Friday, May 16, 2014

Untitled Factory Building

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Benedict Street! What's in a name? A family, power, genius, management of vast enterprises that blossomed new corporations as trees sprout fruit, though Benedict Street was never more than three blocks long. To the north it once ended gracefully where it split, and one could turn left and reach the tall, prosperous shops and establishments of Bank Street. Today life ends at Meadow Street; there is no meadow, only the hard wall and underpinnings of the interstate highway that sails by overhead, and nobody remembers meadow though once there must have been one.

Three blocks south Benedict Street ends at a gate. Those with no business behind the gate may detour via Jewelry Street around the enclosed campus. There’s little jewelry on Jewelry Street, and fewer people go through the gate to a land of furtive visitations, but I’ve heard from those who have made it to the giant stack that stands beside the Naugatuck River (anonymous masterpiece of bricklayers’ craft), that the sign is still there on the wall of the old powerhouse, the giant, faded letters that spell out, “Benedict & Burnham,” and those with eyes can see through time.

Back then Aaron Benedict had a house high up on Prospect Street. It's still there on the other side of the interstate. His son, Charles, laid out Hillside Street above his father’s house on Prospect Street, and then he set his own mansion high above Hillside Street with porches and balconies running three floors up from which one can survey the whole valley, watch the traffic cross it on the interstate, and at a time before the interstate was built Charles Benedict might have watched Benedict Street to see who came and went through the gate at Benedict and Burnham had he lived to see his house finished.

This is Benedict Street near its midpoint where the old fabric of warehouses was rent to make space the squat, orange Home Depot and acres of parking. It is architecture for a world that does not see and does not walk.  Here the world of auto commerce meets an empty place scaled for people, horses, wagons and the railroads steam and smoke.

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