Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Window Watching

I've been working on a painting of Fulton Park on Fridays, sitting in the window at Goldsmith's on Bank Street. When I started, it was the depth of winter, and very few people paused to notice. Most pedestrians kept their heads down and focused on walking. Once the snow and ice melted away, the pedestrians started looking in the windows again. Not everyone looks (like the guy on the phone in the photo below), but many do, especially children and teenagers. It's a lot of fun to see their expressions, to see them interact with my paintings in a way I wouldn't normally be able to do.

 I love being in downtown Waterbury. It's a friendly city. People from all walks of life will smile at me and give me a thumbs-up after they see me working on the painting. Some shout words of encouragement through the window. Every so often, a total stranger will come inside the store to chat and share their stories. It's a great experience.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Systemic Failure

On Saturday, I realized it was once again time to complain about the same blight/litter problem I've complained about before. Today, in the Republican-American, there was an article that seemed to pretty much condemn the city for failing to take care of the neighborhoods in terms of blight, litter, sidewalks, absentee landlords, and an array of illegal activities.

I'm going to stick to my original plan and talk about litter and blight, but I think the roots of the problems are the same across the board: the city does not have an adequate enforcement program in use. The current administration has had ten years to come up with a way to deal with the problems, and they have failed to do so. Litter, blight, slumlords, sidewalk decay--nothing has changed.

My immediate gripe is the litter that accumulates daily in my yard. How bad is it?  Here's a sample of the worst section:

The source of the litter that appears in my yard every day is just on the other side of the fence:

The property next to mine is an apartment building with a bodega on the ground floor. Their dumpster is next to my property. They never clean up the trash that accumulates around the dumpster--except when one of their neighbors lodges a formal complaint with the city. Then they are issued a warning and are given a few days to clean up the mess. So they clean up the mess and are no longer in trouble.

This has been going on for years. It's an endlessly frustrating cycle and it is extraordinarily inefficient. Every time we complain, the city spends manpower ordering them to clean up their mess. And then the mess returns.

Simply put, the city needs to get tough on blight and litter. Until it does, nothing will change. My bodega neighbor is the perfect example of that. They know they won't really get into trouble if they let the mess accumulate. They are incapable of being internally motivated to obey the law, show respect and keep their area clean. It's up to the city to give them an external motivation. If the current regulations don't give enforcement officers enough power to do their jobs effectively, then it's time to change the regulations.

Going back to the larger picture, to the numerous problems plaguing the city, let me just add that cracking down on blight and litter is only part of the solution. The city is guilty of contributing to blight by, for example, failing to properly maintain the sidewalks. We are looking at a system-wide failure on the part of the administration. We need a better approach.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Clean Up

Waterbury had a couple of dramatic building collapses this winter, when all our roofs were weighed down by many feet of snow and ice. The biggest collapse was the old Sena's Duckpin Bowling building on North Main Street. Sena's sold the building in 2001 to Iglesia Pentecostal El Tabernaculo, Inc. (the linked article above states that the church is co-pastored by Denis A. Cuevas, general manager of the city's Water Pollution Control Department).

As far as I can tell, it has been sitting vacant ever since Sena's closed in 2000.

The city (I assume it was the city) did a great job cleaning up the Sena's wreckage. Every last scrap of the building was removed, the basement was filled in, and the whole thing was covered with wood chips. Very impressive.

It's too bad the giant, hazardous, abandoned and blighted buildings on the corner of Walnut and Wood Streets didn't collapse, since that's apparently the best way to get them torn down.

A few days after the Sena's collapse, a section of wall from the old clock factory on North Elm Street collapsed. It still hasn't been cleaned up. The pile of bricks are blocking the sidewalk and spilling out into the street. It's been sitting there so long the yellow caution tape is almost gone.

I'm left wondering why the city can't get a small pile of rubble blocking a sidewalk and part of the roadway cleaned up in a timely fashion. It's relatively small, but it's still a big problem.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Waterbury Books: The '90s

Yesterday's post of Recent Waterbury Books received such an enthusiastic response I've decided to keep going, sorting them by decades. It takes many, many hours to create each of these lists, so it will be a while before I get to another one (I have to do things that pay the bills, and blogging has never earned me any money).

Keep sending me your suggestions, and I'll add them when I can.

Many of these are hard-to-find outside the Silas Bronson Library and Mattatuck Museum archives. I've added links to the most useful listing for each one, often simply Google Books, which gives you options to search for used copies or copies in libraries. John Bale Books has a few of them for sale.

When possible, I tracked down images of the book covers. But it wasn't possible for all of them.

Robert R. Bisaillon
Franco-American Biographies of the Greater Waterbury Area

Sando Bologna
The Italians of Waterbury; Experiences of Immigrants and Their Families

Growing Up Italian and American in Waterbury

Jeremy Brecher and Ruth Glasser
Essays on the Brass Workers History Project and the Waterbury Ethnic Music Project in Using Ethnographic Data: Interventions, Public Programming, and Public Policy 

Frederick W. Chesson
Waterbury (Images of America Series)

Claudia Clark
Radium Girls: Women and Industrial Health Reform, 1910-1935

Susan Hoffman Fishman
The Platt Brothers and Company: Ingenuity, Innovation and Integrity

Gary Franks
Searching for the Promised Land: An African American's Optimistic Odyssey

David J. Garrow
Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade (extensive information about Clara McTernan's Waterbury clinic, which provided birth control for married women)

Ruth Glasser (Professor of Urban Studies at UConn-Waterbury)
Aqui Me Quedo: Puerto Ricans in Connecticut (also available from the Connecticut Humanities Council)

My Music is My Flag: Puerto Rican Musicians and Their New York Communities, 1917-1940 (discussion of the Waterbury Ethnic Music Project in the Preface)

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Waterbury, Connecticut: 75th Anniversary, 1918-1993

Rachel Kerr Johnson, edited by Barbara Mitchell Tull
Affectionately, Rachel: letters from India, 1860-1884 (includes a marvelous letter describing Waterbury in 1860)

Adam Korpalski
A History of the University of Connecticut at Waterbury 1946-1996

Richard M. Marano
History of the Order Sons of Italy in America of Waterbury, Connecticut: 1911-1996

John Frederick Martin
Profits in the Wilderness: Entrepreneurship and the Founding of New England (references to early Waterbury)

Charles A. Monagan
The Country Club of Waterbury: (1899-1999)

Charles Turek Robinson
The New England Ghost Files (first chapter is a haunting in Waterbury)

Matthew W. Roth
The Platt Brothers and Company: Small Business in Manufacturing (Photo taken by John Bale Books, which currently has a copy for sale)

Saint Anne School
Centennial: Saint Anne School, Waterbury, Connecticut, 1890-1990

Saint Joseph Church
Saint Joseph Church, Waterbury, Connecticut: Centennial, 1894-1994

Ann Y. Smith
At Home in Waterbury: A History of the Neighborhoods of Waterbury

Janet Woolum
Outstanding Women Athletes (has short biography of Joan Joyce)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Recent Waterbury Books

Sometimes it seems like there's a new book written by a Waterbury author every time I turn around. It's getting hard to keep track of them all. Here's a start at making a list of authors and their recent Waterbury-related books. Not all the authors are from Waterbury, although most are. Only books with a Waterbury connection are listed, and only books first published since 2000 are included (I had some others on this post at first, but after 24 hours I realized I would have to put the books from the '90s in their own post). Most of the books are heavily about Waterbury, some have only a chapter about Waterbury or scattered references to Waterbury.

If I've overlooked a recent Waterbury book, let me know and I will add it!

George Black
The Trout Pool Paradox (Waterbury's impact on the Naugatuck and Shepaug Rivers)

Daniel Cavallari
Confusing the Seasons (the final chapter takes place in Waterbury)

Lawrence M. Cercola
Depression: A True Story

Barbara S. Christen and Steven Flanders, editors
Cass Gilbert, Life and Work (references to his work in Waterbury)

Connecticut Motor Coach Museum
Waterbury Trolleys (Images of Rail series)

Bernard F. Dick
Forever Mame: The Life of Rosalind Russell

Ferdinando Fasce
An American Family: The Great War and Corporate Culture in America

John Fusco
Paradise Salvage

Robert B. Gordon
Industrial Heritage in Northwest Connecticut: A Guide to History and Archaeology (references to Waterbury)

Raechel Guest
Houses of the Hillside Historic District

Joanna Clapps Herman
The Anarchist Bastard: Growing Up Italian in America

Jeremy J. Joyell
A Lifetime Ago: Before the Death of Childhood

Peter Haring Judd
Affection: Ninety Years of Family Letters, 1850s-1930s: Haring, White, Griggs, Judd Families of New York and Waterbury, Connecticut 

More Lasting Than Brass: A Thread of Family from Revolutionary New York to Industrial Connecticut

David R. Meyer
The Roots of American Industrialization (Creating the North American Landscape) (many references to Waterbury)

Evelyn B. Michaud
Under the Eaves: Reflections of An Ordinary Life

John S. Monagan
A Pleasant Institution: Key-C Major

William A. Monti
Publisher vs. Politician: A Clash of Local Titans

John Murray (preparer) and Silas Bronson Library
Waterbury Hall of Fame (available as a publication at the Bronson Library)

Edith Reynolds and John Murray (buy direct from the authors at John Bale Books on Grand Street, across from the post offce, or click below for the Amazon links)
A Brief History of Waterbury 

Wicked Waterbury: Madmen and Mayhem in the Brass City

Felix Manuel Rodriguez
Dad, Me and Muhammad Ali

Ann Y. Smith
Hidden in Plain Sight: the Whittemore Collection and the French Impressionists (references to Waterbury)

Andres Torres, editor
Latinos in New England (Chapter 4, "Mofongo Meets Mangu: Dominicans Reconfigure Latino Waterbury" by Ruth Glasser)

Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns
The War

John Wiehn and Mark Heiss
Waterbury, 1890-1930 (Postcard History Series)

Bettejane Wesson
The View from Cracker Hill

Eric Zafran
Calder in Connecticut (several references to Waterbury)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

21st Century Manufacturing

A great new exhibit, Innovations for a World Market: Manufacturing in the Naugatuck Valley, opened Friday at the Mattatuck Museum, highlighting three manufacturers currently active here today. The Republican-American has some photos of the reception on their website.

This is a little piece of my work--I am the guest curator of the exhibit. The idea came together while I was at the museum researching the history of the brass industry for a series of articles I'm publishing in The Observer.

What I hear over and over is that manufacturing is gone. While it's true that many of the brass manufacturers, most noticeably the Big Three, have left Waterbury, manufacturing is still the third largest industry in Waterbury (after health care and retail) and is the largest industry in the smaller Naugatuck Valley towns.

The Republican-American ran a photo of the exhibit opening reception in today's paper with the caption "Look What the Valley Made," perhaps an instinctive mistake thanks to the misconception that manufacturing is gone. The exhibit actually shows what the Valley makes today, right now, as you read this.

So what is made here today?  The list is huge. Platt Brothers, in Waterbury, uses zinc in amazing ways. Bridges are coated with zinc to protect against corrosion, and the protective layer lasts 40 years (much better than paint!). Pipelines are often run below high voltage lines, and Plattline zinc ribbon anodes are used to prevent interference. Platt also makes zinc strips for terrazzo floors. Another major component (pun intended) of their production are eyelets and deep drawn parts for aerospace, automotive, medical, electrical and other industries.

Stewart EFI, in Thomaston, is another producer of eyelets and deep drawn parts. You might be wondering, what exactly are eyelets and deep drawn parts? A few sample products include lipstick cases, battery cases, jar lids, light bulb screw shells, automotive air bag initiators, and aerosol mounting caps. The two companies also make products like the little metal piece on EKG electrodes pads--they make the component parts that are used on pretty much everything!

The third company highlighted in the exhibit is Naugatuck's The Eastern Co., whose divisions make a huge variety of locks, coin slots (the ones you see on washing machines at laundromats), mine anchors (that hold up ceilings in mines), the latch/handle used by the driver to open the school bus door, lightweight composite panels used primarily for sleeper cabs on trucks, hinges and latches on fire engines, and pretty much any cast iron product desired. Although their factories are no longer in the Valley, Eastern's corporate headquarters are still in their beautiful brick building in Naugatuck.

 There's a ton more information, and a lot to see, at the exhibit. There will also be a lunchtime History Bites Lecture on May 12 at the museum. Contact the Mattatuck Museum for more details or to register for the lecture (call 203-753-0381 x 10).