Domino Sugar Factory

The Domino Sugar factory is situated in the neighborhood of Williamsburg in New York (USA). Today it is one the most important architectural icons of the city. The factory occupies a large area in front of the Williamsburg Bridge.

In the past this neighborhood was characterized by hipster culture, but in recent years it has become a more and more fashionable quarter of New York because of its “urban brand” that attracts artists and creative, but especially young professionals and families wishing to start a new life, different from the one in Manhattan.


The Domino Sugar Factory for several years was the most important sugar factory in the world, and for almost 150 years the most important refinery of the Domino Company.

The factory was built in 1856, but the current building, that still stays today, in 1882, because it was completely rebuilt after a fire destroyed everything. The owner, decided to combine 17 other sugar refineries and give life to one big company; this one was called Domino Sugar in 1902.

In 1870s the factory was refining more than half of the sugar consumed in the USA.

In its heyday, there were more than 5,000 employees working in the refinery, and the company produced 1.4 million kilos of sugar a day.

With fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners entering the market, the demand for cane sugar dropped. Because of this, processing of sugar in this factory ended in 2004.


In 1917 there was an explosion that destroyed part of the building and killed a lot of employees of the factory. Nobody knows what caused the explosion, but there is a rumor that German agents were to be blamed because the refinery was processing sugar for Allies. In this occasion, more than 15,000 people went to watch the factory burning.

In 2000 because of low wages and bad working conditions 250 workers started a strike that lasted 20 months. This was one of the longest strikes in the history New York.

The main building received a status of a “landmark” in 2007. There are plans for demolishing part of the plant. In place of this, several flats and public spaces for less well-off classes will be built. The community is against the demolitions because the factory is considered a piece of history.

Contributed by Artturi Hämäläinen from Finland


Inside The Domino Sugar Refinery


Jussaari is located 20 kilometres from the continental Finland, and it lies on an island bearing the same name. For hundreds of years the island has served as a brief stopping place for ships due to its vital location in the middle of sea routes. Earliest written documentation about Jussaari dates back to 1240.

Jussaaria Ghost Town

Jussaari is rich in iron ore. In fact there is so much of it that it even causes magnetic distraction for compasses which had been the main reason behind many shipwrecks during history. It has always had a reputation of a mystery island or devil island because sailors were afraid of Jussaari’s underwater rocks and games it played with compass needles. It was true especially during earlier times as sailors didn’t know that it was the iron ore that made compasses to go crazy. Thanks to its reputation, Jussaari even managed to make an entry in 17th century sailing guides which apparently did not help much anyway as the waters around Jussaari hold captive a great deal of sunken ships.

Jussaaria Ghost Town

Iron ore was precisely the reason why the island got its first permanent inhabitants. Mining activities started in 1831 and lasted till 1867. Back then Finland was part of Russia who ordered its western subjects to start mining their own minerals rather than buying them for a higher price from neighbouring Sweden. However, mining wasn’t profitable enough, even though prisoners were used as cheap labour to get the job done. Almost hundred years later mining was restarted in 1961 by a Finnish company called Vuokseniska who built all the necessary facilitates on the island. This greatly boosted Jussaari’s poor economy. Unfortunately this happy era only lasted for seven years as everything was shut down in 1967. The reason was simple – Jussaari’s iron ore couldn’t compete with Brazilians who during that time flooded the world market with cheaper and higher-quality iron.

Jussaaria Ghost Town

What is more interesting is that the mining was done not only on the island. There are over three kilometres of railroads under the see which are now flooded with seawater. Inside the tunnels large dining halls for workers can still be found. They used to spend a whole day in the mines there extracting iron.

Jussaaria Ghost Town

During the happy iron years, mining waste was dumped onto island, and the sand gradually became red. Dumped, processed by-products over time created a unique Iron Beach where sand is still of dark red colour.

Jussaaria Ghost Town

However the island was not left alone, and later miners were replace by soldiers. Due to its strategic location, Jussaari has always been of interest to the military. After mining period ended, Finnish armed forces took the island under their wing and set up some light artillery cannons there. Also a post for a coastguard was established whose duties were mainly focused on monitoring any suspicious activities on the sea and catching smugglers.

Jussaaria Ghost Town

For a long time the island has been closed to general public and only recently it was opened to visitors. As the empty mining facilities were briefly used for urban warfare training during island’s era under the military, nowadays, visitors can find plenty of used shells and other military waste lying around.

Contributed by Artturi Hämäläinen from Finland