1000+ (ca. 1890)
This sprawling 38.5-acre industrial complex located along Liberty Street in Ansonia operated for much of history under the auspices of the American Brass Company, yet was pieced together from plants established by a pair of local manufacturers during the mid-nineteenth century. Among them were the Wallace and Sons Manufacturing Company, established by Thomas Wallace in 1848, and the Ansonia Brass and Copper Company, organized by Anson Phelps in 1854. These firms specialized in rolling sheet metal and drawing wire, the Ansonia Brass and Copper Company being particularly notable for its production of copper pins. By the mid-1870s the two companies occupied substantial mills west of Liberty Street along the Ansonia Land and Water Power Company canal. Both Wallace and Sons and Ansonia Brass and Copper expanded considerably through the 1880s and early 1890s and by 1895 the firms presided over dozens of buildings between the canal and the river. These stood on both sides of the rail line operated by the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad and the companies benefited greatly from this transportation access. Contemporary maps of the plants illustrate the diverse product lines offered by the companies at the time and identify an array of rolling mills, casting shops, wire and seamless tube drawing rooms, pin rooms, kettle rooms, rod mills and tinning shops, as well as various ancillary structures such as boiler and power houses, and packing, shipping, and storage buildings. These employed 1,135 workers at Ansonia Brass and Copper, and 646 hands at Wallace and Sons. By the mid-1890s, however, significant developments were reshaping the brass industry in the Naugatuck Valley. Wallace and Sons folded in 1896 and its plant was acquired by another notable name in the business, the Coe Brass Company. In 1899, a holding company, the American Brass Company, was established in an effort to help firms in the Naugatuck Valley control national prices and retain market share. This was formed by the Ansonia Brass and Copper Company, the Waterbury Brass Company, and the Coe Brass Company, and by 1901 was joined by the Benedict and Burnham Manufacturing Company and Holmes, Booth and Haydens Company. In 1909 the American Brass Company was the largest and most significant brass manufacturer in the world. The firms comprising the company contributed over two-thirds of the total brass production in the United States at the time and the combined entity was the largest single consumer of copper in the world. Roughly half of this output could be traced to the company’s Ansonia plants and these continued to expand through the 1910s, particularly in the area north of the Coe Brass Company’s plant. These factories ran at maximum capacity through World War I and made substantial contributions to the war effort, particularly in the avenue of munitions production. The American Brass Company merged with the Anaconda Copper Company in 1922, however, operations at the company’s Ansonia plant continued largely unfazed. The plant likewise weathered the financial pressures of the Great Depression and saw further expansion during World War II. In 1977, the Anaconda American Brass Company was acquired by ARCO Metals, which eventually sold its Ansonia holdings to Ansonia Copper and Brass, Inc., which has since ceased production at the plant.
Roughly twelve (12) primary blocks.
The American Brass Company’s Ansonia plant consists of a substantial factory complex comprised of over a dozen manufacturing, office, storage, and powerhouse buildings built, altered, and in some cases demolished and replaced, on an almost continual basis between ca. 1890 and ca. 1965. The majority of these are of red brick construction and stand between Liberty Street and the east bank of the Naugatuck River. A rail line formerly operated by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad runs north-south through the middle of the complex and once provided direct freight access to the factory. Many of the structures associated with the complex were erected in phased expansion projects alongside or adjacent to earlier buildings. This obscures the architectural character and original footprints of many blocks, however, it can be seen that most stand either one or two stories tall and have a mix of monitor, sawtooth, gable, and flat roofs. Two of the most prominent are visible from Liberty Street. They consist of the massive (250’ x 650’) sheet metal department building, a one-story red brick mill with wide rectangular window openings, plain parapet, and sawtooth roof built parallel to the Ansonia Land and Water Power Company canal in phases between ca. 1924 and ca. 1950; and a two-story Colonial Revival office building with red brick walls, projecting concrete pavilion and corner pilasters, concrete cornice, and flat roof built at the northern terminus of Liberty Street ca. 1940. Additional structures of note located on the American Brass Company’s sprawling complex include a two-story reinforced concrete casting shop with sawtooth roof built along the river ca. 1924, and a group of adjoining buildings at the northwest corner of the plant constituting a massive wire mill erected in phases between ca. 1900 and ca. 1965. The various remaining buildings house additional rolling mills, casting shops, machine shops, wire and seamless tube drawing rooms, and rod mills, as well as support structures such as boiler and powerhouses, and packing, shipping, and storage buildings.
Good, Fair, Deteriorated
Most of the buildings associated with the complex are in fair condition. The office building (75 Liberty Street), however, is in good condition, while a number of support buildings at the core of the complex are in various states of deterioration.
Facility covers 38.5 acres between North Main and Liberty Sts. to the east, the Naugatuck River to the west, and Farrel Corp. to the south. The railroad tracks run north-south through the middle of the site. The portion of the site east of the tracks is 75 Liberty St.; the portion to the west (east bank of the river) is 7 Riverside Dr.
Lucas A. Karmazinas