Lidgerwood Manufacturing Company – Brooklyn, New York - Atlas Obscura

Lidgerwood Manufacturing Company

The engineering feat of the Panama Canal was possible in small part thanks to materials developed in this humble Red Hook foundry.  


The Lidgerwood Manufacturing Company was in the business of lifting things. Big things, heavy things, cumbersome things. Their winches, cranes and cableways took advantage of steam power to move railway cars into place and move masses of dirt, gravel and lumber on and off railway cars.

It was on a trip to Paris in 1896 (which suspiciously was reported as a work trip in one account and a personal health excursion in another) that Lidgerwood head engineer Spencer Miller secured a major contract for the company. Lidgerwood would produce all the cable and lifting systems needed to create the Panama Canal.

The cable loading system would carry dirt away from the construction site and allow for rapid unloading through a cabled winch system. Cables everywhere! A decade into the work on the Panama Canal, accusations of perjury in securing the contract didn’t tinge the company’s image. Spencer Miller died in the mid-1950s with a robust career of military consulting positions under his belt. When Lidgerwood moved out of Red Hook, their foundry continued to be used for iron work. Today, it is occupied by a moving and storage company. 

Update May 2019: As of May 2019, UPS shocked the neighborhood by defying preservationists and demolishing the building with no notice on a holiday weekend. There’s nothing to see anymore but a pile of rubble. 

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August 5, 2012

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