Block after block of monolithic stone-clad buildings between 2nd Ave and 3rd Avenue from 30th to 36th Streets were constructed by architect William Higginson in the first 3 decades of the 20th Century for industrialist Irving T. Bush. There are 15 lofts in total, each 6 to 8 stories in height, fully 200 acres of land given to vast warehouses and manufacturing lofts. What was once called Bush Terminal, now called Industry City, had a waterfront railroad and 18 deep water piers.
The Bush Terminal waterfront area extended south along 1st Avenue as a port complex, which retains an at-grade railroad. The city converted a few acres of the waterfront into Bush Terminal Park in 2014, but I didn’t know about it until very recently. In the upcoming weeks, I’ll have a more comprehensive look at the park as part of a walk I recently took between the Bush Terminal waterfront, Industry City, Green-Wood Cemetery and then down 5th Avenue to Barclays Center.
Today I want to mention the mural along the bike/pedestrian entrance path at 1st Avenue and 50th Street, executed by artist Angel Garcia of Groundswell in collaboration with the NYCEDC of Sunset Park — or rather, a small portion of it, the section about 3/4 of the way to the left.
The mural depicts a group of buildings with Scandinavian-sounding names, Valkyrie, Alku Toinen, Viking and Upsala. These aren’t just nods to Sunset Park’s Scandinavian past; they’re actual buildings…
A series of apartment buildings on 57th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in Sunset Park feature chiseled names with Scandinavian themes above their doors. Skansen is a celebrated open air museum and zoo in Sweden, while Upsala is Sweden’s oldest university.
Meanwhile, the blocks between 40th and 44th Streets were home to a substantial Finnish population. Finland is in Scandinavia (with Norway, Sweden and Denmark), but its language is from a different root and is unlike Danish, Swedish or Norwegian. In Finland, the country is called Suomi; the word doesn’t resemble other Scandinavian country names’ English counterparts such as Sverige, Norge and Danmark.
On 43rd Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, we find the first cooperative apartment in the country, founded by 16 Finnish immigrant families in 1916. The first of these coops was located at #816 and was called Alku, or “beginning.” A gold leaf sign on the doorway identifying it has been lost in recent years, but the second such co-op, Alku Toinen, “Beginning II,” is chiseled in and still remains at #826.
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