Monday, March 26, 2012

Trayvon Martin

I know this isn't a Waterbury topic, but it is on the minds of many people in Waterbury, and I suspect it will shape legislation and actions around the country.

There are a lot of terrible things that happen every day for no good reason. That's how life is. For me, what stands out most about the Trayvon Martin case is that his killer was not arrested, that the police believed his action was protected by law. That terrifies me.

I've listened to the available 911 tapes, and I've read the accounts of the night given by Martin's girlfriend, the boy walking his dog, and the nearby neighbors. It seems clear to me that George Zimmerman is a vigilante, that he did not trust the police to do their jobs, that he felt it was necessary to take the law into his own hands.

The story resonates deeply for me. As a woman, I am always hyper-aware of my surroundings when I am walking alone, especially after dark. Women in this country get assaulted far too frequently. When I hear footsteps behind me, I tense up. If the footsteps get closer and closer, I brace myself for an attack. This is the reality of being a woman. I've had friends who have panicked when they found out I walk by myself after dark. I've had acquaintances practically beg me to let them drive me home, because they're certain I will be assaulted if I walk by myself. This is the reality of being a woman in the United States, of having grown up in a time when men argued that a woman was "asking" to be raped because she wore a short skirt, of having attended college at a time when women needed to hold rallies to take back the night, of living in an era in which a woman who has been raped can be treated like a criminal when she seeks help.

When I hear about Trayvon Martin, I imagine myself in his place. I imagine myself walking home in the dark and realizing that a man is following me, I imagine that I start walking faster in an attempt to get home safely, only to end up being cornered by the man following me. I imagine being frightened and assuming this man following me intends to harm me. I imagine the police deciding, because I fought back against my pursuer, that he was acting in self defense when he killed me, that he did nothing wrong.

When Geraldo Rivera, and now Bill O'Reilly, claimed that Martin would still be alive if only he hadn't worn a hoodie, how is that any different than saying a woman wouldn't have been raped if only her skirt had been longer? This adds to the repulsion and fear that is being generated for me by this ongoing story. What direction is our country headed in?

As a nation, now is a critical time. Are we going to decide it's okay to hunt someone down, kill them, then get away with it because the victim fought back, or because the victim was dressed a certain way?  I certainly hope not.

The captain of a neighborhood watch should be armed with a camera, not with a gun. That's why it's called "neighborhood watch" not "neighborhood vigilantes." When the police decided to let Zimmerman go, stating that they believed he acted in self-defense, they gave him the green light to kill again. They endorsed vigilante behavior, and they endorsed murder. As a nation, we must condemn their decision, or find ourselves living in a country where we have no legal protection from vigilantes, stalkers, and even serial killers who claim self-defense when they kill.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Freight Street Gallery: That's Women's Work Too!

Here are some shots of last night's reception for That's Women's Work Too! at the Freight Street Gallery. I took the photos early on, before it got crowded.

The Freight Street Gallery is currently the only art gallery in Waterbury. I'm hoping that will change very soon (stay tuned!).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Freight Street Gallery Art Show

This Saturday night!  I'll be there, and so will one of my paintings, along with approximately 50 other women artists who are participating in the show, and a bevy of musicians. For the latest info on the event, visit the Freight Street Gallery page on Facebook or visit their regular website.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Flea Market Find

Apothecaries Hall Co., Oil Citronella. Five bucks at the flea market. The cork is saturated with citronella, so I can tell it's still good!

The label has the name of Clark H. W. Newton as the manager, which means it dates from no earlier than July 1903, when Newton became the manager of Apothecaries Hall.

The company name changed to The Hubbard-Hall Chemical Co. in 1959 and Hubbard-Hall Inc. in 1986. The Hubbard-Hall headquarters is located on South Leonard Street in Waterbury. Their former downtown building, constructed in 1894 and bearing the name Apothecaries Hall, is currently being renovated for market-rate apartments.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Never-Ending Blight Next Door

The saga of blight at 76 Oak Street continues...

Two weeks ago, we saw a man walk to the back of the property next door. He looked at the mess with dismay. The property owner has hired him to be the property manager. In addition to cleaning up the yard, he has to evict the third floor tenant.

While I'm glad that the owner has hired someone to manage the property, I'm impatient in waiting for results. So far, the only change is that the mess has gotten worse. Most noticeable was the addition of a dozen or so oranges to the pile a few days after the property manager stopped by, as well as less visible garbage.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut Legislature is considering toughening the laws on blight, raising the fines from "not less than ten or more than one hundred dollars for each day" to
"(I) For the period from the first day to the thirtieth day during which such violation exists, one hundred dollars for each day that such violation continues; (II) for the period from the thirty-first day to the sixtieth day during which such violation exists, two hundred fifty dollars for each day that such violation continues; and (III) for the period from the sixty-first day to the day the violation is corrected, five hundred dollars for each day that such violation continues..."

The proposed bill is online at

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Mile Long No More

Driving down Thomaston Avenue yesterday, I had to stop and take photos. The old Chase Metal Works is disappearing rapidly.

The Metal Works factory complex was built starting in 1910 (expansion was constant for years, partly because the company's production increased during World War I). The entire Chase complex of buildings sprawled over 211 acres in two towns. The bed of the Naugatuck River was re-routed to make room for the factory. By the 1940s, the plant was nearly a mile long, rivaling Scovill’s mile-long mill (now the Brass Mill Mall).

A portion of Chase Metal Works in the 1930s.
The section currently being torn down is in the upper center and right of center in this photo.
(Collection of Mattatuck Museum)

Roger Freeman, MIT graduate, was the construction engineer for the Chase Companies. He put together a construction team of about a dozen assistant engineers and four hundred laborers. The engineers included another six graduates of MIT; the others were from Dartmouth, Rensselaer and Yale. In a report to his alumni newsletter, Freeman reported that they designed and built reinforced concrete and structural steel factory buildings for the Metal Works and for Chase Rolling Mills and Waterbury Manufacturing  over two years’ time during WWI. The last concrete building was a six-story flat slab structure, 200 feet by 60 feet, constructed at a pace of six days per floor.  

The factory building with the sawtooth roof was constructed in 1916 and was considered very modern at the time. It was a challenge for the Metal Works’ Chief Engineer, John E. Williams, to heat the building. He wrote in 1928 that “the amount of glass used in its roof of modern saw-tooth construction and its huge rooms, make the heating a serious question for consideration by the modern engineer.” He solved the problem by installing a then-unique heating system connecting over 78 miles of hot water pipe directly onto the condensers in the power house.

In October 1915, Chase Metal Works reported that they had begun work on several additions to its facilities: a one-story brick and steel factory building, 140 x 180 feet; three two-story additions, 60 x 260 feet, 60 x 320 feet, and 60 x 120 feet; two two-story brick additions, 60 x 160 feet and 60 x 200 feet; and two other additions, 60 x 80 feet and 60 x 120 feet.

Seeing it being torn down, I felt like it was the end of an era. But what era? Chase shut down the Metal Works factory in 1976. The only thing ending now is the era of abandoned factory buildings. However, without those visual relics, the past will seem more distant and unrelated to our present.