It would appear that the owner of the New York and Long Island Stone Company Coignet building at 360 Third Avenue at the corner of Third Street, has decided to sell or lease his badly dilapidated building. A sign by realtor Ken Freeman of Massey Knakal was put up just recently and the company's web site has the following listing for the property:
"Great retail opportunity adjacent to the new Whole Foods Market. Landmarked building in prime Gowanus location. The exterior of the building is to be completely restored by Whole Foods (interior requires gut renovation).
Property was built in 1873 and was originally known as the Coignet Stone Company building. It has been referred to as a “pioneering example of concrete construction in the United States” by The Landmarks Preservation Commission and commonly considered a large part of the neighborhood’s history. The property includes a 750 sq. ft. dock space on the Gowanus Canal next to the 3rd Avenue bridge."
For quite a few years now, the historic structure has been deteriorating, its beautiful ornate façade slowly crumbling away. Its owner, Richard Kowalski, of Beach Haven, N.J, had signed a Memorandum of Lease with Whole Foods back in 2005, when the company purchased the land surrounding the building in order to construct one of their food markets. Under the agreement, Whole Foods was to restore and repair the old house. The work, however, has been postponed till recently. In early 2011, the roof was replaced, which was an encouraging sign.
It is surprising that the owner and Whole Food Markets never came to an agreement. It would, of course, make the most sense for Whole Foods to buy or lease the building themselves. After all, they already have agreed to restore it.
The 1873 building was designed by William Fields & Son and housed the New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company, which occupied five acres along the Gowanus Canal. In more recent history, it was home to the Pippin Radiator Company.
The Coignet Stone Company building was landmarked in 2006 by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. You can read more about its history here.
The Coignet building in all its glory. An etching from 1873.
Historic photo of the Coignet Stone Company Building
More history of the Coignet building from :Historic District Council (HDC)
"The New York and Long Island Stone Company Coignet Building was constructed as a show case for what the manufacturer’s product could do, create a strong, elegant, detailed building at a cost less than real stone. It is easy to forget that this is the earliest known concrete building in New York City, and one of the earliest in the country, due to the fact it has been primarily covered over with faux brick. Areas of the west and south façades though are uncovered and the building’s reason for being, concrete, is visible.
While these two walls are certainly secondary to the main façades on Third Avenue and Third Street, they are not plain and instead some of the same detailing including arched windows, quoins and stringcourse are carried over. The west façade also includes a bay identical in design to the bays on the primary façades. It is troublesome that after years of planning by Whole Foods, the company is only now dealing with the fact that it owns a designated site and is asking the landmark to bear the brunt of the project. As shown in renderings, plans and elevations presented to the Brooklyn Community Board 6 Land Use Committee in August, the Coignet Building would be engulfed by new structures, while the other half of the block would be a parking lot.
Obviously there are other arrangements on this block that would be more appropriate for the landmark. Although buildings were once unfortunately built up against the Coignet Building, probably in the mid-20th century, as their ghosts on the side walls show, they were shorter. Other factory buildings on the block were described by Brooklyn Daily Eagle in June 1872 as 32 feet tall – about 20 feet shorter than the planned Whole Foods buildings. The Coignet Building was always allowed to retain its prominence on the block. HDC urges you to keep the boundaries as they are so that any alterations to the sight are overseen by LPC and sensitively help preserve one of the few landmarks in Gowanus."