Though perhaps less well-known among Brooklyn’s industrial nostalgists, the Vitagraph smokestack in Midwood is a local landmark. The smokestack is one of the only remaining remnant of Vitagraph Studios, a pioneer of silent films in the early twentieth century. Visible from B and Q trains around Avenue M, the smokestack stands high above the fairly low-rise residential landscape. Scaffolding was recently erected around it, leading many to fear for its future.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported rumors of the smokestack’s destruction, and noted that two petitions—one on Change.org, from 2012, and a current one, on iPetitions.com—aimed at saving the structure from destruction. Attempts to landmark the smokestack have failed so far, with the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission determining it a mere “fragment” of the former Vitagraph Studios and therefore “not an adequate representation” of the historic company.
It’s not immediately clear where the threat of destruction is coming from, but if it is eventually lost to history it will join the sad fraternity of Gowanus’s Kentile Floors and Eagle Clothes signs, remembered only in our hearts and in commemorative cardboard kits. Change is a fact of life in New York City, but it’s sad to see history of any kind lost to a U-Haul rental facility. Can’t we do better?
Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.