I was wandering around Greenpoint a few days ago when I came upon the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company Historic District. Who knew?
But, I must admit, I was very excited. I knew that Eberhard Faber is interred at Green-Wood Cemetery. That was enough for me to immediately fall in love with the E.F.P.C.H.D. (for short, of course). It is roughly bounded by West, Franklin, and Kent Streets, and Greenpoint Avenue.
Here, from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Designation Report of 2007, is a description of the Eberhard Faber business:
The Eberhard Faber Pencil Company, originally the A. W. Faber Company, was founded by Eberhard Faber (1822-1879) in 1861. Following a disastrous fire at the Manhattan plant in 1872, Faber moved the factory to Brooklyn, where it remained until 1956. The company is credited with bringing German lead pencil- making techniques to the United States and Faber grew to become one of Brooklyn’s most important factories, employing hundreds of workers, most of which were women. In addition to mass-producing low-cost pencils, the Brooklyn plant made pen holders and related stationary items.
And, the report continues:
The final building in the district was constructed in 1923-24. It is the complex’s signature building and the largest structure in the historic district. Six stories tall, the upper floor is embellished with stars and pencils, gigantic glazed terra cotta reliefs that proudly advertised the company’s main product to pedestrians and passengers using the nearby ferry. Not only did the company become a significant presence in Greenpoint, occupying two square blocks, Eberhard Faber would also turn into a nationally recognized brand name. Furthermore, in an early example of corporate branding, many of the Eberhard Faber buildings prominently display a star-and-diamond motif on their pedimented parapets in order to establish visual continuity across blocks.
Now, I must admit, though I did notice the star on many of the buildings, and guessed that that was an indication that that building had once been a part of the Faber Company, I wasn’t quite sure that I was looking at a Faber building until I took a close look at the top of this one:
And here’s a closer look at the facade:
No mistaking that–a big pencil, symbol of the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company. Sadly, Eberhard Faber’s dark gray granite monument at Green-Wood has neither a star, a pencil, nor any reference to his business on it–it is a rather routine piece.
I have read that Eberhard Faber’s greatest contribution to civilization was putting the eraser on the pencil. Corporate recognition of the fallibility of humankind . . .