Monday, May 20, 2013

City Jail

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  As it turns out the ambitions of the leaders of the Borough of Birmingham were prematurely swollen. The Sterling Opera House, that opened its doors in 1889, was attached to considerably more than a borough hall or even town offices for all of Derby. In fact, architect Henry Ficken had delivered to their specifications, in addition to the opera house, a city hall complete with offices for mayor, city council, and a city police station with a half dozen prison cells.

The vision of the town fathers was premature, but the building gives it lasting form in stone: The vision is of a metropolis whose extent encompasses the three shores where the rivers meet and where bodies toil, while the guiding spirit manages from atop the hill in the very center of the town square laid out a half century earlier by Sheldon Smith and Anson Phelps for their industrial village. Sterling Opera was at once town center, city center, cultural center, religious center and capstone of a democratically ordered and benevolently corrupt life; it would become a memorial to its creators.

Add whatever H.G. Wells visions they might also have imagined of a spaceport built after to gild their memories, and that is the City of Birmingham, Connecticut, that never came to be, but it would be a long time before anyone realized quite how wrong they were.

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