Here's another question that recently arrived in the Eagle mailbag: The Yuban Coffee Factory, when was it built? When did Yuban leave it? What is the current status of building?
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With a lot of help from the DUMBO Historic District report, I came up with this answer:
Yuban was a brand launched by Arbuckle Brothers Coffee in the early 20th century. The brothers John and Charles Arbuckle were from Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. They began their coffee roasting business there in the 1850s, moved it to New York in 1871 and then to Brooklyn in 1881.
The company came to occupy numerous buildings in what is now called the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, some of which still stand and are part of the DUMBO Historic District, including:
10 Jay Street (built 1897-98)
19 Jay Street (built 1892)
20 Jay Street (built 1909)
60 John Street (built circa 1900)
According to Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast, Arbuckle didn’t launch its Yuban brand until after John Arbuckle died in 1912.
According to the Historic District report (2007) on the neighborhood, “The major invention of the Arbuckle firm was a machine that efficiently packed roasted and ground coffee — filling, weighing, sealing, and labeling the packages so that they could be efficiently shipped throughout the world and sold in small packages to consumers. The coffee was marketed under the name ‘Ariosa’ or ‘Arbuckle Ariosa.’ Arbuckle was the largest coffee roasting and shipping firm in North America.”
Arbuckle coffee was also sometimes referred to as “the coffee that won the west,” because John Arbuckle had devised a sugar glaze to put on the beans that helped prevent them from getting stale, and so they kept better while shipping the distance out west.
The report also states that “all of Arbuckle’s production took place in DUMBO, including roasting and packaging the coffee, and printing the packages and many of the collectable cards…and the Arbuckle Brothers began purchasing property on the western end of block 20 in 1884 and eventually owned the entire Jay Street frontage.”
In 1897, Arbuckle also went into sugar refining and opened the refinery at 10 Jay Street in DUMBO. (They started the refinery after Havemeyer Sugar in Williamsburg refused to lower their prices for Arbuckle, one of their biggest customers. After Arbuckle went into the sugar business, Havemeyer promptly went into the coffee business, and a protracted commercial war ensued between the two companies, causing depressed prices in coffee and sugar for years.)
Beginning in the 1920s, the industrial firms that made DUMBO their home started to pull out. By the 1940s, it seems most of the Arbuckle buildings were being used by other businesses.
In 1945, 10 Jay was converted into a warehouse. Today it houses office and studio space for many small businesses, most of them with a creative bent.
As far as 20 Jay Street (pictured at right), the report states that, “A minor 1945 alteration…indicates that at least a portion of the structure was a bonded liquor warehouse; the following year, a permit was issued to Kinsey Distilling Company of Philadelphia for use as a bonded whiskey warehouse. By 1948, the building was owned by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, which leased it in that year to A&S, Brooklyn’s leading department store. A&S had its major warehouse facility in the building for several decades. At some point in the 1950s or 1960s, the real estate firm of Cushman & Wakefield published an advertising brochure for the rental of the ninth and tenth floors of what it called the ‘Abraham & Straus Industrial Building,’ noting that the structure was suitable for ‘warehousing and manufacturing.’” Today, 20 Jay Street, like 10 Jay Street, is home to a number of offices and studio suites catering to the creative class that began filtering into the neighborhood in the 1980s.
19 Jay Street (which now seems to come up as 25 Jay Street in city records, and is pictured at left) is home to several residential units as well as some commercial enterprises.
As far as 60 John Street, the report says, “The building was acquired by the Brillo Manufacturing Company in c. 1941 and occupied as storage and offices by this firm in 1942.” According to city records, 60 John Street is still used for light manufacturing and is now owned by Gerex Corp.
Photos from PropertyShark.com