The Maidenform Bra originated as an accessory to improve the fit of dresses the company sold, but became so popular that the company began to sell it separately.
Maidenform had begun business in Bayonne in 1922, when seamstress Ida Rosenthal, along with her husband William, and Enid Bissett, began a revolution in garment-making that changed the fashion industry.
The bra moved away from the traditional "boyish form" or flat-chested fashion to more shapely designs that became the centerpiece of fashion until the 1960s.
Maidenform also became famous for what were considered racy newspaper ads featuring underwear models. Maidenform was family-owned and operated until 1997.
The building at 74 Lexington Ave. has since been converted to senior citizens' apartments known as Senior Horizons.
Making it historic
Bayonne's City Council voted Feb. 8 to approve an ordinance adding that building - which also housed the famous manufacturing company Babcock & Wilson - to the city's list for local historic designation.
That means a property owner must get permission from the Historic Preservation Commission to make changes to the site, and must make changes that conform to certain standards.
"These are companies that employed many people in Bayonne over the years," said Joseph Ryan, who serves as staff secretary to the Bayonne Historic Preservation Commission
The building was first constructed in 1907-08 as office space for the Babcock & Wilcox Company plant on an adjacent site.
Stephen Wilcox and George Babcock formed their company just after the American Civil War. They became one of the pioneers in the development of steam engines that powered nearly all of the American Navy's above- and below-surface fleet up until the conclusion of World War II.
In addition, the engines also made the New York City subway system possible as well as the PATH trains. Babcock & Wilcox boilers powered the first New York Subway in 1902, and year later, provided boilers to the Edison Company of Chicago to provide power there - the first time in history that steam turbines were used exclusively to generate electric power.
Babcock & Wilcox manufactured steam boilers for both industrial and military use, and power systems for the United States' War and Navy Departments during World War I and World War II.
Babcock & Wilcox in the war
Babcock & Wilcox Company played a huge role in World War II war production, not only providing power for ships, but also the heaviest walled pressure container ever constructed for the atomic bomb program (then known as The Manhattan Project).
Work done at the Bayonne plant during the war won the company Navy Awards for Excellence in Wartime Production.
The company also played a major role in the production of synthetic rubber - helping to make up for the loss of Asian rubber plantations then occupied by enemy combatants.
The development of synthetic rubber helped keep military vehicles and other mechanisms operational during a critical stage in the war effort.
Babcock & Wilcox also holds a significant place in railway history, with its Bayonne facility producing steel plates for boilers and railroad locomotives. Internationally, Babcock & Wilcox also produced the cylinders that made the operating gates of the Panama Canal possible.
The Bayonne facility was also critical in research and development of safer boilers.
Site met historical criteria
According to the ordinance, the property meets two criteria for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Places can be listed as historic that have made a significant contribution to history, represent a particular characteristic or method of construction, and/or have a high artistic value.
The 3.5-story red brick building with limestone base and trim is designed in the Commercial style.