Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Monday, November 22, 2021

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Friday, November 19, 2021

Monday, November 15, 2021

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Friday, October 29, 2021

Friday, September 3, 2021

Returning to Southwest Harbor, ME, in 2021

Sunrise over Greening Island from Clark Point in Southwest Harbor, ME.


Sunset, Aug. 26, 2021 from the head of the harbor, Southwest Harbor, ME, Clark Point on the left, Manset shoreline on the right, Sutton Island in the center.


Taken Aug 28, 2021 from Clark Point in Southwest Harbor, ME, across the entrance to Somes Sound to the lights of Northwest Harbor; the end of two great weeks with family in Maine.



Thursday, August 12, 2021

Willy Priming the Casting Furnace




 After the starter metal is heated to the required temperature it is carried to the casting furnace where it will be poured to complete the electrical connection that starts the furnace.


Through Casting Furnace Fumes, Ansonia Copper & Brass, Ansonia


 

Metals on the Naugatuck River, Ansonia


 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Casting Shop Now


In the old shed beside the catwalks and bag-houes, oil-coated rainwater puddled on the floor of the gutted casting shop gives the space clarity that it lacked a decade ago, when furnaces smoked and steamed. In 2011 it was a place of blinding darkness. The president of the company was leading us on a tour of the brass works. It was the first of what would become regular visits. I kept trying to see what I was seeing, expecting my eyes to adjust to the dark, until I realized the dark adhered to every surface, hung in the air, soaked up light like paper towels suck spills. Where daggers of light managed to crack the darkness, they illuminated blue haze and turned high mercury-vapor lamps into small glowing orbs in space. I hadn’t yet discovered how they would scatter lens flare. 

Behind us an operation’s foreman, safely muzzled in a breathing mask, puttered along on a yellow HysterCart. A hose connected his breathing mask to a large oxygen tank that accompanied him in the utility vehicle. He was not at all happy when the president invited us to return and shoot “anytime.” However, Mike, Willy, Damir, and Lucio became our familiar guides as we returned often until operations ended in December of 2012. Since then the space has been scrapped, salvaged and detoxed to its shell which has now been polished by rainwater, while every surface remains well-greased to the touch.




Monday, July 19, 2021

Iconic Ansonia


With the announcement of funding for redevelopment of the American Brass and Farrel industrial sites in the center of Ansonia, one of the most iconic survivals of Connecticut industry will likely become a thing only of memory and photographs. The Naugatuck Valley played a central role in the creation of industrial America, but from Shelton to Winsted there are few remnants or monuments to tell future generations what went on here. Unique among survivals are these remarkable sculptures that climb over the old casting shop of American Brass along the Naugatuck in Ansonia. Mike, who ran the last furnace in this shop said there were once 30 furnaces casting alloys here. The furnaces needed air, and the exhaust had to be scrubbed and filtered. The residue had to be carried away in giant bundles.

Perhaps it is foolish to think they could or should be saved. To some this baghouse is an eyesore, nothing but a rusty muffler, but I would guess future generations would see it quite differently, a 20th century solution to pollution control. On this patch of ground Almon Farrel and Anson Phelps built the canal and factories that made Ansonia. Could a bag house become, not an eyesore, but an icon of industries and struggles that built Connecticut that will lie along the riverwalk that is creeping closer both from north and south?










Thursday, July 8, 2021

Inside the Flat Wire Mill



Inside, the Flat Wire Mill is a shadowy sundial of delicate trusswork that spins like a kaleidoscope through days and seasons. Was this the space that housed the Wallace & Sons Brass Co? By 1906 the Sanborn map will identify it as the Coe Brass Co. The space is made of three, long buildings ending in three south-facing gables that are shown on the 1921 aerial map of Ansonia and on Sanborn maps back to 1906. The old space of the “Tumbling Bbl’s” had by 1906 become the “Rivet Shop.” It still hangs into the Flat Wire Mill interior. A door at the end leads to several steps that hang above this mill. The steps provided access to a crane that was removed in 2015. It is a strange thing to see that stair to nowhere dangling there. 

















Sunday, June 27, 2021

Bridging Time


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Turning the corner and continuing my stroll into the past (see previous entry), Anson Phelps’s Ansonia Brass & Copper once stood on the left. On the 1895 Sanborn map bold letters announce, “This building to be rebuilt at once.” Is it a sign of the big changes coming to the brass industry over the next decade? The three-gable profile of the unified space on the right that I knew as the Flat Wire Mill reveals its origin as three separate sheds. The three gables are pictured in the 1921 Ansonia aerial projection map, and on the 1906 Sanborn map, which is focused on roof construction, the three-gable elevation is drawn onto the plan of the three sheds. Except for those ancient structures behind the ivy-covered gable, Sanborn maps before 1906, show different buildings. The two new gables and their sheds must have been built between 1900 and 1906 which coincides with the consolidation of the brass industry in the Naugatuck Valley into what became known as, “The Big Three.” From within the building(s), the trusses of the two sheds seem of similar vintage.

The photo reveals one more survival from the past.The yellow pipe rail in the picture is attached to what looks like an I-beam half-buried in asphalt. The asphalt covers the old Ansonia Canal that Almon Farrel built for Anson Phelps. What looks like an I-beam helps carry the load across the canal.

Here, where the ancient factory road crosses toward the river through the middle of what would become the American Brass Co, workers arriving and leaving in shifts passed for more than a century. Before 1900 the maps show that when traffic crossed here then, it was over a "covered bridge.” In 1906 the Sanborn cartographers remove the roof graphic of the bridge and mark the passage over the canal, “steel bridge.”  The bridge in the picture used to have a marking indicating it was made by the Berlin Iron Bridge Company. Imagine all that has crossed this bridge since it was installed just after the start of the 20th century.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Imagine


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The Naugatuck Rail Line, that runs in an alley through the middle of this site, is temporarily closed as a new roadbed and track are laid. What is to become of these vacant buildings and this site?

From the roof of the old American Brass office building one can see into the past. Could the past help us imagine a future here? Those who know Ansonia know the two stacks lie along the east “bank" of the Naugatuck River, though all banks vanished after the 1955 flood when high, concrete walls were built to contain the river that had flooded. Surrounding the stacks are filters, ducts, ladders and catwalks that are giant industrial river sculpture when viewed from the hills on the western side of the river.

Through a gap, just visible at the end of the long building with the skylights, an ancient factory road crosses toward the river between what were once two of Brass Valley’s founding brass companies. On this side was the Wallace & Sons Brass Company. The long building may be the oldest on the site and appears in the 1884 Sanborn maps of Ansonia, though it may go back much further. The map shows things of concern to insurers, like 3 steam boilers, marked 600 HP, that were then in the middle of the long building, and the map reveals how many night watchman visited the wood piles. The northern half of the building (probably initially two buildings) is marked, “Tumbling Bbl’s.” We can trace its future functions in later maps.

The factory road that crosses the site drops steeply where it disappears between the sheds and toward the river, and all the buildings that appear to be one story are, in fact, two tall stories. In the deep space below one can still see original stone work and a stone arch that marks where an old tunnel passed beneath the cross-road and connected the two sites. 

The 1884 map identifies the property on the far side of the crossroad as being a rolling mill of the Ansonia Brass and Copper Company. A.B.&C. was the creation of Anson Phelps who created Ansonia, originally to be called Phelpsville. Further back in the picture is a large, triangular, red, brick gable. It is end wall of the legendary Ferrel Foundry. The 1890 Foundry was reputed to be the largest machine tool foundry in New England. The pastel rectangular wall marks the attic space where the forms for the giant Farrel sand molds were built and lowered to the foundry below. 

Beneath the pavement that crosses diagonally thru this picture the old Ansonia Canal is still flowing. Almon Farrel built the Ansonia Canal for Anson Phelps to power industry in his new industrial village. One can still see the canal, if one knows where to look. The future is made of imagination or accident. Can anyone imagine dining some day in restaurants in ancient brick shops along a restored Ansonia Canal. Or are there already too many vacant stores on Main Street? What futures might this site inspire?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Ray & Rudy


Nest Slide-Talk
Finding Brass Valley
A Place in Time that Has Almost Vanished
Stories of the the Brass Industry in CT and the Last Operating Brass Mill

Thursday, October 24 at 6:30 PM
The Bigelow Center
100 Mona Terrace, Fairfield, CT 


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: The factory closed and stands empty, and machines that were not scrapped for their value in metal, like Expansion Bench #23, may be making tube in Mexico today. Here Ray and Rudy worked the rough tube to make it hard and to move it toward its specification gauge and diameter. Many steps remained before this tube would be ready for use in a submarine. Ray and Rudy worked as a coordinated team as others had done on machine #23 for more than a century.

This journal has been silent for some time due to computer issues and work on other projects. That work continues, but solving the computer problems has led to old images once bypassed that now seem to me worth processing and sharing.



Sunday, September 22, 2019

Charlie

Kent Art Association Full Juried Show

First Prize in Photography
“Charlie”
Exhibition runs through October 14


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: I think this was the first time I photographed Charlie at the old Farrel factories in Ansonia. I made almost 100 exposures of him that day as he repaired this part. Perhaps he or someone else will remind me what it is called. Although I visited Charlie often and made other photographs, the later tasks were never quite so photogenic. Thank you, Charlie, wherever you are, for letting us take pictures and for sharing good chat.

Below are a few more shots from that shoot.





















Thursday, July 4, 2019

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Tracks


NEXT SLIDE-TALK

Finding Brass Valley
A Place in Time that Has Almost Vanished

Thursday, June 13 at 11 AM
Stamford Senior Men’s Club
open to the public
First Presbyterian Church
1101 Bedford St, Stamford, CT



PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Last week, I realize, took us back to places Lazlo and I have been making photographs for a decade. Time feels like wind, but it is also rain and the sun’s regular stroke, and here a carpet of seedlings reaches to be a prairie. It’s a place to watch. Time blows with the seasons here but never stops. We follow tracks to see where they lead.

As we arrived here I realized I had the wrong lens and I would have to shoot this interior with the equivalent of a 100-400mm zoom, a telescope good for birding, but not my usual choice for interiors. It was a chance to see differently. I may try it again.






Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Across the Naugatuck


NEXT SLIDE-TALK

Finding Brass Valley
A Place in Time that Has Almost Vanished

June 13 at 11 AM

Stamford Senior Men’s Club
open to the public
First Presbyterian Church
1101 Bedford St, Stamford, CT



PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: The settlers who came to this place in 1642, used the Native American name, “Paugasset” to refer to the trading post they established there, on the east side of the Naugatuck & Housatonic Rivers' confluence. It was as far inland as ship’s could sail, a valuable port and place of shelter in time of storms. It was incorporated as the township of Derby in 1675. In the 1830s, here on the West side of the Naugatuck, near the point where two rivers meet, Anson Phelps, a metals merchant, and Sheldon Smith, a business man, collaborated to build a reservoir and canal to power a large factory village which they called “Birmingham,” after Birmingham England, the center of world brass-making at the time. It would make Derby one of the three founding cities of Connecticut's "Brass Valley."


___

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Ansonia Canal — A Secret Garden



NEXT SLIDE-TALK

Finding Brass Valley

A Place in Time that Has Almost Vanished

May 31 from 11 am to 12:15 pm
Stamford Senior Center
888 Washington Boulevard 2nd Floor
Register at 203-977-5151 



PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: This sunken factory yard was once filled with water, part of the canal that Anson Phelps built in 1845 to create the town he called Ansonia. Before the canal brought manufacturing, there was no town here. The canal still flows from the Kinneytown Dam for over a mile before disappearing underground and ending in a pool behind a wall just beyond the crane at the left edge of this picture.