Colonel Daniel Richards, Red Hook Visionary

Col. Daniel Richards was a visionary developer who set Red Hook on the path to becoming one of the world's major commercial ports.

Inspired by the powerful economic effects resulting from the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, Richards moved from upstate New York to Brooklyn with big ideas.  His first effort was the establishment of the Red Hook Building Company in the late 1830s.  The goal of the company was to landfill most of Red Hook, which at the time was more marsh then not, to support commercial and residential buildings related to a large commercial port.   The publically owned company acquired a large tract of land from the Van Dyke brothers, one the Dutch families very early to the area, but folded by 1840.  By this time, however, Richards was advocating dredging the Gowanus Creek to make the Gowanus Canal (a waterway designed for commercial barges) and had started the Atlantic Dock Company.  Construction of The Atlantic Dock - a massive, man-made harbor for deep water ships and warehouses and grain elevators that could handle products coming down the Erie Canal - began on June 3, 1841. 

[This is a crop from a 1838 Red Hook Building Company certificate share, and probably not a likeness of Daniel Richards. The Red Hook WaterStories team has yet to locate an image of him.

Construction of the soon to be iconic, stone warehouses started in May 1844 and in 1846 Richards erected a novel steam-powered grain elevator. By 1848 the whole of the outside line of warehouses was completed.

Col. Daniel Richards lost control of Atlantic Docks in 1851 when James Stranahan quietly bought a majority share.

The Atlantic Dock triggered massive port developments and the urbanization of Red Hook.  Today's Atlantic Basin is a small, modernized remnant of the former grandeur of Atlantic Dock.


Crop from a Red Hook Building Company certificate share, 1838

Crop from a Red Hook Building Company certificate share, 1838

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Item Relations

This Item is related to Item: Atlantic Dock Brooklyn: Important improvement at Brooklyn, 1848.
This Item is related to Item: Ad For Atlantic Docks, 1847
Item: Red Hook Building Company, 1838 is related to This Item

Related Tour


  • Alexiou, Joseph.  Gowanus, Brooklyn’s Curious Canal, NYU Press, 2015

    Columbia University, Historic Preservation Program Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation Spring 2009. A Preservation Plan for Red Hook, Brooklyn (accessed 2016)

    Cornwell, Samuel H. The Brooklyn City Register, or, Guide for 1848 Containing General Information Respecting the City of Brooklyn. Brooklyn: C.H. Sprague 1848

    Brooklyn Historical Society. Guide to the Atlantic Dock Company collection 1978.151,

    Van Pelt, Daniel, Leslie's History of the Greater New York  v.2. New York: Arkell Pub. Co., 1898


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