Blog/Inside The Domino Sugar Refinery

Through photographs, we step inside this 135-year-old industrial relic which was once the largest sugar refinery in the world.


Raphaelson was the last photographer given access to the factory.



The original Domino Sugar plant in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, New York, was built in 1856. By 1870, it processed more than half of the sugar used in the United States. In 1882, a fire completely destroyed the original building and it was rebuilt in brick and stone.

Finally, after a long struggle, the Domino Sugar Refinery, which was once the largest in the world, shut down in 2004. In 2013, the developers gave Brooklyn based photographer Paul Raphaelson exclusive access to the derelict refinery before demolition work began. He was the last photographer in the building and his book 'Brooklyn's Sweet Ruin' is a powerful record of a New York icon's final days.

As Domino Park opens, in the first phase of an ambitious project to redevelop part of the refinery and a substantial area of land surrounding it, it is fitting to share some of Raphaelson's photographs. Here, in all its colour and chaos, is a prime example of post-industrial America. But as we marvel at its past, we also celebrate its future.

New renderings also published here reveal the remarkable remodelling of the old sugar refinery's waterfront that is currently underway, and being led by Two Trees Management.

© 2017 Paul Raphaelson from the book: 'Brooklyn’s Sweet Ruin: Relics and Stories of the Domino Sugar Refinery' Photographs and text by Paul Raphaelson, Schiffer Publishing,

The cavernous building would once have reverberated with astonishing noise levels. Harsh conditions. Yet the refinery inspired camaraderie.


Today, the once punishing sound levels have been replaced with an eerie silence. 


The blowup tanks at the top of the filter house are amongst the surreal forms captured in intense detail in Paul Raphaelson's memorable book.


Abandoned one-of-a-kind controls and machinery are depicted in the book. It includes interviews with the workers, recalling the daily hazards.


Raphaelson felt surrounded by ghosts of the refinery's past as well as its impending demolition.


Metal lockers and a wooden trolley are left abandoned inside the Packaging House.


A rendering of New York's Domino Sugar Factory reveals an impressive glass extension to the brick building.


Williamsburg's residents hadn't been able to access the waterfront in over a century. That has now all changed.


The highly anticipated Domino Park is six acres in size. It took six years to plan, with the community's input.