Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Education in Naugatuck (#4)

When the time came in 1901 for the town to replace Naugatuck's aging high school, the design was again given to the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, and an appropriately lofty site was chosen further up the hill and with a more commanding view over the Green below. It would open in 1905. By then MM&W had designed many of the buildings that give the Green its character. They were the preferred architects of railroad president and industrialist John Howard Whittemore who, advocating “City Beautiful,” had, over many years, paid to make Naugatuck a showplace of the movement.

The high school MM&W designed on the hillside site is nothing, if not disciplined — a granite, marble and brick, Ionic, 3-story Classical temple, restrained from any hint of wayward Beaux Arts eclecticism. It is a buff-colored temple fit for Athena and for the education of Naugatuck’s next generation. Carved above the marble of the entablature is a cartouche quoting Charles William Eliot, “The fruit of liberal education is not learning but the capacity and desire to learn — not knowledge but power.” It’s probably safe to assume Whittemore had considerable say in that choice.

Charles William Eliot was president of Harvard through the transformational years 1869 to 1909 and was a leader bringing profound reforms to American education at all levels. He raised public school graduation standards and broadened high school curricula to include teaching of the sciences and of foreign languages. Eliot served as president of the National Education Association and on a ten member national commission whose 1893 report influenced schools and school boards everywhere, beginning reforms leading to the creation of the first “junior high schools.”

“…not knowledge but power.” I’m still wondering exactly how to understand that.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Salem School, by William Rutherford Mead (#3)


McKim, Mead & White were celebrity architects serving America’s elite. William Rutherford Mead was the cousin of President Rutherford B. Hayes, he was involved with the American Academy in Rome, was a man of substance, wealth and contacts. Mead, described as "authoritative" and "quiet," was known as, “the center of the office,” hiring and firing, overseeing the jobs and production that are even more the task of architects than flashy design. Mead is credited with relatively few original designs, but the central building facing onto the Naugatuck Town Green, the Salem School, was primarily Mead's design. 
That a school was central to the new City Beautiful to be built, and at the top of the green, looking down the Green's central axis toward the commercial center of town suggests the importance the creators of Naugatuck and the architects placed on education.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Planning the City Beautiful with McKim, Mead & White (2)

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair was transformational for the town of Naugatuck. However, it began long before the fair had begun, in November, 1891, McKim, Mead & White had commissions in the town. Among them to design a new school on the hill above town and to design a formal town green below the school, between the Episcopal and Congregational churches where a stream from the hillside flowed east toward the river across a level plateau that had always been an informal green. The first town meeting had been held on that green almost a half century earlier, and a Civil War monument had been erected there in 1888. 
At the center of the formal Green, in an age before automobiles, MM&W, under the direction of William Rutherford Mead, would design a water fountain to bring cold, fresh drinking water to those who passed. Architecturally, the fountain established a formal axis from the head of Maple Street in the east, across the center of the level square that formed the Green, and up the hill, climaxing in the symmetry of the proposed Salem School. This core of Naugatuck’s future City Beautiful cityscape would be in place by 1895. Over the next quarter century McKim, Mead & White would play a major role in designing many of the buildings that surround the Naugatuck Green, the only green in Connecticut designed entirely by an architectural firm, truly a product of the City Beautiful Movement.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Naugatuck City Beautiful 1 — Henry Bacon's Train Station

Naugatuck is the next town south of Waterbury along the Naugatuck River’s path to the Housatonic. It’s small size and history as the corporate center of the American rubber industry made Naugatuck a showplace for architecture and small town planning that resulted from the City Beautiful Movement. By 1910, for travelers who got off the train there, the town's gateway was a new train station designed by, architect, Henry Bacon who was then also at work on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

Henry Bacon had worked earlier for McKim, Mead & White, was mentored closely by Charles McKim and was his personal representative at the 1889, Paris Exposition and the, architecturally transformative, 1893, Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The Naugatuck Station's style has been described as “Spanish Colonial” and “Italian Villa,” though my own sense is that it is eclectic and original.  

(Note: The entry projection on the front is a recent addition)

Friday, December 9, 2022

Ghostly Letters on the Power House Wall

When Charles Benedict looked out from his “cottage," high on the hill north of Waterbury Green, he might often have looked to this spot below him where the Naugatuck River flows between the brass factories of Holmes, Booth & Haydens on this side of the river and the factories of Benedict & Burnham, across the bridge. Not so much competitors as conspirators, the two brass companies had divvied up the market and brought wealth to Waterbury. After WW1 they would all be part of a combined operation known as American Brass Company, and the entity once known as Benedict & Burnham ceased to exist. However, on the side of the old Benedict & Burnham power house, until the day this past summer, 2022, when the power house was demolished, you could still read the forgotten name, "Benedict & Burnham,” painted large in ghostly letters on the power house wall, though the company that went by that name hadn’t existed for more than 100 years.




Thursday, December 8, 2022

Carrie Welton's Revenge


They say Carrie Welton, daughter of brass company partner, Joseph Welton, rebelled against a succession of private schools to which she was sent, but was known for her love of animals. She would have been 21 in 1863 when the family moved into Rose Hill, where she kept cats, dogs, rabbits and a black stallion named Knight of the Woods. She and Knight became known for galloping through town and frightening Waterbury pedestrians. When Carrie died she left the much of her estate to the ASPCA and the rest for the creation of a fountain, "for people and horses," and with a bronze statue of Knight at the head of the Waterbury Green.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Rose Hill Overlook

An earlier post discussed Wm. H. Scovill of Scovill Brass who once owned this house (http://rothphotos.blogspot.com/2022/11/union-station-from-cast-iron-gate-to.htm), once the finest in Waterbury. Style is the outer form of spirit and it has always seemed to me that Rose Hill might well have emerged out of the pages of a Hawthorn short story. Perhaps part of that comes from its apparent stubborn indifference to the changes happening all around it and to the untended hillside hump on which it sits and from which it overlooks the city. Carrie Welton’s time in the house adds a plot line: https://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/carrie-welton.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Charles Benedict's Prospects

The architects of Charles Benedict’s hilltop fantasy cottage were Palliser & Palliser, champions of Queen Anne or “Stick Style” architecture. The house sits proudly atop an expansive lawn positioned to ensure that nothing encroaches on its commanding prospect over Waterbury. 

Benedict-Miller was designed to be a showpiece for its owners, so it was also a showpiece for promoting Stick Style and shaping American Stick Style dreams and fantasies as can be seen among houses on the grid of streets below and and in prosperous neighborhoods beyond. Queen Anne Stick Style as its accumulation of names reveals sought to look at once casual, rustic and graciously aristocratic.

In addition to designing mansions for the wealthy, Palliser & Palliser sought to bring Queen Anne Style to democratic America by publishing "pattern books” so those who owned no brass mills might have a peak and a tower, properly spread with timbers and a smorgasbord of brick and shingle patterns and rooms glittering with jeweled light through transoms of leaded glass.


Sunday, November 27, 2022

Union Station Tower from Timbered Brass

From the porches and through the windows of Benedict-Miller Cottage Charles Benedict might have watched Benedict & Burnham thrive and Waterbury transform from farm town to industrial hub, a major junction in the busy railroad system that moved valuable goods and busy people. 

However, Charles Benedict died young, only occupying his new “cottage” for a very short time. In 1889 it was purchased from his daughter by Charles Miller, part owner of "Miller & Peck,” prosperous, Waterbury, dry goods merchants from 1860 to 1978.


Friday, November 25, 2022

King-size, Queen Anne Timbered Brass


Charles Benedict was Waterbury royalty, son of  brass industry founder and patriarch, Aarron Benedict, known widely as "Deacon Benedict,” and Charlotte Porter, daughter of Abel Porter, a founder of Scovill Brass and reputed to be the first person in America to mix copper and zinc to make brass. In 1879, at the top of the slope above their cousins' Rose Hill, and commanding a longer and broader prospect over the Naugatuck Valley, Charles Benedict built a king-size, Queen Anne, timbered, brick and shingle, multi-gabled fantasy soberly known as Benedict-Miller Cottage. Charles's father, Deacon Benedict's home is one of a dozen along Hillside Avenue, beyond the perimeter fence of Benedict-Miller's grand lawn, that face up the hill as if in homage to Charles Benedict's, Queen Anne palace.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Union Station from the cast-iron gate to Rose Hill, Waterbury

I know relatively little of the history of this cast iron gate except that it stands at the street before the front entrance to 63 Prospect Street, Waterbury. If it is contemporary with the house behind it, it was put here in 1852 by William H. Scovill, powerful citizen, sometime mayor of Waterbury and brass industry president, on a site with what was then the most commanding prospect of the town’s green spread below along the bottom of the hill. 

The home, known as "Rose Hill," would later be famously occupied by Scovill's descendants, so called, “barons of brass." Occupants would include eccentric Caroline Welton, only child of brass aristocrats, Joseph C. Welton and Jane E. Porter. Carrie's antics on horseback were topics for gossip. When she died she left money for to immortalize her black stallion, Knight, with a bronze statue at the head of the town green. Knight had, it was said, kicked her father to death.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Union Station #6 — McKim, Mead & White Details

Whether or not McKim, Mead & White approved of adding a 24-story tower to their Union Station design in Waterbury, their crisp terra cotta and brick detailing make it as beautiful up close as from a distance and, despite the views of early critics, I find the detailing makes the proportions pleasing.


Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Monday, October 31, 2022

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Benedict & Burnham Powerhouse from Jewelry Street, June 29, 2022


The powerhouse of the Benedict & Burnham Brass Co. was newly visible from Jewelry Street in Waterbury in June after manufacturing sheds, that once crowded this tree, were demolished. Benedict & Burnham Brass Co, once the largest manufacturer of brass and copper appliances in America, was founded before the Civil War. Shortly after I took this photo on June 29, the powerhouse was demolished, leaving only the stack.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Union Station Tower #4 — Brickwork and Needlepoint

Bricks made from dried mud are among the oldest of building materials. Among the walls that tumbled at Jericho were some made of brick. Although bricks have been made in many shapes and sizes, the vast majority today are stamped with the maker’s name and proportioned to fit the mason's hand which grasps the brick, while the opposing hand, with intuitive precision, lays on mortar and torso pivots to add each brick to a lengthening row on a rising wall. Some specifications call for the binding mortar to be shaped to match the mason’s fingertip. Brick always tells a human story; it flourishes where communities gather. The highest brick tower rises one human handful at a time.

Even as human intellect makes the most practical of bricks, the human fantasy of McKim, Mead & White finds the most impractical ways of piling them; vertical surfaces are difficult to mortar. This brickwork on the arches of Union Station is to common masonry as fine needlepoint is to routine stitchery.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Union Station Tower #3

Connecticut’s Union Station tower landmarks Waterbury for millions of motorists traveling through the Naugatuck River Valley on Rt. 8 or across it on I-84. Standing 24 stories high is a masterpiece of design and of the art of virtuoso bricklaying. Although much admired from the outside, few people beside clockmakers have ever been inside. What is there beside the 4-sided, Seth Thomas clock? My thanks to the Pape family, owners of the Waterbury Republican newspaper, for allowing me to answer that question.

Upon entering the bottom of the shaft I found myself in a somber brick space surrounded on all sides by nothing but brick.  The tower wall is entirely self-supporting all the way to the top and unreinforced by any interior structure. Two wooden diaphragms divide the shaft into three roughly equal spaces. A metal stair clings to the brickwork as it winds in giant leaps through each space. Waterbury’s masons were skilled at the precision bricklaying needed to erect hundred foot tall masonry stacks that exhausted crud from the factories on the valley floor. However, the 245 foot tall campanile is a work of bricklaying virtuosity rising regulr and unvaried through the first two of the three chambers.

Reaching the third chamber I stood beside the pigeon-proofed hands of Seth Thomas; the top space, the head of the campanile, contains the clock, a tiny mechanism with thin metal arms that cross and link via tiny gears and a runt of a mechanism. On repeated visits to such clock towers I’ve taken few photographs of the clockworks which are always a visual disappointment. In this case I was distracted by the magical constellation of tiny windows which appear as subtly etched details on the outside but become a magic lantern inside.


Ascending into the top third of the campanile I passed eye-level with the clock. Unlike bells cast from refined metals and tuned to make one’s guts reverberate, I’ve learned that the clockworks that turn the magnificent arms of time on the outside look like little more than erector set parts at the crossing of two long puny bars on the inside. The ends of the bars disappear through the walls to motionless hands. It just isn’t a picture. However, the tiny windows of the head of the campanile, almost invisible on the outside, become a constellation of tiny lights whose beams I would pass through.




Friday, October 14, 2022

Union Station Tower #2

 Union Station tower is visible from almost everywhere in downtown Waterbury. McKim, Mead & White, who designed it, were the foremost American architects of the late 19th, and early 20th centuries and leaders of the City Beautiful movement. It had been in MM&W’s Classical temple to agriculture at the 1893, Columbian Exposition that Westinghouse and Tesla demonstrated the magic that would electrify the 20th century. The humanistic city of the future and its technologies were to be clothed in the venerable, architectural vocabulary of the Classical past. MM&W also happened to be designing Penn Station in NYC.

The initial Union Station design had no tower. The empty shaft was added to MM&W’s shaftless design at the insistence of an executive on the railroad board, we’re told. Or was it added so that Waterbury’s City Beautiful message might be seen above the soot? It stands 245 feet (24 stories) above the street, an enormous sculptural monument anchoring Waterbury’s importance and refinement along the Naugatuck Valley and the NYNH&H rail line to wherever it leads. The railroad board executive’s insistence on the tower assured his message would be a landmark throughout the valley and beyond, then and in the future. It also helped strangers to Waterbury get back to the station when their visits concluded.



Thursday, October 13, 2022

The Last Stack

 The last smoke stack in Waterbury’s South End remains where once a forest of masonry and metal stacks and vents kept the valley perpetually capped in gray haze. If it seems small, that’s because the photo is taken from 24 stories up, on top of the Union Station campanile, now home to the Waterbury Republican-American. The three-story power plant that was once attached to the stack, was recently demolished. The buildings behind it are in process of demolition. It was all part of the Benedict & Burnham Brass Co, later to be part of Anaconda-American Brass. The last brass manufacturing in the valley ceased long ago, in 2012. It was the subject of my book, Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry. (Schiffer Books: https://schifferbooks.com/products/brass-valley)

I’m grateful wo William Pape, the Pape family and assisting staff of the Waterbury Republican-American for allowing my to photograph from and inside of Union Station Tower. More photos to follow.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Ansonia Copper & Brass / American Brass — Photographed Monday

Once again photos from Monday — lingering puddles and barely a breeze reflect the shell of the powerhouse that ran Ansonia Copper & Brass. Outside it’s been shorn of its stacks, cable guides and associated jewelry, just as inside it was gutted of its machine muscle. Five hulking masonry furnaces at the center sit stone cold and still. How many rains does it take for puddles to wash this riverbank clean? I wasn’t sure I’d find anything here I hadn’t already photographed, but, although it looked the same, it was for me a very different place.

We didn’t enter the Powerhouse but visited three other sheds. Clustered around the Powerhouse are the manufacturing sheds of the brassworks. The Casting Shop where alloys were mixed and poured into billets and the shops where billets were turned into tubes, rods and wire.  

The Casting Shop Offices
Rod Mill Offices

The Rod Mill

Rail Corridor as Viewed from Metal Storage Area