Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The De Facto Logo Of Brooklyn

The Kentile Floors sign that graces the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, New York.

I took this drive-by photo in 2010 because I love seeing old signage around the country. Every once in a while I get lucky and capture something that turns out to be iconic, which I find out by doing a little research.

The sign was erected in 1949, stood 8 stories high, and was once lit in purple neon.  This article in Slate says, "According to the Municipal Art Society of New York, the Kentile factory employed more than 400 people during the 1960s.  But many of the floor tiles that it once proudly marketed to post-war suburbanites as being "a dream to clean" contained asbestos, a fact that later (after the company had left Brooklyn) led to its bankruptcy and closure."

From The Brownstone Detectives:

"As the salvos are fired across the broadsides of those who would tear down Brooklyn’s famous Kentile Floors sign, few know the history behind the company, its founder, and its legacy.

Kentile was a revolutionary floor covering that was easy to install and extremely resistant to fire.  The asphalt tiles were primarily composed using an asbestos filler which today is no longer legal, due to the knowledge we currently have of the harmful effects of asbestos on our bodies.

But Kentile was a start-up in the late 19th century in Brooklyn that made its inventor rich and many, many housewives much, much happier in their kitchens.


In 1898, Arthur Kennedy founded Kentile in Brooklyn. Kentiles were “large durable tiles made of a range of materials that were available in dozens of colors and patterns.” Kentile Flooring was primarily marketed in Brooklyn and the surrounding region back then, but eventually, as they became popular, spread their availability throughout the country.

By 1949, they began producing an asphalt based tile and, as an industry leader, their stock skyrocketed. Although they had their competitors, such companies as Armstrong, Congoleum-Nairin and Montgomery, Kentile offered a consumer-install option that was attractive to the DIY-er.

By the ’50s and ’60s, Kentile Floors had become one of America’s largest manufacturers of super-resilient floor tile, and it was a national tile distributor. The Kentile factory at Second Avenue in Gowanus – where the Kentile Floors sign is currently being removed – employed more than 400 people at its peak in the 1960s.

The company’s futures waned though by the 1980s when its products’s strongest feature – asbestos – was found to contain cancer-causing carcinogens. As Kentile removed asbestos from their products, the lawsuits piled up, and by by 1992 they had filed for bankruptcy. A few years later Kentile production ended altogether."

The sign was taken down in 2014 and relocated nearby.

I love finding stuff like this!  It's what has made my time traveling around the country so attractive.  Interesting tidbits of history make this job so worth it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2016: There Is Poetry In Change

2015: Ski Or Sun? Sun Won.
2014: All The Better To Cook With, My Dear
2013: I Fancy The Castle Life
2012: There Are No Prison Blues If You Have Naan
2011: Now I’m No Longer Alone
2010: Rings Of Spring
2009: Map Schmap
2008: A Willow Weeps In Arizona
2007: Double Team
2006: Turning One Million
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!

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