Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

High Iron


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  Railroads, like vines, crawled up river valleys where factories were already planted - a confluence of opportunities. This valley is the Naugatuck, dotted with towns where many immigrants found work in Derby, Shelton, Ansonia, Seymour, Beacon Falls, Naugatuck, Waterbury and up into the hills to Thomaston and Torrington and WInsted and finally rural Norfolk, source of the river and early outpost of Yale University. I've lived near the Naugatuck Valley most of my life, sometimes shop in Torrington, but know far too little of its history and significance.

I know enough to know the history wasn't always pretty especially in the lower valley, that its decline to rustbelt came early and that it was made worse by massive flooding in 1955. I know also that the whole valley is one of the formative places of American industry, a powerhouse from pre-revolutionary times, and carcases of its growth and collapse are still often visible. In the lower valley the tissue of sprawl has had trouble healing over the shards of rusting tin and crumbling brick, even as environmental plans have had notable successes. There is an interesting article on the Naugatuck Valley here. For now, I'm following the tracks to see where they lead.