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Believe it or not, I have come to the end of my walk around Waterbury. As I was dividing up the doors, I decided to leave the official buildings for this last look.
Though not an official government building, the Mattatuck Museum Arts and History Center is an important feature in Waterbury. This is the only museum in Connecticut dedicated to collecting and exhibiting Connecticut artists and sculptors. According to one description I found:
Exhibits in the ground floor galleries reveal the history of Waterbury and surrounding towns. New additions to the history exhibit include an interactive display about the region’s slavery history. Recent additions to the art collections include a gallery display about Alexander Calder and a “Giant Critter” designed by Calder in the museum’s courtyard.
My favorite building in today’s gallery is the Waterbury Courthouse. The building is an interesting marriage between a modern government building and an almost century old commercial structure. The curved brick portion of the courthouse was the headquarters of the American Brass Company for over 50 years. For much of its existence, the American Brass Company was the largest brass manufacturer in the country. Founded in 1893, with the consolidation of several existing brass mills in the Waterbury area.
American Brass was acquired by Anaconda Copper, a Midwest mining company, in 1922. The acquisition allowed Anaconda to secure a customer for its copper (brass, if you don’t know, is a mixture of copper and zinc). The building rounds the curved corner of Grand and Meadow Streets and stand opposite Waterbury Union Station.
Across from the courthouse is Library Park. The description of this park is disconcerting. The material I found say that the park is,
“The site of a former burying ground from 1686 – 1890. When it became a park in the early 1900’s, some of the bodies were removed and 47 of the headstones were put in the wall along Meadow Street.”
I’m not sure I am comfortable with that.
Waterbury, like several other historic industrial cities in Connecticut is struggling to find an economic model that works as well in the 21st century as the one it had in the 18th and 19th centuries. Reliance on a single heavy industry is not the answer, the US Northeast is far too expensive for that option, but industrial areas figure prominently in Waterbury’s current 10-year plan. In addition, the city hopes to find recreational uses along its waterfront and take advantage of existing architecture to provide housing options for all income levels. I enjoyed the time, albeit nearly 40 years ago, that I spent in Waterbury. I hope they are successful in their redevelopment.
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