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.