As a young tyke growing up in Buffalo, one of our earliest memories was of being boosted up to squint through the glass block window of the 7-Up bottling plant on the corner, barely making out the fascinating mechanics of a processing plant just steps away from our home. We moved to the 'burbs when we were two.
About 20 years later, we returned from our white-flight suburban youth to a city apartment, and on a warm summer night spent exploring downtown factories with roll-up doors flung wide, we rediscovered that youthful fascination with the mysteries of manufacturing - especially where it happens within the fabric of the city.
Last night, the warm Williamsburg evening meant an open-door policy at several of the Northside and Greenpoint plants scattered in the dwindling industrial zone where the two neighborhoods meet. Here, where new condos and old artists' lofts rub elbows with plastic bag plants and commercial bakeries, is the waning vestige of a bygone time. Once it was common for factory workers to live down the block from factories, walking to work with steel lunch pails and hitting the corner tavern on the way home.
Nowadays, what little manufacturing that still happens in the US is mostly done on huge campuses on the edge of rural towns; the machinery of commerce hidden away behind tall fences and past guard houses. Gone is the era of peeking in...today's kids know factories mostly from school field trips and the Discovery Channel.
But on a warm night in Williamsburg you can still stand on your tiptoes, squint through a steel grate, and imagine how it used to be.
Peeking In [Flickr Photoset]