From the (1939) WPA Guide to New York City:
The Bush Terminal District, west of Fifth Avenue between Twenty-eighth and Sixty-fifth Streets, is the site of the largest freight depot, loft building, and warehouse aggregate in the city. To the east sprawls a poor residential area. A colony of some thirty thousand Norwegians, on Fourth and Fifth Avenues between Fortieth and Sixtieth Streets, retains many of its native customs and tastes. The food stores display Scandinavian delicacies, and the newspaper Nordisk Tidende is published weekly.
Bush Terminal, from the foot of Twenty-eighth Street to Fiftieth Street, a huge agglomeration of piers, warehouses, manufacturing establishments, and railroad sidings covering two hundred acres of water front, is owned and operated by two independent companies, the Bush Terminal Company and the Bush Terminal Buildings Company.
Bush Terminal Company
(Visitors may obtain permission to tour the plant from the office of the Bush Terminal Company at the foot of Forty-third Street, and from the office of the Bush Hind Buildings Company at Thirty-fifth Street and Third Avenue.) It was founded in the 1890's by Irving T. Bush on the site of his father's former oil business. The development began with one pier, a warehouse, an old railroad engine, and a towboat, and to publicize the enterprise Bush contracted for shipments of hay from Michigan and bananas from Jamaica, stipulating that the merchandise be delivered to the terminal. The project grew steadily until today it comprises 150 building units, including nineteen loft buildings, each from six to twelve Stories, built of steel, concrete, and glass. Thirty-five steamships can be berthed at the eight large piers. All day, amid the clatter of trucks and freight cars enormous cranes hoist and lower goods amounting to almost one-fifth of all the imports and exports of the port of New York. Some thirty thousand workers are employed by the various companies here.
Bush Terminal with U.S. battleship Kearsarge in foreground (between 1900 and 1915)
The New York Port of Embarkation and Army Supply Base, from the foot of Fifty eighth to Sixty-fifth Street, is used for commercial shipments as well as for forwarding supplies to both local and foreign units of the Army. The base, with a storage capacity of half a million tons, contains two eight-story warehouses of reinforced concrete and three two-story piers. The buildings, designed by Cass Gilbert and completed in 1918 at a cost of forty million dollars, are early examples of a nonstylistic, industrial type of architecture. Here the architect refrained from adding extraneous ornament, and the striking effect comes from a skillful arrangement of such vital elements as concrete piers, spandrels, scuppers, windows, and doorways. Two hundred officers and enlisted men and more than a thousand civil employees, under the command of a brigadier general man the base.