An Adaptively Re-Used Queens Paper Factory

An evolution from industrial to industrial-chic

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Pilot Radio BuildingA particular challenge faced by the trend in “retro” architectural design is creating an authentic feel out of thin air, giving a sense of history to a space that doesn’t have one. At the Paper Factory Hotel, which is located in —naturally— an adaptively re-used paper factory, our look developed organically and is just one more chapter in a story that began nearly a century ago.

From Power to Paper

On the site of our Queens hotel back in 1922, entrepreneur Isidor Goldberg founded The Pilot Electric Manufacturing Company that was also known as the Pilot Radio Company. The company manufactured radios and parts for home use, eventually producing a range of communication devices and televisions during the Second World War. As paper production began to soar, due particularly to the newspaper industry boom that started during the war, the building housed a successful paper mill that operated as the Romo Paper Products printing company after the mill shut down. During the 1970’s the building, as well as the neighborhood became distressed and slipped into an era of neglect and disrepair.

A New Queens Hotel Arrives Amidst the City’s Rebirth

The dot-com era produced a wave of resurgence and re-development in Western Queens and Long Island City, but it took a while longer for someone to see the potential in the cavernous, 86,000-square-foot industrial hulk on 36th Street. Real estate developer Gal Sela decided the up-and-coming neighborhood needed a hotel and saw the distressed paper plant and warehouse as the ideal place. He bought the property in 2012, and “The Paper Factory Hotel” went into its $27 million production run.

As a homage to the space’s blue-collar heritage, the Queens hotel was designed using as much of the original repurposed material as possible. The foyers and rooms are eclectic and quirky, often incorporating the space’s original elements such as the polished concrete floors or reclaimed materials. Vintage hammered metal doors, expansive factory windows and exposed pipes seamlessly mesh with modern art and sleek light fixtures. Charmingly rustic furnishings and stylish yet comfy furniture soften up the spaces, while lofty 12-foot ceilings give the 122 rooms and suites a bright, airy feel (Oversized windows allowed more natural light into the factory and high ceilings ventilated the space for workers during their 12-hour shifts. Today, these architectural elements contribute to an airy sense of space that’s rare for New York City hotel rooms that don’t cost a fortune).

Sporadic steampunk detailings abound throughout the Queens hotel, along with repurposed 19th century manufacturing appliances and funky but functional seating. In perhaps one of the most stunning details commemorating its paper past, the lobby showcases a dramatic circular staircase with a central column sheathed in hundreds of hardcover books.

You can’t know who you are without knowing where you come from. As excited as the owners are about the building’s makeover, they’re equally proud of its heritage as one of the original operators in Queens. Come pay the hotel a visit and see history everywhere you look.

The story continues…