The yellow bricks are accented by red stone lintels and blue cornices. The cornerstone, seen above, is in good condition, as is at least one side of the inset street signs.
The Knox business was founded by Charles Knox in 1838 (the cornerstone has it wrong). The first store was at 110 Fulton in Manhattan. It was destroyed in a 1865 fire that also claimed P.T. Barnum's museum. Son Edward (who fought valiantly at Gettysburg and was once called "the most popular and handsomest officer in the encampment") rebuilt at 212 Broadway. Soon Edward decided the company should manufacture its own hats and built the Brooklyn factory, which once had a corner tower with a four-sided clock (now gone).
Edward Knox died in 1916, and the Knox Company merged with Dunlap Hats in 1918, which would eventually merge with other companies that formed the Hat Corporation of America. The factory was closed after World War II. Alfred Thompson turned the abandoned factory into 52 units of subsidized housing in the 1980s.
And then there's this curiosity around the corner. The Knox Gourmet. Doesn't look open.