Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Farrel Birmingham

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL:  These are among the original buildings of the Farrel Foundry & Machine Company in Ansonia, CT. They have stood here since before the Civil War. They lie at the center of the history of Brass Valley. Few people who come here are not struck by the dark, green wood of these sheds. Inside, parts for some of the largest machines in industry were cast and finished.

In 1845 Almon Farrel dug the canal from the Kinneytown Dam that powered the industrial village that Anson Phelps built and called Ansonia. There Anson Phelps sold sites to entrepreneurs looking for a reliable supply of water power and the favorable encouragement of a landlord who wanted to sell them metal. Almon Farrel was among the first to step forward and purchase a site for what became Farrel Foundry & Machine Company. Farrel made the machines to power the mills and eventually the machines to make the things the other mills made. They were busy even before the Civil War.

Together with the Birmingham Company, across the river in the other industrial village Anson Phelps built, they made much of the mill equipment that powered Brass Valley. Eventually they merged into Farrel Birmingham, and this became their center. These are the sheds in which much of Brass Valley was literally built. As far as I know, the city’s plan is to level them. I hope I am mistaken.

The opening on the right was made to accommodate a train, but the one on the left admits cars to a steep driveway leading through the middle of the mill buildings and a series of courtyards and eventually up to Main Street. They tell me it is known locally as, “The Tunnel.” Early maps show clearly that, before the sheds were extended along the track, the road simply encircled the building to get up to Main Street.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Waterbury Parade

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: In Waterbury on Sunday, looking from the steps of City Hall toward the former headquarters of Chase Brass Company designed by Cass Gilbert; it is now part of Waterbury's Government Center.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Building 7

[Anaconda American Brass in Ansonia, box shop]

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Follow the factory road north from the crossroad to beyond the high, north-facing windows of the machine shop, where cats slumber and feed, and you reach the building they called the Box Shop. 

The actual shop where, I presume, boxes were made to hold product, was in the bay on the right. The stripped Chrysler Coronado has parked there for as long as I’ve been visiting. Inside the box shop the former occupants could still be found hanging from hooks and nails, in drawers, on counters, and stashed into cubbies. Everything down to the aspirin had been left, while the building crumbled around and above, but among shadowy creaks and silence there might as well have been box-builders, a Coronado driver, perhaps.

Building 7 appears on maps of Ansonia for the first time in 1911 where it is identified as the, “Carpenter Shop," of "Coe Brass Mfg Co.” On previous maps this site was the Wallace & Sons Brass Co., and on future maps it will be part of American Brass Company, but in 1911, as consolidation of the brass industry is underway, it is Coe Brass. 

The bay on the left was open to the elements and empty. We trusted a crumbling stair once, long ago, to get to the second floor. There we found a beautiful long gallery lined with windows on both sides and completely empty. I was hesitant to trust the floor, knowing the condition of the shop below, and took no memorable pictures. I never dared the stair again before the building was leveled last summer.

The Coronado is still there - moved across the yard.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Vanishing Brass

Finding Brass Valley, 
a Place in Time that Has Almost Vanished
SLIDE TALK: Woodbury Public Library, Tuesday, February 16, at 7 PM

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: The old American Brass casting shop in Ansonia, they  tell me, is suffering its final winter of abuse. This image from 2013 will do. Too far to make the trip again in snow to catch it under snowfall. But to catch it hung with icicles! 


Feb 16 @ 7 PM - Woodbury Public Library (snow date, Feb. 23)
Feb 25 @ 6 PM - Ansonia Public Library
March 1-29 - Photos on exhibit at Silas Bronson Library, Waterbury 
Mar 10 @ 6 PM - Silas Bronson Library (snow date, Mar 14)
Mar 12 @ 6 PM - Railroad Museum of New England, Thomaston
Mar 22 @ 6 PM - Derby Neck Library, Derby
April 7-29 - Photos on exhibit at Hagaman Library, East Haven, CT
Apr 27 @  6:30 PM - Hagaman Memorial Library, East Haven
May 4 @ 7 PM - Windsor Locks Public Library
May 17 @ 6 PM - Wolcott Public Library
November 12 - January, 2017 - Photos on exhibit Minor Public Library, Roxbury
Nov. 12 @    - Minor Public Library, Roxbury, CT

Winter Green, Waterbury

Friday, February 5, 2016

Main Street Time Lapse, Ansonia

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: The first photo was easy to take at 7:15, on Sunday evening, 2011. The last, taken last Sunday evening when I thought there would be few cars, put me in the path of headlights. It’s good to see the changes.

Sunday, May 1, 2011, 7:15 PM

 Tuesday, March 17, 2015, 7:30 PM

Sunday, January 31, 2016, 6:17 PM

Monday, February 1, 2016

Cutting Up

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: I wasn’t there the day the crane came down, but an i-phone video they showed me the next day, suggests it was done with masterful indelicacy. They cut it loose and dropped it. I already posted a picture of the fork lift they used to move and turn the fallen carcass as Mike cut it apart. Here is the rest of the drama.