Henry Hemmerdinger built up his father Morris’ rag business from a small factory in Williamsburg to one of the largest scrap fabric processing businesses in the country, located in Glendale, Queens. The family history and that part of the story were detailed in the first part of the story of Atlas Terminal. Henry turned an old farmstead and some factory buildings in the heart of Glendale into an industrial park for his business and his many tenants. By the time of his death in 1946, Atlas Terminal employed thousands of people, all working in the thirty-one buildings in the park. Atlas was now one of Queen’s major employers.
Henry’s only child, Monroe inherited the family business. An heir can sometimes kill a business that his or her family invested their lives to build, or they can succeed beyond their parent’s wildest expectations. Monroe set out to be the latter kind of heir. He was the culmination of his parent’s hard work, the grandson of an immigrant success story. Monroe was the first in his family to attend college; he matriculated from the elite Horace Mann School to Brown University, where he was the captain of the Brown swimming team. Following college, he enlisted in the Navy during World War II.
After his father’s death in 1946, Monroe began making his mark on the company. He enlarged the Terminal in 1949, bringing the total number of buildings to 40, over 800,000 square feet of space. The terminal had its own railroad line snaking through it, eight miles of track, with a switching engine to guide the freight cars around. Railroads were the preferred method of transportation at the time, not trucks, and from the terminal, the various companies could load their goods, and transfer the cars to hook up with the freight trains on the LIRR Montauk line that would carry those goods across the country. (more…)