Ten years after closing its doors, the Brooklyn Domino Sugar Refinery's iconic forty-foot tall yellow sign is still legible along the waterfront, even from parts of Manhattan. The refinery, built in 1882, was once the largest in the world, producing over half of the sugar consumed in the United States. Sadly, the historic landmark will soon be demolished, making room for luxury living — and a handful of apartments for affordable housing, at mayor Bill de Blasio's insistence. As time runs out, a photographer, photography editor, and historian are vying for the opportunity to thoroughly document the site and publish a book entitled Sweet Ruin: Fossils and Stories of the Brooklyn Domino Sugar Refinery.
The photographer, Paul Raphaelson, was recently given a day's worth of access to the site by its owner, real estate development company Two Trees Management. Raphaelson was able to visit and photograph three of the refinery's buildings, capturing the sugar-coated interiors of the hauntingly cavernous spaces. He hopes to revisit the site before it's too late to take more photographs with the guidance of his two collaborators, photography editor Stella Kramer and historian Matthew Postal. For the compelling images and more details about the future publication, keep reading after the break.
The trio hopes the book will appeal as both a piece of art and part of Brooklyn's culture and industrial history. It will include "a historical essay that brings to life Brooklyn’s sugar-centric industrial past, the refinery’s remarkable, victorian-era technology, the company’s relationship with its generations of Brooklyn workers, and the circumstances of the plant’s decline and eventual abandonment." To give life to the Domino Sugar Refinery's story, they intend on juxtaposing Raphaelson's contemporary photographs of the complex interior landscapes with historical ones.
You can keep track of the trio's progress at http://www.paulraphaelson.com/