Thursday Doors – Powder Hollow

Powder Hollow Brewery

Doesn’t the name sound cool? Are you thinking “I wonder if he’s talking about gunpowder?” If you are, you came to the right place. Unfortunately, you’re about 100 years too late.

Back in the 19th century, Col. Augustus Hazard owned a gunpowder company in the area of Enfield, Connecticut known as Hazardville. It the name sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been here before. If you don’t remember or if you weren’t here, here are a couple shameless links to prior posts – The Hazardville Institute and a Reason to Hope. We’ve also been up river from here, in a series of posts in and around the Somersville section of Somers, Connecticut – I’ll spare you those links. The Somersville dam on the Scantic River, provided water power to a large textile mill. Downstream about a mile, a canal system delivered water power to the network of 125 buildings that comprised the Hazard Powder Co.

Operating out of many small buildings was a hallmark of the gunpowder industry. The industry was characterized by explosions, and one small building blowing up, as bad as it was, was better than a section of a large building blowing up (since that would likely cause the entire building to explode)..

According to an article in the Hartford Courant:

“The company supplied gunpowder to Russia and Britain during the Crimean War and for both the Confederate and Union sides in of the Civil War. It ultimately provided the Union Army with half its gunpowder. The company also provided blasting powder for the construction of roads and railroads.”

The company suffered from numerous explosions during its operation. One in 1866 that was written up in the Courant was so bad that the article described men’s bodies as having been “blown to atoms.” A final explosion in 1913 was so large that it shook the entire town. The company closed shortly thereafter.

Most of the buildings are gone today. The area has been turned into a park and the river has returned to a series of rapids. On Water St., a short side street off of Hazard Avenue, there is a small enclave of old brick buildings. Whether or not these buildings were part of the Hazard Powder Co. is unclear, but they have been around for a long time, and time hasn’t been kind to all of them. Many of the larger buildings are part of STR, Inc’s world headquarters and research and development laboratory. STR is a maker of solar energy equipment. One smaller building is the home of Powder Hollow Brewery, a craft beer brewery suppling quality brews to western Massachusetts and north central Connecticut.

When he’s not making beer and gunpowder, our host, Col. Norm Frampton is connoisseur of doors. Each week, on Thursday, he puts out a call to door aficionados across the world to bring their doors and their stories to his gallery. We check in with the little blue frog, we add our doors to the collection and we admire each other’s doors.

I hope you enjoy the doors collected from the brewery and STR, Inc. They may not be bright and shiny, but they’re quintessential New England.

71 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – Powder Hollow

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  1. A brewery! Yay. I love that rail line. I can feel the woodsy area around it. My favorite is the last photo with the windows. Nice, explosive doors post Dan. 😉It really ‘set my day off’ to a good start. Can you even imagine working in a gunpowder factory back in those times? 😱

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You never knew if you were coming home. I wish the brewery had been open, but walking around was fun. The rail line has been under construction for a long time. I’m not sure what they’re doing or where it’s ultimately going but it’s fun to see.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Seriously, you have to wonder about his choice of companies to open. Textiles were big at the time, although the dust from processing wool was also known to explode. I guess working in the 1800’s just wasn’t a walk in the park. To think I complain about too much email.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I worked in a machine shop that was pretty dangerous. A couple of years after I left, OSHA closed them down for about three weeks until they made necessary safety-related repairs. I’ll take that bulging inbox (but keep a beer cold for when I’m done…phew).

          Liked by 1 person

  2. The history behind this place is really interesting. Smart move to construct many individual buildings…..brings to mind a recent post of yours that spoke of the flour mill exploding, and that wasn’t even from gunpowder!

    Nice to see some surviving buildings that have been repurposed. I like the last shot where you can look through front and back windows. Yep, definitely empty, yet the exterior light is on. Security perhaps?
    🔹 Ginger 🔹

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re right about safety, Ginger. There were No Trespassing signs all over the place (I think it’s actually a public road so I think I was OK). They seem pretty serious about keeping bad guys out.

      There’s another explosives mill still in operation on Powder Forest Drive in Simsbury, CT – Ensign Bickford. It’s also spread out through a series of small brick buildings. They also make aerospace equipment.

      Those were certainly dangerous times to go to work.


  3. I was about to ask what day is today and then I realized and read that it was doors day. There are more connections between doors and breweries but it must be saved for a time when more caffeine has entered the system. Happy doorsday. Try not to let the i accidentally slip into doorsday or the entire day might accidentally slip into an old b movie with lots of singing. Is that why these comment boxes are small individual sizes ? So the comments don’t accidentally explode ? I will try to hold that conundrum until Saturday !

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this post, Dan. It brings back a lot of memories – I used to work in a building that was a munitions factory during WWII. I was told its large skylights were to allow for blowouts, and the building had multiple sub-basements. Sadly, this building is going to be torn down for condos. I have some great memories from my time there.

    This spring, Helen and I passed the site of an old dynamite factory on one of our hikes. It too had had multiple ‘incidents’ and finally a catastrophic explosion right around the same time frame as Powder Hollow. Love the name, by the way!

    Although the doors aren’t original, at least they seem to have made the effort to make them look appropriate for the building. This looks like a really cool place to walk around and perhaps grab a tour if you can get one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope to get back up there for a tour, Joanne. The waterside park is about 1/2 mile down the road. I might be able to talk our daughter into a hike and then a brewery tour.

      Too bad about the munitions building being torn down. I’d rather see them be repurposed, but I guess that isn’t always possible.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The title reminded me of ‘Sleepy Hollow’. Now I have to look for the movie. I have the short story.
    I like the old railroad supports. Even over here I admire them when I pass by. Powerful structures. Structural engineers amaze me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like those trestles because they were built when people had no idea how heavy trains would eventually become, yet they have all stood the test of time. Thanks Peter – did you see the two photos I tagged for you?


    2. Ha! The title carried me away before I went through the photos. I have seen them now. Thank you, Dan. I just wonder why the ducts into the building are exposed. Aren’t those hanging cables dangerous to the people living around there? We had a transformer installed outdoors like the one in the photo but we ran all the cables underground. Only the incoming utility company cables were overhead. But they descended into underground ducts as soon as they entered the client’s premises before reaching the transformer. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Underground wiring is only slowly gaining ground here. Modern commercial buildings have everything underground, but older structures like this may not even have easily accessible basements. Electricity would have been introduced to these buildings as a replacement to water power. What you see today is probably a major improvement over what was there in the early 1900s.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ally. I figure, as long as someone is using the building, there’s hope for saving it for a better future. STR doesn’t look like the best caretaker, but at least they’re keeping the water out.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The building looks great. Hazardville sounds to me like a name of some scary place from some distant storybook. Just to share this with you. We had this huge India map on one of the school walls. I, being a geography enthusiast would love to read the names of some small towns and cities on it. Suddenly, I found a small city in Madhya Pradesh state named DRUG. Yup, it was spelt Drug. I was like WTF. Really? India has a city called Drug. I was quite talkative so I spread the word in the class. Finally, the teacher found out that it was me spreading this Drug-gossip. The geography teacher called me, asked me to show where it is. I showed him. He was baffled himself. He did his own research and later found that it was a misprint. The city’s actual name was Durg, not Drug. For a few weeks, the drug gossip made me a centre of attraction in my class.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh no, it appears that I may have to resubscribe to your blog. For some reason this post didn’t show up in my email. Not sure how that happens… anyway, great doors and interesting history lesson.

    Speaking of history, I saw an article on the website AtlasObscura (dot) com that I thought you’d be interested in. On that website, look for “The Return of the ‘Big Boy’” locomotive. I tried to find the specific URL to the article, but this is as close as I could get.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Janis. I have read about that project before, so I’ll definitely looks for that.

      On the other issue, I’ve had to resubscribe to about two dozen blogs this spring. I don’t know what happens, but one day, i just stop getting emails.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Well I guess I should say that you started this week’s assortment of doors posts off with a bang ;-)
    I love to hear the history of places like this, I find it fascinating.
    I’m also glad to see that the place is still around but now is being used to make something substantially less lethal :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Norm. I agree, I think making beer instead of gunpowder is a much better use of buildings in a relatively populated area. Whatever the use, I’m just glad to see these buildings still in operation, with a chance to be preserved.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. As often your post makes me smile, but now for a whole other reason – so ingenious to have different small buildings for the gun powder industry, instead of one big building! Hard to imagine how daily life was for the people back then to work there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A lot of those people went to work one day and never returned. Apparently, it was a constant fear. I guess after a few explosions (they had many) they learned that smaller might be better.


    1. That does sound like a good day! I am planning to go back for a tour and a couple of samples. I’ll give a report, but I’m not sure I’m a good judge. Maybe Ill drag Faith along to sample the dark beers.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. That’s a lot of gunpowder!
    I like the suspected original doors with the metal steps. It’s a good photo, my kind of photo. I’d take that shot.
    While I do wish they hadn’t inserted a modern door, it’s done pretty well. It isn’t tacky as so many new doors are.
    Great doors, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I think the place is still pretty interesting. It was fun walking around. I wish the brewery had been open but I’m glad there weren’t any people around (if that makes any sense). I do like the white against the brick.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Growing up in Hazardville I spent lots of time at Powder Hollow. Those were the days of free-range kids. My bicycle took me many places. Thanks for bringing back these memories. On another note, you sure are a good resource for Breweries. Next time I’m in CT I’m taking my husband on a Brewery tour.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve never even thought about who or where gunpowder is or was manufactured. What an interesting post and what a thing to have near those people who lived there back then. “Mildred that boom was just another small building blowing up….bring me a beer”…oh wait micro brewery not built yet…Dan, when you put a micro brewery in your post…it’s all over for me…focus Kirt…focus!! great pics..great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Excellent post, Dan. So many small buildings. Although, I think you were too kind in your comments on the new doors. Awful or terrible comes to mind… On the bright side, they give us an even greater appreciation for history and architecture. Thanks, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

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