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June 14, 2004

Pippin on Third

I’m a sucker for cross streets with twin numbers. This is probably why it’s easy to remember the odd little old building on Third Avenue and Third Street. I pass it on my morning runs and have always thought it was an interesting juxtaposition of old and new. It’s completely out of place on Third Avenue, though the eye doesn’t automatically jump to it. At first glance, it could be like any other ramshackle warehouse near the Gowanus, except for the fact that the building is quite small and quaint. I’ve come to call it Pippin on Third, after the radiator supply company that now inhabits it.

Pippin on Third was built in 1882 by Edwin C. Litchfield, founder of the Brooklyn Improvement Company, responsible for dredging the Gowanus Creek (thanks a bundle, Ed) and developing the Red Hook waterfront. Litchfield owned the land from what is now Prospect Park down to the waterfront between First and Ninth Streets (known as the old Cortelyou Estate—he bought it for $150,000 in 1852). His actual home is now used by the Parks Department.

The Brooklyn Improvement Company’s headquarters were housed in the building on Third Avenue and Third Street. It was built in the renaissance revival style of the 1860’s (characterized by massive, square, architectural forms often with ornate trim or medallions). Note it’s similarity to many old school buildings—which is how I noticed it in the first place. The building’s façade has remained virtually unchanged.

For some strange reason, I have fantasized about how great it would be to live in Pippin on Third—sans the traffic and canal scent, of course.

Christopher Grey on Manhattan Buildings
Rooftop Films, whose HQ is right across the street.

Posted by callalillie at June 14, 2004 1:04 AM | History , Life in the Slope


It should be protected. Some dork is probably going to tear it down in the name of renewal.

I thought they'd reactivated the flushing fan at the end of the Canal about two years ago. I thought that, by creating a sort of tidal action, it was supposed to clean Lavender Lake (as we used to call it).
It still smells, eh?

By the way, MY favorite company down there is the South Brooklyn Casket Company. I always though, heck, SOMEONE has to make them.

Posted by: Jerry at June 14, 2004 8:15 AM

I love the casket company, too. I was thinking about asking them for a tour of the facilties this summer. It's always weird to run past it and watch them loading various levels of caskets in and out of the building.

The canal doesn't smell as bad as it used to. It's still pretty damn gross, but there are actually fish in it now.

Posted by: corie at June 14, 2004 8:20 AM

I have been reading your site for a while now, but have yet to comment. This post is exactly why I keep coming back. I really enjoy and appreciate your observations of neighborhoods that I also share. One of these days maybe I'll create my own site based on my own urban exploration and runs.

Just a little observation of my own regarding the Gowanus. Last year, I went to sit on the Carroll Street Bridge on a beautiful Spring day. I heard an odd sound coming from the water. I looked down and saw an ivory swan, gliding towards me. Now I have seen ducks, fish, oysters, crabs, and many assorted birds. But never did such a symbol of beauty and grace these dirty waters. A sign of things to come?

Posted by: Alexis at June 14, 2004 9:58 AM

Thanks! It's neat how there can be so many different perspectives about one place.

You sw a swan! That's great. I've seen sucks occasionally, and definitely fish. I once read that there was a canoe or kyaking group that was using the Gowanus, as well.

Posted by: corie at June 14, 2004 10:10 AM

I've thought about how cool it would be to live there myself. It's one of my favorite buildings in the slope.

The casket company won't let you in. I've tried. But, they will sell you a t-shirt.

Posted by: Bill at June 14, 2004 2:49 PM

Maybe it was the dredgers that you read about.
They have some canoes locked up by the canal on the Carroll Garden's side.

Posted by: Alexis at June 14, 2004 4:52 PM

I love this building, too. It used to be fenced off (last year, maybe), but now it isn't, which is a sign that it's here to stay. Thanks for the history.

Posted by: Mike at June 14, 2004 5:32 PM

A few months back I was doing some research (it's for a novel I pretend I'm working on). I came across an article from the '20s about the Canal. Seems a small pilot whale found its way into the canal and made it all the to the flushing fan.
A few people saw it but mistook it for one of the many dead bodies then seen floating in the canal. One person assumed it was a dead horse (seems the bodies of dead horses were also common.)

Posted by: Jerry at June 15, 2004 8:45 AM

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