PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Farrel Works feels like a giant cathedral. Or rather it is a half dozen giant cathedrals set side by side, some end to end. Stand anywhere, and the space you are in is a basilica echoed by side aisles on one side or both and reverberating on into shadow. Trusses soar like tracery and end either in stained and broken glass skylights, or along rusted stair rails with checkerboard shadows and catwalks between ducts and stacks into darkness. Suites of chambers are apparently carved inside of walls between buildings and sometimes into bedrock. Beneath, the foundry is tunneled with catacombs that wind past open wells where molds were set for casting. One needs a flashlight to find the way from well to well and out to air and sunlight. There are places, beyond locked doors and across catwalks too frail for cats, that may never reveal their secrets.
Almon Farrel, son of a Waterbury millwright, built Ansonia and pioneered in the manufacturing the tools used for large scale manufacturing. This was the foundry that produced large machinery for making paper and rubber and for grinding sugar cane. Of all spaces of Farrel Works, none is as grand and exalted as the nave of Farrel Foundry. Is it Connecticut’s greatest surviving cathedral of industry? It deserves the title: Imperial Basilica. Whether there is anything of it that can be preserved other than memories, I have no idea.