Wednesday, January 20, 2016


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: (refer to for earlier posts in the series)

The southeast corner of the brass mill crossroad was where Anson Phelps set his first Ansonia brass mill, though this building, in the photo, is of a later era. Mike is cutting apart one of the 5-ton traveling cranes, cleaning the building for efficient demolition. It has been an idle extrusion mill through the wink of time that I’ve been coming here. By spring, they say, the building may be gone.

The maps of 1884 and 1890 paint a picture of what happened here then. This photograph begins at what was then, probably, the edge of the mill yard. The yard is behind me in this image, and I’m beside the yard-office, cartloads coming and going, men swearing in many languages. By 1890 the perimeter of the yard has been nibbled away by many small buildings, and the central yard office of 1884 has become a new shipping department with testing facilities connected to the large mill which once stood in my picture. 

The 1890 map calls this large building, “Muffle R’m,” and says it has an “Iron Floor.” It is the largest building on the property. The map shows the “Casting Shop,” off to the right, and in the bay in front of Mike stood the Rolling Mill with two sections, one for “Brazed Tube,” and the other identified as the “Rod R’m.” Further back and probably dug into the hillside and/or raised to a second level, beside the canal, were a series of small rooms, some showing furnace blocks. A stair indicates a partial second floor, and one room is designated for pickling and must have been nearly as high as, and accessible to, the adjacent rolling mill. 

Even this only covers half of the current building site, and at the time of the 1890 map Ansonia Brass & Copper was building a new rod mill on the other half of the site. It would be on property between the brass mill and Farrel that had belonged to, “Postal Telegraph & Cable Co.”  More departments would mean new workers, more managers, and people moving up. Younger workers watching, considering opportunities. It would mean more people riding trollies and shopping on Main Street. It would mean telephones and later radio and automobiles.

The 1895 map shows the rod mill completed, and the old mill yard is filled in, all the small buildings gone, and a new mill for seamless tube abuts the existing structure covering the space to the factory road across from the Three Gables. The map shows the new tube mill with raised skylights down the middle of the building, two rows at right angles and crossing at the midpoint; four narrow gables are in the middle of each facade; one looks across at the Three Gables. I imagine beneath the tube mill skylights are aisles, where people pushed carts between benches, and cranes moved seamless tube, and the sounds of steam and heavy metal were constant. 

The Ansonia Brass & Copper company of Anson Phelps had grown to fill the southeast corner of the crossroad. It had become a complex cluster of brick buildings, stacks, skylights and gables. By 1906 it would all be part of American Brass. The southeast corner structures of 1890 are essentially, what is shown on the 1921 aerial, though the tube mill was a short-lived venture. The crossed skylights are gone, and after 1906 it was designated as a machine shop. However, none of these structures appears to be what exists on this corner today. 

Above Mike’s head in the photograph, parked and waiting at the top of the next bay, is another 5-ton crane that Mike will drop to the floor and pick apart like a bird of prey at the bones of a carcass. However, there is machinery yet in this place to merit its immensity.

[Anaconda American Brass Company, Extrusion Mill, Ansonia]

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