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The Unknown Scandinavian Piece of New York Architecture

Hidden in some of New York City’s most iconic landmarks lies an unknown piece of Scandinavian design and architectural history. Come and join us in the hunt for the legacy of Hecla Iron Works.

Hecla Iron Works was established in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1876 by the Norwegian architect Carl Michael Eger from Oslo and his Danish partner Niels Poulson. They had both immigrated just a few years earlier. The two talented young men met while working in New York Architectural Iron Works, sharing an interest in ornamental iron architecture, and soon they started on their own company.

The Hecla factory in Williamsburg is the producer of cast iron and bronze ornaments decorating many of Manhattans most iconic buildings. Active in a great period of growth and economic progress for the city the Hecla Iron works employed more than thousand workers and about thirty designers and sculptors. The remarkable story of Hecla Architectural Bronze & Iron Works is relatively unknown in Norway and Denmark – but also in USA.

Amongst famous New York buildings they were involved in, we can list a few examples here:

The American Surety Building

New York Life Insurance Company Building

B. Altman & Co. Department Store

Grand Central Terminal

Macomb´s Dam Bridge

The 155th Street Viaduct

Dakota Building

Lullwater Bridge in Prospect Park

Flatiron Building,

New York Stock Exchange

and the 133 original kiosks for the IRT subway.

Not to mention the staircase and landings in The Statue of Liberty, and not to forget the charming golden street clock at Fifth Avenue/Broadway, just a few steps north of The Flatiron Building.

In addition to these, and many other New York buildings - Hecla Iron Works also operated in Chicago - Washington and several more American cities.

The Hecla factory occupied many blocks in Williamsburg and was located about where you can find The Brooklyn brewery today. The administration building is still standing and now landmarked, you can find it just across the street from the brewery visitors entrance.

In 1913, Hecla merged with the Winslow Brothers of Chicago, a rival firm. The new company was called Hecla-Winslow. Poulson and Eger retired as rich men, and both men left sizable estates to their families and Scandinavian charitable causes. But the decline of the industry could be felt by the 1920s. Poulson left the ownership of the building to the American-Scandinavian Foundation, which sold the building to the Carl H. Schultz Mineral Water Company, a division of the American Beverage Company, in 1928. Faded lettering still on the building advertised products from their line.