Saturday, July 21, 2012

Weathermakers to the World 2.0 (Behind the scenes, again, sort of)

The former site of Sackett & Wilhelms, today's ISPC.
Picture the second floor circa 1902 with 60 multi-color
presses and a weekly deadline to churn out Judge magazine.
On July 16 I had the opportunity--thanks to UTC Climate, Controls and Security/Carrier, CBS This Morning, ISPC Brooklyn (and here) and CooperKatz, to tour the former Sackett & Wilhelms printing facility (circa 1900 till sometime in the 1920s) in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.  After researching the history of air conditioning for a year and launching Weathermakers to the World at the Library of Congress (and here), this really was a special treat--to visit "ground zero" where Willis Carrier's invention of modern air conditioning was first installed and operated.

To steal a phrase from Lexington and Concord, it was at Sackett & Wilhelms that "the cool, dry blast felt round the world" originated.  (By the way, if you want to see some of the things S&W printed, see here.  They were a well-known, high end NYC printer that did, among other products, Judge magazine--see here for images.  Spoiler alert: It was Judge that was giving S&W fits.)  

I was never so excited to stand next to rusty old
pipes in my entire life.  This is where the cool water from
a local well entered the building and was pumped into the
first a/c apparatus.
In other words, air conditioning started in a factory, and it was first and foremost about humidity control and only later about temperature.  In fact, it would take about 30 years for a residential market to evolve, and another 20 (thanks to Depression and War) for a/c to really escape its industrial orbit and migrate to the urban apartment and suburbs.  When it did, though, it did so with a vengeance.  The Huffington Post article here has a good summary of Weathermakers, and of this migration.  The New York Times also did a great city blog feature here.

Anyway, for a visit to the Sackett & Wilhelms site, see the CBS This Morning video segment here

And, of course, if you want to put Willis Carrier on Mt. Rushmore--on this, a 96F in Boston--click here.   

The original blueprints return to the building 110 years
later, with our CBS The Morning cameraman watching me
pretend that I know how to read them.