3,000 (ca. 1912)
The development of the former Warner Brothers Company complex began after brothers Lucien and I.D. Warner moved their corset manufactory from McGraw, New York to Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1876. As Matthew Roth notes in his detailed history of the company published in ‘Connecticut; An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites,’ in 1980, ‘Warner Bros. was founded by two McGraw, NY physicians, Lucien and I.D. Warner, who introduced their so-called Health Corset in 1874. The Warners promoted their product as a less painful alternative to the garment worn by many of their female patients. They innovated shoulder straps which eliminated the need to support the entire corset at the laces, allowing more comfort at the waist. The Warners moved production to Bridgeport in 1876, choosing that city because of its proximity to their financial and marketing apparatus in New York City, its excellent rail and water transportation facilities, and its growing reputation as the home of skilled industrial workers.’ ‘Warner Brothers developed corset stiffeners from tempered steel and cactus fiber to replace whalebone. The firm purchased cloth, sheet metal and cactus fiber and made all the component parts of corsets. In 1887 there were about 1,200 employees (90% of them women), who produced 6,000 corsets daily using mostly mechanized processes. The firm had 500 sewing machines, 200 ‘Coraline’ machines to press, size and temper cactus fiber into stiffening material, and eyelet presses to form lacing grommets and other metal corset parts.’ ‘The firm profited from annual design changes incident to Late Victorian and Edwardian fashion, and the plant doubled in size during 1910-1912 as eight brick-pier factories covered the block west of Warren St. After that expansion Warner Brothers employed some 3,000 people (75% of them women) who produced 20,000 corsets per day. The relatively unharnessed ‘Flapper’ style of the 1920s undercut the firm's market, and it began diversifying by acquiring shirt and other clothing manufacturers.’ At the time of his 1980 survey, Roth noted that the Warner Brothers Company remained in business in Bridgeport, however, the manufacture of foundation garments had been moved offshore and operations in the firm’s Connecticut facility were limited to paper box production, office and storage activities, and a discount outlet. These uses were in turn terminated by 1996 and the plant fell vacant until 2007 when the eastern half of the complex was rehabilitated and adapted for residential use. The western portion of the plant remains vacant.
Roughly sixteen (16) primary blocks.
1876, 1878, 1880, ca. 1880, 1910-1912, ca. 1950.
The former Warner Brothers Company plant consists of roughly sixteen adjoining and freestanding primary buildings located two adjoining city blocks, these bounded by Lafayette Street to the east, Atlantic Street to the south, Myrtle Avenue to the west, and Gregory Street to the north. When Matthew Roth surveyed the former Warner Brothers Company plant in 1980 the majority of the facility remained in industrial use. Since that time, however, the buildings located east of Warren Street have been rehabilitated and adapted for residential use. Roth described these blocks stating that, ‘The first building was a 3-story, hip-roofed brick-pier factory, 100' x 40', at Atlantic and Lafayette Sts. It still stands, along with a 3-story brick-pier ell, 90' x 40', built in 1878 and a 3-story brick-pier extension, 145' x 40', built in 1880. Further additions up to 1893 occupied the entire block between Lafayette, Atlantic, Gregory and Warren Sts.’ Roth also noted that the western half of the plant was built up between 1910-1912, however, this is only partially correct. Of the seven surviving blocks on this parcel (this identified as 330 Myrtle Street), three were built around 1910, however, one of the other four was built ca. 1880 and the three others were erected ca. 1950. The ca. 1880 building is a three-story, 52’ x 168’ red brick paper box factory with a raised basement level, segmental-arched window openings with brownstone sills, a denticulated and corbelled brick cornice, and a low-pitch hipped roof. The three ca. 1950 blocks adjoin the north elevation of the paper box factory and consist of a 120’ x 200’ box manufactory, a 50’ x 56’ shipping block, and a 46’ x 50’ storage building. All are of reinforced concrete construction and have raised basement levels, red brick apron walls, large rectangular window openings with concrete sills, multipane glass block and hopper-style sash, concrete coping, and flat roofs. A primary entrance to the largest of the three blocks is located along Gregory Street where there is a single pass-through door with a broad concrete surround. One of the three 1910 blocks associated with the western half of the complex adjoins the west elevation of the ca. 1880 box factory, while the two remaining 1910 buildings stand along Myrtle Avenue and Gregory Street, near the intersection of these two thoroughfares. All are highly detailed, three-story, red brick blocks. They measure roughly 52’ x 138’, 158’ x 54’, and 70’ x 54’, and have raised basement levels, brick pier walls, large rectangular window openings with raised brick spandrel panels and concrete sills, corbelled brick headers at the top of the full-height window bays, modillioned and corbelled red brick cornices, and low-pitch hipped roofs. All of the original fenestration has been removed or infilled, and the only visible sash consists of replacement metal units with awning-style openings found in the block adjoining the ca. 1880 box plant. A pair of entrances facing Myrtle Avenue near its intersection with Gregory Street led into one of the 1910 blocks. These consist of flat-arched brick openings with concrete keystones and sills. One of the entrances has been infilled with red brick, while the other retains a pair of wood doors with large rectangular lights in their upper halves.
The plant is in fair to deteriorated condition. The exterior walls are in need of repairs and many of the windows are damaged or missing, however, overall, the factory appears structurally sound.
Two parcels (325 Lafayette Street and 330 Myrtle Avenue) totaling roughly 5.0 acres and bounded by Lafayette Street to the east, Atlantic Street to the south, Myrtle Avenue to the west, and Gregory Street to the north. The c.1975 corporate office is located at 350 Lafayette Street (east of complex).
Lucas A. Karmazinas