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.


Ginnie said...

This totally lends itself to the B&W you have chosen, Ted. BRAVO.

Emery Roth II said...

More and more I'm enjoying B&W processing for its "malleability." One quickly loses touch with visual reality when manipulating color, but B&W can be pulled in all sorts of ways to capture very specific moods and feelings.

Anonymous said...

Were you granted permission to photograph these buildings? I would love to visit here sometime as I have a deep interest in that era manufacturing. Living in the Valley,I drive past the complex on a daily basis.

Emery Roth II said...

Yes, I had permission to shoot in the old Farrel Foundry initially for two visits in 2011 and then through much of last year as the sheds were emptied of industrial electronics that had been warehoused there. When the lats of the equipment was removed, I was told, the city took ownership. I hear through rumor mills someone else owns the buildings now.

I plan to post more of my pictures, maybe even try to make a book of them. Even when I was photographing there, the inside was nasty and dangerous - just the kind of place I seem to enjoy. The buildings just north of Farrel are the old American Brass Company. I'm told they will be leveled in spring or summer.

If you live in the Valley and are interested in the old industrial buildings and the history of Brass Valley, you might want to attend one of my slide talks. The schedule is regularly posted on this blog site, and I am currently scheduled to be in both Derby and Beacon Falls soon.