National Meter was founded in New York in 1870 by John C. Kelley (April 17, 1839 - January 24, 1914). In 1879, Lewis H. Nash, an engineer for National, developed the Crown water meter, which revolutionized the water meter industry and led to widespread adoption of water meters.1. Nash held a number of patents for water meters and gasoline engines, all of which he developed while the Chief Engineer for National Meter. Kelley, who was described as the father of the water meter industry2, lived at 247 Hancock Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant in a mansion designed by Montrose Morris. At the time of his death, National was the largest manufacturer of water meters in the country. The company was previously located at 432 Kent Avenue3. In October of 1891, National acquired the entire blockfront of First Avenue between 41st and 42nd Streets in today's Sunset Park section of Brooklyn from Stewart McDougall for $28,500.4 In December of that year, the company filed for construction of a new factory in the 8th Ward of Brooklyn5, known then as Bay Ridge6. The original factory included a 120'-tall tower, which contained water tanks and a freight elevator, and had a clock on the exterior. The main entrance to the factory was on 42nd Street. The factory office, on First Avenue, contained a four-story tall fireproof vault for storing "patterns, drawings, master tools and the books used in the business". At the time of construction, National Meter employed 200; the new factory had capacity for 800 to 1,00 men.7 In 1893, the company constructed a one-story brick brass foundry on 43rd Street, near First Avenue.8 In 1899, a two-story engine room designed by J. H. Norris was constructed on First Avenue, south of the office structure of 1891.9 Various other small buildings and extensions were constructed along 42nd and 43rd Street by National Meter Co. in the 1890s, 1900s and 1910s. National Meter Co. was purchased by the Equitable Meter Co. of Pittsburgh in 1941.10
- 1. "The Late John C. Kelley and the American Water Meter Industry", Engineering News, v. 71, no. 13 (March 26, 1914): 674-675.
- 2. Ibid, p. 675
- 3. "Fire in a Factory", Brooklyn Daily Eagle (October 16, 1887): 1
- 4. Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide (v. 48, no. 1230 (October 10, 1891): 443.
- 5. Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide, v. 48, no. 1241 (December 26, 1891): 841.
- 6. "Bay Ridge is Growing", Brooklyn Daily Eagle (December 14, 1891): 2
- 7. Ibid.
- 8. "New Buildings and Real Estate",Brooklyn Daily Eagle (March 5, 1892): 2.
- 9. "New Buildings", Real Estate Record and Builders Guide, v. 63, no. 1622 (April 15, 1899): 710.
- 10. "Meter Makers Merge", Wall Street Journal (March 19, 1941): 17.
4201 First Avenue