Hecla Iron Works, 940 Madison Ave, New York, 2010
This modest sidewalk opening represents the work of the Hecla Iron Works. The Hecla Iron Works were a partnership between Niels Poulson (1843-1911) and Charles Michael Eger (1843-1916). Founded in 1879, the company was originally known as Poulson & Eger, iron manufacturers, and they were located at 313 S. 3rd St., at the corner of N. 11th St., Brooklyn. In 1886 the name changed to Hecla in honor of the very active Hekla volcano in Iceland. It was around this same time that Brooklyn's 3rd St. was renamed Berry St. In this 1887 ad for the Hecla Architectural Bronze and Iron Works the works comprise the block between N. 10th, 11th, 12th and Berry streets. Offices were located in New York at 216-220 W. 23rd St.
Quoting from Guide to New York City Landmarks, 4th ed., 2009, "Founded by the Scandinavian immigrants Niels Poulson and Charles Eger in 1876, Hecla supplied iron for many buildings in New York, including the 133 original kiosks for the IRT subway system." The Landmarks Preservation Commission report dated 8 June 2004 includes the following, "Hecla's contribution to New York City's built fabric was extremely significant. Named for an active volcano in Iceland, this versatile firm supplied ornamental work for the exteriors and interiors of many designated New York City Landmarks, most notably the American Surety Building, New York Life Insurance Company Building, B. Altman & Co. Department Store, Macomb's Dam Bridge and 155th Street Viaduct, and Grand Central Terminal. Hecla also produced the 133 original kiosks for the IRT subway system."
Also from the Landmark Commission's Hecla report, "Hecla’s production, up to 1908, is well-documented in three volumes of photographs that are part of the collection at New York Public Library. Organized by type of commission, the books display images of elevator cars, marquees, stairs, railings, grilles, balconies, windows, columns and sculptural work. Designated New York City Landmarks that illustrate the firm’s varied workmanship are the Dakota Apartments (1880-84, fence), Macomb’s Dam Bridge and 155th Street Viaduct (1890-95), American Fine Arts Society (1891-92, gates), 14th Regiment Armory (Brooklyn, 1891-95, truss work and balcony), American Surety Company Building (1894-96, elevators and stairs), New York Life Insurance Company Building (1894-99, elevators and grillwork) at 346 Broadway, New York Stock Exchange (1901-3, interior and exterior work), St. Regis Hotel (1901-4, marquee and windows), 90 West Street (1905-7, elevators and grillwork), B. Altman & Co. Department Store (1905-13, marquees and grillwork) on Fifth Avenue, Grand Central Terminal (1903-13, windows), and J.P. Morgan & Co. (1913, entrance screen). Hecla also produced the original 133 entrance kiosks for the IRT subway system, completed in 1904. Outside New York City, projects included the lobby of the Rookery (1886, stairs and vaults) in Chicago, the Prudential Insurance Company Building (1909-13, demolished) in Newark, New Jersey, as well as buildings in Albany, Atlantic City, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Springfield, Illinois; Toledo, Ohio; and Troy, New York." The full report on Hecla is available at http://www.nyc.gov.
On his death in 1911, Niels Poulson received the following obituary in the New York Times, 4 May 1911, "Niels Poulson, President of the Hecla Iron Works of Brooklyn, and a philanthropist, died yesterday morning of heart disease at his home on the Shore Road, Fort Hamilton. In April of last year Mr. Poulson was entertained at a dinner at the Park Avenue Hotel in recognition of his gift of $100,000 to the American Scandinavian Society for educational purposes. For this gift he received recognition from the King of Denmark. Mr. Poulson was well known as an engineer in connection with structural problems. He originated many improvements in methods of construction, few of which he patented, since he wished them to be public property. He furnished to the Government free of charge modes of construction for the Congressional Library, which were later widely copied in large institutions of the kind. He made a study of improving interborough transportation, and presented the city with a plan, never adopted, to do away with the congestion on the Brooklyn Bridge. He once offered a prize of $50,000 for the solution of this problem. When in 1897 the firm of Poulson & Eger was incorporated as the Hecla Iron Works, Mr. Poulson organized a night school for the education of his employes, which has since been declared to have been an important factor in raising the standard of American iron construction. He gave many prizes to foster various activities among public school students. Mr. Pouson was born on Feb. 27, 1843, at Horsens, Denmark, and was educated at Copenhagen as an architect and builder. He came to this country in 1864. He was a widower, and lived in a mansion on the Shore Road, which was a show place."
On his death in 1916 Charles Michael Eger received a briefer notice in the New York Times, 17 May 1916, "Charles Michael Eger, a well-known architect and constructive draftsman, died yesterday at his home, 112 Pulaski Street, Brooklyn, in his seventy-third year. Mr. Eger was a native of Christiania, Norway, and had lived in Brooklyn since 1869. He was in business with the late Niels Paulson [sic] under the firm name of Paulson [sic] & Eger Iron Works Company, which was later incorporated with the Hecla Iron Works Company. Mr. Eger was Vice President of the company in 1910 and retired three years later. He was a member of the Architectural Iron Manufacturers and of the Norwegian Society."
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. XIV, 1910, featured articles on both Poulson and Eger. Poulson's read as follows, "Poulson, Niels, manufacturer, was born at Horsens, Denmark, Feb. 27, 1843. His father was a mason. He was educated in Copenhagen as an architect and builder, but for two years after coming to this country (in 1864), worked as a mason. He then found employment as a draftsman in the office of the supervising architect in Washington where he remained for two years. His desire to make a study of architectural iron work, led him to resign his position in Washington and to locate in New York city, where he connected himself with the New York Architectural Iron Works which was at that time the largest concern of its kind in existence. Here he remained for eight years and for about seven of them had charge of the architectural and engineering departments. Mr. Poulson started in business for himself in 1876 on a small scale but with a view to introducing a higher grade of work than was then prevalent. Charles M. Eger, who had been a draftsman at the Architectural Iron Works, came to Mr. Poulson in a similar capacity and after the business was fully started, was taken in as a partner, under the name of Poulson & Eger. It was the first concern to introduce electro-plating, galvano-plastic work, the Bower-Barff process and plastic patterns, and, by economy in construction, to make metal work compete, in price, with other materials in the construction of stairways, elevator enclosures, elevator cages, windows, doors, etc. The firm was incorporated in 1897, under the name of the Hecla Iron Works. Its capital stock is $500,000. The present officers of the firm are Niels Poulson, president, Charles M. Eger, vice-president, Francis D. Jackson, second vice-president, Fernande S. Bellevue, treasurer and Robert A. McCord, secretary. The original factory was soon outgrown and it became necessary to enlarge and again enlarge until the present plant covers forty-one city lots and is supplied with the best modern appliances, apparatus and machinery obtainable, much of it being of special construction. More then 1000 workmen are employed. The company manufactures all kinds of architectural work in all metals and includes the following departments: designing, drafting, photographing, clay, plaster and wax modelling, wood, plaster and metal pattern making; foundries for different metals; heavy, light and ornamental blacksmithing; drop forging; assembling and fitting; grille and wire working; grinding and polishing; sand-blasting; galvano-bronze deposition, electroplating and finishing; Bower-Barffing; fire proofing; also, trucking and erecting departments furnished with every requisite for the handling and placing of work in position. The officers endeavored to increase their employees' knowledge of the business and to instil in them a liking for better work. Accordingly, they established an evening school for the education of their employes, which proved a great success, and in a few years served to establish a grade for building purposes far in advance of the old one. For many years there were no competitors. Since then, however, many of the men who had been trained in their office and works started in business for themselves or had been employed by other companies. so that the grade of work introduced by Poulson and Eger is now well established in this country. The School of Mines, some few years ago, made a comparison between European and American iron work and not only came to the conclusion that in such work this country is far ahead of the rest of the world, but gave this concern full credit for establishing the present high class of work. The Hecla Iron Works (formerly Poulson & Eger) are the pioneers in introducing better metals and better work, and Mr. Poulson and Mr. Eger have been well rewarded in their efforts to improve the business in which they have been engaged. Mr. Pouson is the originator of many improvements in construction, few of which were patented, as he preferred to make them public property. They include fireproof stairs, elevator enclosures, elevator cages, book-stacks for libraries, etc. He furnished to the government, free of charge, modes of construction for the Congressional Library in Washington, which proved so successful that his designs were eventually universally adopted in large libraries. Mr. Poulson has often acted in the capacity of consulting engineer and architect in connection with public improvements. He is a member of the Brooklyn Club, Manufacturers' Association of New York, Brooklyn League, Crescent Athletic club and Bay Ridge Citizens' Association, of Brooklyn, N. Y."
Eger's article in the National Cyclopaedia of American Biography is shorter, "Eger, Charles Michael, architect and manufacturer, was born in Christiania, Norway, Dec. 7, 1843, son of Lorenz and Caroline (Bergh) Eger. He received a thorough preliminary education in the schools of Norway and Germany, completing his studies at the academy at Düsseldorf. In 1869 he came to the United States, and was first engaged as a draughtsman in the employ of the Architectural Iron Works in New York city. His work here was very satisfactory by reason of the excellent training he had obtained in Germany, as well as unusual native talent as a designer, especially in artistic work, and he was soon advanced to be chief draughtsman for the company. When Mr. Niels Poulson, a fellow employe in the Architectural Iron Works, withdrew to engage in business for himself, Mr. Eger joined him, a partnership being formed under the name of Poulson & Eger to engage in designing and constructing architectural metal work. When in 1897 the firm was incorporated as the Hecla Iron Works, Mr. Eger became the vice-president. As the business grew large sums of money were spent in introducing new processes by which the work was made better and less costly, and by economy in construction and new methods devised by the enterprising members of the firm, they were able to compete in price with other materials in the construction of stairways, elevator enclosures, elevator cages, windows, doors, etc. Mr. Eger has had general supervision of the architectural and designing departments, and his talents in this direction have had much to do with the high grade of work now in general use. He was married in 1870, to Matilde Andersen."
This 1895 ad for the Hecla Bronze & Iron Works appeared in Lain's Brooklyn Directory.
This 1896 ad showed a bronze Hecla door installed in the Constable Building.
This 1897 ad showed an iron colonnade, stairs and elevator enclosures Hecla installed in the B. Altman Dept. Store.
This ad from 1900 showed a Hecla marquee installed at Carnegie Hall.
This ad from 1901 placed great emphasis on their Fire-Proof products.
As did this one from 1905.
This ad with an IRT subway kiosk appeared in the Catalog of the Fifth Exhibition of the Brooklyn Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, 1905.
Sweet's Indexed Catalogue of Building Construction for the Year 1906, published by the Architectural Record Co., contains a description of Hecla products and services. This work is available on Google Books. The Brooklyn plant is pictured, belching clouds of black smoke.
Faded and extremely hard to read, a sign above a doorway at the corner of Berry St. and N. 10th St. might say Hecla Iron Works / Office 118 N. 11th St.
Hecla Iron works continued to operate after the deaths of Poulson & Eger (until approx. 1927/28). This ad from 1916 gives the established date as 1876. This one from 1922 claimed 45 years of continuous operation.
On Charles Eger's retirement in 1913, Francis Demilt Jackson (1858-1941) became president of the Hecla Iron Works. Francis D. Jackson was the son of Peter H. Jackson, who, with his brother, James L. Jackson, in 1853 formed the iron foundry called James L. Jackson, Brother & Co. (More on the elder Jacksons can be found on the Jackson & Throckmorton page.) Francis D. Jackson was described in the following terms in the Biographical Directory of the State of New York, 1900, "Jackson, Francis D. - Steel, Iron and Bronze Manufacturer, 118 North 11th street, Brooklyn; residence 1 West 69th street, New York City. Born in New York City, June 19, 1858. Educated in private and public schools and at the College of the City of New York. (Married.) Connected with the firm of Poulson & Eger until 1897, in which year they incorporated as the Hecla Iron Works, which company was known as the pioneer manufacturers of iron for modern fireproof buildings such as American Surely, Equitable, Park Row and many others in New York City and throughout the United States. Secretary and manager Hecla Iron Works since 1897."
In 1919 Francis D. Jackson, age 61, applied for a passport. The purpose of his travel was described as, "Inspection of work executed by Hecla Iron Works at the Presidential Palace, Havana, Cuba, and establish trade relations in other parts of the island of Cuba."
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