Monday, November 30, 2015

Behind Time

Placing Brass Valley
slide talk & book signing

Seymour Public Library, Seymour, CT
December 1 at 6 PM

Scoville Library, Salisbury, CT
December 5 at 4 PM

Farrel Machine Co., foundry, Ansonia

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Those who knew the Farrel Foundry may remember this spot. It is at the northern end of an extension I have referred to as, “the arm,” that parallels Main Street and extends south beyond the front of the Grand Foundry space. This area was distinct because the east wall of the arm seemed to be part made from the hillside and heavy concrete structures, and somewhere there the canal once flowed alongside Main Street. 

The canal had been cut short long ago at the Farrel property line. It still flowed to an open pool to the north of American Brass property and the water was processed in some way by American Brass. The area where the canal used to flow through Farrel had long ago been incorporated into building space, and over the top of this area rose a four story nest of stairways, catwalks, and offices rising several stories around tanks and stacks and filters and fans. Had anyone been up there since the factory closed in 1989? But the concrete and stone at the base had openings into dark, moist, stone rooms, some with empty shelves. Perhaps others know the meaning of these cave-like spaces.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Time Out

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: American Brass flat-wire mill, Ansonia.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Knights of Industry

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Today [Nov. 21] I bit into a slice of buttered rye toast, crunched hard, and pulled from my mouth what looked, at first, like a strange tack or a part from some machine. I imagined a small industrial bakery somewhere in Brooklyn, my Connecticut grocer’s source. I pictured ovens and slicers, one of which was missing the thing I had found in my mouth. Then I realized that the thing attached to the tack point was a tooth, from the gum line up. I fear I'm becoming “postindustrial.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Placing Brass Valley
slide talk & book signing

Oliver Wolcott Library, Litchfield, CT
November 19 at 2 PM

Seymour Public Library, Seymour, CT
December 1 at 6 PM


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Landing On Time

Four More Slide Talks before Thanksgiving

Friday, Nov. 13, 2 PM: Southbury Public Library

Saturday, Nov. 14, 11 AM: Danbury Public Library

Frederick G. Mason Lecture
Monday, Nov. 16, 5:30 PM: Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury

Thursday, Nov. 19, 2 PM: Oliver Wolcott Library, Litchfield

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Time is everywhere, but the manufacturing of time was a Brass Valley specialty. Clock and watch companies spanned the entire Naugatuck River Valley from the “still place," where the Naugatuck empties into the Housatonic, and the Derby Silver Company made clocks in Shelton, to just north and east of the Naugatuck’s headwaters where the Gilbert Clock Company made clocks in Winsted. From the wooden clocks of Eli Terry to Timex “keeps on ticking," Brass Valley was always busy with time. The Naugatuck flowed from sundial time and church bell time to timetable and punch-clock punctuality. Nothing could be more central to Brass Valley than the four faces of Union Station tower in Waterbury where the eight hands of Seth Thomas still tell Brass Valley Time. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Seth Thomas

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Thursday, November 5, Gunn Memorial Library (Washington, CT), 6:30 PM

Saturday, November 7,  Thomaston Public Library, 1:00 PM

Monday, November 9, Derby Public Library (Elizabeth St.), 6:30 PM

Woodbridge Town Library, November 10, 7:00 PM

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Long after Seth Thomas Clock Company has ceased to be, leaving Thomaston shorn of the jobs that created the town, the Seth Thomas Building remains an iconic presence that still resonates the glory of the brass industry throughout the Naugatuck Valley. Clock-making flourished here because clocks used lots of brass. Across the river the old Plume & Atwood buildings are mostly gone.  They rolled brass for Seth Thomas clocks.  

I will never forget the first time I drove up Main Street in Thomaston and was struck by the grand and imposing presence of the Seth Thomas Building, like a town-sized grandfather clock. I knew I was someplace, and I knew I wanted to go back. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fallen Leaves, Winchester

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Caleb Beach knew this place as Green Woods, and he built his house at the top of a long valley, on a slope above Hall Meadow Brook. The remains of the Old Valley Road still pass by his door before they disappear into the pond a half mile on. Just north of Caleb's house, apple trees, running wild, explode with several varieties of apples and the air smells of cider. Further on where the brook crosses the upland are the remains of millraces and the foundation of an old mill, but there is nothing here to tell if these pieces belong to each other. 

Caleb Beach built on a mound on the west side of the gently sloping valley we call “Hall Meadow." Farther west a rocky spine of forested hillside still rises steeply and separates Caleb's valley and watershed from the valley that channeled what we call "Ruben Hart Brook.” However, Caleb Beach built his house where the late rays of the sun would still touch his doorsteps, even as the shadows of the hillside to the west slid east across his valley lifting a veil of twilight over the orange and red blaze of the opposing hillside. 

Today both Valleys are dammed; Hart Brook fills a reservoir managed by the Torrington Water company, and Hall Meadow serves as a flood impoundment. Where their waters unite, the East Branch of the Naugatuck River begins.