Sunday, May 1, 2016

Through the Tunnel, concluded

Machine Shop to Foundry

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Around 1890, when Farrel Foundry & Machine Company acquired the land beyond the old factory road north of their original buildings, it was to build a new foundry to handle demand for new and larger rolls and calenders. With the new foundry, people and materials were continually crossing the old factory road. Growth on the site over the next thirty years is well documented in the maps of Ansonia, and it is easy to imagine each expansion adding bridges to carry people, materials and utility lines over the factory road. 

However, from the start, the most important passage was across the small yard where the tunnel comes out of darkness. Along this axis heavy castings were regularly moved from the foundry to the machine shops where they were finished and assembled and readied for shipment. Several of the cranes on the foundry side are rated at 60 tons; the castings were huge.

Expansions would soon include new, larger roll mills parallel to the new foundry and lower on the hillside, and other axes would carry materials up from the rail line and down to the new roll sheds. Men working at the mill today tell me it was the largest machine foundry east of the Mississippi. It was becoming a machine-making machine.

Foundry to Machine Shop

Back down the Tunnel

Top of the Tunnel

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Through the Tunnel, No.3 - "Behind the Times"

Apr 27 @ 6:30 PM - Hagaman Memorial Library, East Haven
May 4 @ 7 PM - Windsor Locks Public Library
May 17 @ 6 PM - Wolcott Public Library

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Farrel Foundry & Machine Company has prospered and adapted, remaining vital across 160 years of change, and early buildings stand encrusted within expansions and repurposing that healed over awkward junctures never anticipated when the buildings were set parallel to Main Street, not Parallel to the railroad track. It would take an expert to peel back the layers of the onion to date each fantastic protrusion and bay, but at the bottom of geometry defying walls, bridges, catwalks and machinery, the old factory, road that circled the buildings before the Civil War and maybe before the railroad, still crosses the railroad siding remnants and ascends in shadows through two light wells to Main Street. Once understood, it is a journey through time more surprising than any amusement park fun house or tunnel of laughs.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Through the Tunnel N0.2, "Bodies in Motion"

Through the Tunnel, No.1

Apr 27 @ 6:30 PM - Hagaman Memorial Library, East Haven
May 4 @ 7 PM - Windsor Locks Public Library
May 17 @ 6 PM - Wolcott Public Library

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: A full trip through the tunnel might begin here. Behind me the roll-down gate has rusted shut, but that’s where the yard locomotive could push a flat car, so workers in the machine shop above could roll back the wooden roll-top cover and lower giant, crated machine castings for assembly in factories near and far. They say one machine for crushing sugar in Cuba required 60 train cars on its way to the docks in Bridgeport and one whole ship to take it to Havana. 

Beyond the shadowy passageways on the left is where the original dirt road passed beneath the cantilevered corner of the machine shed above, and that road still continues by these sheds and turns and enters another portal where light first pierces inside the tunnel ahead.

Once this track rolled on through the next portal, where the tunnel continues behind a wall of ancient, paned glass, across the factory road and on past a new gate to a shed where a truck is the only object left in a roll shed where machinists and welders finished and packaged giant calenders and chilled iron rolls bound for copper mills and rubber mills and paper mills and plastic mills and sugar mills and anywhere that rolling was part of manufacturing, and the track continues beneath the intersecting bridge to the sand elevator into a final shed that ends where the Farrel property ends and American Brass abuts. The shed is marked on the 1911 map, “Heavy Machine Work,” and is still, today, surmounted by two massive sixty-ton cranes. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sport Utility Vehicle

(continued from previous post) 

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Once, broad-beamed wagons followed the old factory road beneath the first tunnel segments, and later yard engines pushed rail cars for loading and unloading there.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Tunnel

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: When I asked a native if there was a name for the odd, alley roadway that snakes beneath the Farrel Foundry & Machine Co., up the hill to the just where Main Street crossed the canal; a name for the lane that divides the Farrel foundry and roll shops to the north from the other Farrel machine shops to the south, the name was given instantly: “The Tunnel.” I suspect there’s history in that name. 

Had we stood with the men who surveyed for the insurance map of 1884, we might have noted a patchwork appearance, as now. However, many of the quirky details would have made sense. Of course there was no tunnel yet, and all the buildings north of the tunnel, the foundry and the large roll mills had not been built; it was just what we see from the green gable to the brick shed with the Farrel signage. Back then the green gable was the roll mill, and the back end of the brick shed was the foundry; this end was the machine shop. That was all there was and the dirt factory road that encircled it.

The surveyors might have ridden down the dirt factory road, which their map shows descending the hill from Main Street before passing under the corner of the building with the signage, on the right. The passage is there today, though the reason seems obscure. It is just behind the brick wall that supports the cantilevered corner of the work shed above. The wall is neatly reinforced and protected with iron trim against the abuses of haulers. 

The surveyors might have tied their horses there where they would not be frightened by a passing train? The corner is an odd detail, and the map makers chose an odd way to represent it graphically. The same graphic device appears twice more. The device is used to show the opening beneath the green gable where the old factory road passed under another corner of the shed, and it is used again where the road slips under one back corner of the shed's opposing gable, as the road ascends again to join North Main Street. No tunnel, just a dirt road to carry wagons underneath the work floor at three corners so heavy rolls and large machine parts might be lowered down and pigs and sand raised up.

It wouldn’t be until 1906 that a siding would extend beneath the building. The track is still there where it passes through the opening beneath the word Machine in the signage. From the start, the factory was designed as a kind of machine. By 1911 most of the foundry sheds north of the road were in use, and the track would enter beneath the gable where the factory road had previously run, and continue across a yard and into a new, narrow shed designated for, “Heavy Machine Work,” beyond the sand elevator bridge.

And so the factory road had to be moved to the outside and allowed to cross the track outside the building to follow it’s old course back to Main Street even as factory passages crossed over it, enveloped it, and narrow stairways and passages opened onto it, and eventually the the final yard would be filled in between the factory road and the bridge to the sand elevator, and the factory road would enter a third opening, as it does today, where cars routinely cross blindly over the siding. It is the bottom gateway to the tunnel.

NOTE: If you were unable to clearly see small details referred to above, be assured the original from which it is made is a stitched pan which may be printed up to about 14 feet in length.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Pig Dinosaur

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The Carrie Blast Furnaces, part of Andrew Carnegie's Homestead Steel Works along the Monongahela River above Pittsburgh, are awe inspiring for many reasons, not least because workers fed raw materials to a ceaseless conveyor into the furnace blast at one end while other workers withdrew liquid slag and pig iron in equal measure at the other, a balanced blast system running uninterrupted for periods of 4 to 8 years, fed by a constant flow of trains and barges and systems of overhead cranes and conveyors, unless all was stopped by a strike.

On Sunday I spent five hours at what is left of the Carrie Furnaces in a photo shoot made possible by Abandoned America Photo Workshops. My thanks to Matthew Christopher who does the leg work to make such shoots possible.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Brass Skyline

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL:  Anson Phelps played an important role in the creation of three of Brass Valley’s industrial mill cities: Torrington, Derby, and Ansonia, but because he was a metals trader and therefore also often a banker, he was known, and his influence was felt everywhere in Brass Valley. However, this city, which takes his name, was his consummate enterprise, and he died in 1853, before the end of Ansonia's first decade, but the beginnings of skyline were not far off.

The skyline of a city has many secrets known to its residents, but out of reach to those, like me, who never “skinned" their knees as children there. Other secrets lie hidden in plain site to locals, and it sometimes takes the outsider to at least give them a nod. When I speak of “Ansonia’s Skyline,” if listeners don't pass the phrase over as idle nonsense, they ask, “Ansonia has a skyline?” 

Ansonia’s skyline is a history of it’s creation. The stack at the back marks where Anson Phelps put his brass mill when the canal was dug in 1845 (still there), that once passed all the way through the middle of town. The next stack marks the back edge of the Farrel Foundry & Machine Company. Anson Phelps hired Almon Farrel to build the canal from the Kinneytown Dam to provide reliable power for his community of entrepreneurs. The railroad was coming, and the future of the valley looked bright. Almon Farrel put his own mill here, and Farrel Foundry & Machine Company grew prosperous manufacturing industrial equipment for the Valley and the world, and it is still at work inside the brick sheds near the center. However, the brick sheds partially conceal wood sheds that were already arming soldiers as the town grew through the Civil War. Peel the skyline like an onion and find layers of stories.

By the 1870s the town was in need of a meeting room. Immigrants were arriving, the town was growing, and a group of townsmen saw a chance to provide a service the town needed and maybe earn a profit, and they hired a rising young architect to build the town a finely detailed Opera House of red brick with a whimsical cornice, seen here from the back. It provided a large space for everything from roller-skating to weddings and high school graduation and became the essential meeting place in town. At the same time, up the street, newly settled Irish workers, having finished long shifts in the mills, spent the hours afterward digging a foundation so Ansonia could have its own Catholic church. In a generation the church had become cramped even after the Italian Catholics moved to their own church. The second Church of the Assumption, which stands above town, was completed in 1907 and tells the world how Ansonia had changed.

Just below the Church of the Assumption is the Ansonia Armory, built between 1919 and 1921. The town was growing; the Opera House was too small, and there was so much more one could do with an armory. Local newspapers reveal it was a valuable town facility in times of war and peace, a place for policemen’s balls, Veterans’ dinners, and automobile shows, for expositions on progress and for food banks; it was a place for the drills of EMTs, brass bands, units and brigades, and it was the home of the Purple Heart Association. It’s worth noting that it was built at a time of union busting and civil unrest with barracks to house troops to do what they had to do to prevent a repeat of the 1919 strikes.

Of skinned-knee memories, few can be passed on, they lie in our nostrils and on our tongues and at the edges of our eyes and are harder to convey. Those who were ten and remember antediluvian Ansonia are my age now, and these things are far older. However buildings from the past that were built for the ages connect us with time, lest we scatter like weeds.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Rod Mill Sunset

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Factories cluster along a rail corridor like swine at a food trough, and bridges carry everything from people to cranes to utility conduits over the tracks. There were many bridges, but there was only one road crossing the mill site. Sunset illuminates the road from the riverside up to Liberty Street. The old rolling mill was in the dark building on the left, though for modern workers it was the flat wire mill. The rod mill is on the right and stretches an equal distance behind me as in front of me. This is a universal landscape of industrial America, the landscape that Gropius idealized and aesthetized.  

A bridge was built here sometime between 1890 and 1895. There is a trick to this bridge, and for a long time it puzzled me. (text continued below)

The bridge does not end at the factory wall but continues across the bay to an attic-like space that runs above much of the length of the rod mill. Like this bridge, the bridge that crossed the tracks in 1895 reached well beyond the rail corridor to a narrow work shed which the map labels, “Burner Shop,” of "Wallace & Sons Manuf’rs of Brass and Copper Goods.” Men worked there on edging lathes, and in a press room. Was this the bridge that carried the finished burners across the tracks to the “Lamp Depart" and “Stock R’m” at about the time Edison and Tezla fought the battle of the currents in White City? (text continued below)

After White City was done glistening, factories became even more like big machines. The dark “dormer,” which casts it shadow beside the old rolling mill, is really the stub end of a missing bridge over which rode a monorail crane. The old crane is still parked inside the stub of the bridge (shown here:, and the track still runs down the length of the attic and turns right at the end of the rod mill. Once, it crossed the yard to the casting house, turned left and crossed back over the track, connecting finally to what used to be the rolling mill built by Ansonia Brass & Copper, the company started here by Anson Phelps. One can see both bridges for the first time in the 1921, aerial map of Ansonia ( The second monorail bridge is the covered bridge with the skylight and roof vents. Behind it is the two-story bridge of the Farrel sand elevator.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Inside the Three Gables


March 1-29 - Photos on exhibit at Silas Bronson Library, Waterbury 
Mar 22 @ 6 PM - Derby Neck Library, Derby
April 7-29 - Photos on exhibit at Hagaman Library, East Haven, CT
April 12 @ 6:30 - Beacon Falls Public Library
April 23 - "Picture It” visual harmony to  the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra 
Apr 27 @  6:30 PM - Hagaman Memorial Library, East Haven
May 4 @ 7 PM - Windsor Locks Public Library
May 17 @ 6 PM - Wolcott Public Library

[This is the continuation of a series of posts begun on this blog in December, 2015, concerning the rail corridor in Ansonia that runs through the last great mill sites of Brass Valley. Those interested in picking up from the beginning might start at, “Anyplace USA,” Dec. 22 blog post.]

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: I’m standing in the great space that ends in the Three Gables of American Brass, Ansonia, two of which lie in front of me. Readers of this blog will be familiar with the exterior; the windows at the end of this great central row of bays are stepped to match the incline of the cross-factory road, that rises from the riverside to the bridge across the canal and to Liberty Street. 

In tha back aisle late-day sun through skylights lights old stone foundations that hint at secrets of the work-sheds lineage. Between the rows of skylights I can’t see (but which I know are there) are the cupola vents with the pentangle finials; it is this space, beside tinning and riveting, about whose lineage I’ve been speculating. It is the oldest section of the mill site.

If I stood and looked this way in 1866, I would have been looking into the Wallace and Sons rolling mill as men and machines rolled brass that would be used for a hundred different items supporting the North. Back then there would have been walls where the columns march. Those columns and trusses were set in place between 1900 and 1906 as the property passed from Wallace & Sons, to Coe Brass, and was then quickly consolidated into the new American Brass Company. From the outside this building looks like a cluster of sheds, but from inside, except for the surviving riveting room which hangs over the eastern aisle, it is one space with three aisles of bays. 

Beneath the stepped windows, embedded in the factory wall, are the piled stones of the ramp, built to get over the canal to Liberty Street. It’s hard for me not to think of old man Wallace and his sons supervising the the laying of those stones to assure the easy commerce between upper and lower portions of his milll. Where the ramp reaches it’s greatest height, stone masons have carefully laid a heavy arch of stones over some tunnel, long ago bricked over. Where did it lead and why? Who once went there? On the other side of the ramp was Anson Phelps own brass mill.

However, the old stone wall beneath the cupola vents may be far older than the rolling mill, and the stones along the back wall, now splashed with late-day sun, seem even earlier than the stones of the ramp. They are larger and set with more care for fitting puzzle piece contours but with less concern for rising vertically, and somewhere a dozen or more feet behind them is the Ansonia canal, and it’s easy to believe Wallace & Sons set their early, two-story building on this site behind a dike wall that Almon and Franklin Farrel constructed to contain the canal they built for Anson Phelps on the founding of Ansonia. Almon and Franklin Farrel were laying the foundations of a future city, and the canal lured the industrialists and entrepreneurs to buy the metal Anson Phelps traded and which fueled 150 years of rising expectations and expanding opportunities amid work that was dirty and dangerous and purposeful.

[American Brass, Ansonia, flat wire mill; formerly the site of the original Wallace & Sons and later American Brass rolling mill.]

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Removing the Distributer Cups

On Exhibition Now & Throughout March

Six Images from the Casting House

photographic images by Emery Roth

slide-talk: March 10 at 6 PM

Silas Bronson Library
267 Grand Street
Waterbury, Connecticut

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL:  The distributer cups break the single flow of metal into small streams, as it flows into the molds, so that bubbles don’t form. They must be removed before the freshly poured billets can be pulled and set to cool. The last casting furnace stopped in December, 2013. The large prints in this exhibit try to capture the moods of the casting house in its last three years. It was at once one of the most beautiful and dirtiest places I've ever been.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Farrel Birmingham

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL:  These are among the original buildings of the Farrel Foundry & Machine Company in Ansonia, CT. They have stood here since before the Civil War. They lie at the center of the history of Brass Valley. Few people who come here are not struck by the dark, green wood of these sheds. Inside, parts for some of the largest machines in industry were cast and finished.

In 1845 Almon Farrel dug the canal from the Kinneytown Dam that powered the industrial village that Anson Phelps built and called Ansonia. There Anson Phelps sold sites to entrepreneurs looking for a reliable supply of water power and the favorable encouragement of a landlord who wanted to sell them metal. Almon Farrel was among the first to step forward and purchase a site for what became Farrel Foundry & Machine Company. Farrel made the machines to power the mills and eventually the machines to make the things the other mills made. They were busy even before the Civil War.

Together with the Birmingham Company, across the river in the other industrial village Anson Phelps built, they made much of the mill equipment that powered Brass Valley. Eventually they merged into Farrel Birmingham, and this became their center. These are the sheds in which much of Brass Valley was literally built. As far as I know, the city’s plan is to level them. I hope I am mistaken.

The opening on the right was made to accommodate a train, but the one on the left admits cars to a steep driveway leading through the middle of the mill buildings and a series of courtyards and eventually up to Main Street. They tell me it is known locally as, “The Tunnel.” Early maps show clearly that, before the sheds were extended along the track, the road simply encircled the building to get up to Main Street.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Waterbury Parade

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: In Waterbury on Sunday, looking from the steps of City Hall toward the former headquarters of Chase Brass Company designed by Cass Gilbert; it is now part of Waterbury's Government Center.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Building 7

[Anaconda American Brass in Ansonia, box shop]

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Follow the factory road north from the crossroad to beyond the high, north-facing windows of the machine shop, where cats slumber and feed, and you reach the building they called the Box Shop. 

The actual shop where, I presume, boxes were made to hold product, was in the bay on the right. The stripped Chrysler Coronado has parked there for as long as I’ve been visiting. Inside the box shop the former occupants could still be found hanging from hooks and nails, in drawers, on counters, and stashed into cubbies. Everything down to the aspirin had been left, while the building crumbled around and above, but among shadowy creaks and silence there might as well have been box-builders, a Coronado driver, perhaps.

Building 7 appears on maps of Ansonia for the first time in 1911 where it is identified as the, “Carpenter Shop," of "Coe Brass Mfg Co.” On previous maps this site was the Wallace & Sons Brass Co., and on future maps it will be part of American Brass Company, but in 1911, as consolidation of the brass industry is underway, it is Coe Brass. 

The bay on the left was open to the elements and empty. We trusted a crumbling stair once, long ago, to get to the second floor. There we found a beautiful long gallery lined with windows on both sides and completely empty. I was hesitant to trust the floor, knowing the condition of the shop below, and took no memorable pictures. I never dared the stair again before the building was leveled last summer.

The Coronado is still there - moved across the yard.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Vanishing Brass

Finding Brass Valley, 
a Place in Time that Has Almost Vanished
SLIDE TALK: Woodbury Public Library, Tuesday, February 16, at 7 PM

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: The old American Brass casting shop in Ansonia, they  tell me, is suffering its final winter of abuse. This image from 2013 will do. Too far to make the trip again in snow to catch it under snowfall. But to catch it hung with icicles! 


Feb 16 @ 7 PM - Woodbury Public Library (snow date, Feb. 23)
Feb 25 @ 6 PM - Ansonia Public Library
March 1-29 - Photos on exhibit at Silas Bronson Library, Waterbury 
Mar 10 @ 6 PM - Silas Bronson Library (snow date, Mar 14)
Mar 12 @ 6 PM - Railroad Museum of New England, Thomaston
Mar 22 @ 6 PM - Derby Neck Library, Derby
April 7-29 - Photos on exhibit at Hagaman Library, East Haven, CT
Apr 27 @  6:30 PM - Hagaman Memorial Library, East Haven
May 4 @ 7 PM - Windsor Locks Public Library
May 17 @ 6 PM - Wolcott Public Library
November 12 - January, 2017 - Photos on exhibit Minor Public Library, Roxbury
Nov. 12 @    - Minor Public Library, Roxbury, CT

Winter Green, Waterbury

Friday, February 5, 2016

Main Street Time Lapse, Ansonia

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: The first photo was easy to take at 7:15, on Sunday evening, 2011. The last, taken last Sunday evening when I thought there would be few cars, put me in the path of headlights. It’s good to see the changes.

Sunday, May 1, 2011, 7:15 PM

 Tuesday, March 17, 2015, 7:30 PM

Sunday, January 31, 2016, 6:17 PM

Monday, February 1, 2016

Cutting Up

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: I wasn’t there the day the crane came down, but an i-phone video they showed me the next day, suggests it was done with masterful indelicacy. They cut it loose and dropped it. I already posted a picture of the fork lift they used to move and turn the fallen carcass as Mike cut it apart. Here is the rest of the drama.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


Housatonic Museum of Art - Housatonic Community College, Bridgeport
February 10 @ 11:45, HCC Events Center

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: When Anson Phelps, in 1845, built a well-watered canal from the Kinneytown Dam in Seymour for a mile-and-a-quarter, to bring power to mill sites in a new industrial village he called, “Ansonia,” he put his own brass and copper mill in buildings somewhere near the back of this picture. We are looking north from the south end of the extrusion mill on the southeast corner of the American Brass crossroad.

Ansonia Copper & Brass (AC&B), that until December or 2013 still had operations on this site, claimed its ancestry back to Anson Phelps original Ansonia Brass & Copper (AB&C). Shortly after 1900 it became part of American Brass with mills throughout brass valley and covering all four corners of the crossroad. We are looking down the conveyor of the last, major piece of new equipment installed in the Ansonia millworks, I’m told sometime in the 1960s or 70s when this mill went by the name, “Anaconda American Brass.” 

The ladder leads to a bridge crossing the conveyor, and the giant extruder is to the left. Ladders run up its sides and catwalks cross the top. It is like a small ship with its decks leading fore and aft; ladders lead to spaces “below deck,” where motors churn, yet it is small next to its conveyors. I never saw it in operation. I’m told it could extrude continuous lengths of metal rod which could be sent down the conveyor or wrapped on spools that rotated automatically and looked to me a bit like the amusement park ride known as, “The Whip.” When the extruder was installed, it was state of the art.

The yellow crane in the distance is the same 5-ton crane discussed in the last paragraph of the previous photograph in this series, “Picking.”

Friday, January 22, 2016


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Since I began photographing it in 2011, this sand elevator in Ansonia, has drawn me back like no other structure I know. In that time I’ve taken images of it that pleased me; posted some publicly.  Until I took this image earlier this week, none had caught the full potential of this monument as I feel it until this one. It sings a song of us.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: (refer to for earlier posts in the series)

The southeast corner of the brass mill crossroad was where Anson Phelps set his first Ansonia brass mill, though this building, in the photo, is of a later era. Mike is cutting apart one of the 5-ton traveling cranes, cleaning the building for efficient demolition. It has been an idle extrusion mill through the wink of time that I’ve been coming here. By spring, they say, the building may be gone.

The maps of 1884 and 1890 paint a picture of what happened here then. This photograph begins at what was then, probably, the edge of the mill yard. The yard is behind me in this image, and I’m beside the yard-office, cartloads coming and going, men swearing in many languages. By 1890 the perimeter of the yard has been nibbled away by many small buildings, and the central yard office of 1884 has become a new shipping department with testing facilities connected to the large mill which once stood in my picture. 

The 1890 map calls this large building, “Muffle R’m,” and says it has an “Iron Floor.” It is the largest building on the property. The map shows the “Casting Shop,” off to the right, and in the bay in front of Mike stood the Rolling Mill with two sections, one for “Brazed Tube,” and the other identified as the “Rod R’m.” Further back and probably dug into the hillside and/or raised to a second level, beside the canal, were a series of small rooms, some showing furnace blocks. A stair indicates a partial second floor, and one room is designated for pickling and must have been nearly as high as, and accessible to, the adjacent rolling mill. 

Even this only covers half of the current building site, and at the time of the 1890 map Ansonia Brass & Copper was building a new rod mill on the other half of the site. It would be on property between the brass mill and Farrel that had belonged to, “Postal Telegraph & Cable Co.”  More departments would mean new workers, more managers, and people moving up. Younger workers watching, considering opportunities. It would mean more people riding trollies and shopping on Main Street. It would mean telephones and later radio and automobiles.

The 1895 map shows the rod mill completed, and the old mill yard is filled in, all the small buildings gone, and a new mill for seamless tube abuts the existing structure covering the space to the factory road across from the Three Gables. The map shows the new tube mill with raised skylights down the middle of the building, two rows at right angles and crossing at the midpoint; four narrow gables are in the middle of each facade; one looks across at the Three Gables. I imagine beneath the tube mill skylights are aisles, where people pushed carts between benches, and cranes moved seamless tube, and the sounds of steam and heavy metal were constant. 

The Ansonia Brass & Copper company of Anson Phelps had grown to fill the southeast corner of the crossroad. It had become a complex cluster of brick buildings, stacks, skylights and gables. By 1906 it would all be part of American Brass. The southeast corner structures of 1890 are essentially, what is shown on the 1921 aerial, though the tube mill was a short-lived venture. The crossed skylights are gone, and after 1906 it was designated as a machine shop. However, none of these structures appears to be what exists on this corner today. 

Above Mike’s head in the photograph, parked and waiting at the top of the next bay, is another 5-ton crane that Mike will drop to the floor and pick apart like a bird of prey at the bones of a carcass. However, there is machinery yet in this place to merit its immensity.

[Anaconda American Brass Company, Extrusion Mill, Ansonia]

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Demolition Crossroad

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: [Anaconda American Brass, Ansonia, Dec. 2015]
(earlier posts in this series are below)

Since before 1900 paths have been crossing here, midway along the east-west factory road between Liberty Street, at the top of the Hill, and the riverside yard, at the bottom. That is where the east west factory road crosses the north-south factory road that runs beside Naugatuck rail corridor. Even today people find each other here beside the tracks. Sometimes they stop in conversation - have a smoke - wait for a passing train or pause conversation while it passes. Today conversation is about gas tanks for Mike's torch as the site is picked for scrap and junk.

On three of four corners around this crossroad the three major manufacturing buildings of Anaconda American Brass in Ansonia still converge: the extrusion mill in the southeast where the round mirror hangs; the rod mill, diagonally in the northwest and shown reflected in the round mirror: the flat-wire mill in the northeast and out of the conversation. 

Today's conversations concerned removing part of a large crane being chopped for scrap. There was also a track crew from the railroad who drove in on rubber tires and, after some moments of adjustment, drove off on steel wheels. Nifty!

The powerhouse, shown here suffering through neglect, scrap & salvage, claims the fourth corner. Behind it are Ansonia’s two, remaining, giant, masonry stacks: Closest is the casting house stack of American Brass; Farther off and connected to the Farrel campus is the stack that appears on the 1906 map. It serves a building with a "Dynamo Rm” and three “force pumps.” A note on the map suggests these may have been for fighting fire, and carefully located beside the river.

Traffic from the American Brass casting house often followed the road from the riverside up the hill to the metal labs, in the administration building on Liberty Street where an engineer checked to make sure the alloy sample they carried matched specification. Meanwhile the men waited at the casting furnace below for approval to pour. 

Along another axis, the offices behind the giant extruder at the south end of the extrusion mill and the machine shops by the high windows at the north end of the flat-wire mill sometimes exchanged envoys. I rarely saw people at either place, though there were always nervous cats by the high north windows of the machine shop. But envoys could sometimes be found here.


Jan 28 @ 7 PM - New Britain Industrial Museum (snow date Feb. 4)
Feb 10 - Housatonic Museum of Art
Feb 16 @ 7 PM - Woodbury Public Library (snow date, Mar. 1)
Feb 25 @ 6 PM - Ansonia Public Library
March 1-29 - Photos on exhibit at Silas Bronson Library, Waterbury 
Mar 10 @ 6 PM - Silas Bronson Library (snow date, Mar 14)
Mar 12 @ 6 PM - Railroad Museum of New England, Thomaston
April 7-29 - Photos on exhibit at Hagaman Library, East Haven, CT
Apr 27 @  6:30 PM - Hagaman Memorial Library, East Haven
May 4 @ 7 PM - Windsor Locks Public Library
May 17 @ 6 PM - Wolcott Public Library
November 12 - January, 2017 - Photos on exhibit Minor Public Library, Roxbury
Nov. 12 @    - Minor Public Library, Roxbury, CT