Sandy Hook R.S Watkins & Sons Inc





A year and a half ago, this very location was on my itinerary, a pin on the map during my exploration of Connecticut's forgotten corners.  My journeys often resemble a carefully curated list, each destination a line item waiting to be crossed off. Like a bowler aiming for a strike, I systematically documented each location, capturing the essence of these abandoned spaces before moving on to the next.


My friend J, a fellow explorer with an eye for the overlooked, had urged me to visit this particular factory. Its potential for "infiltration and quick documentation" was promising, he assured me. Yet, somehow, amidst the whirlwind of exploration, it slipped through the cracks. Distracted by a companion more accustomed to scaling Manhattan skyscrapers than navigating the ruins of industry, I prioritized shared experiences over my own list.  We traversed different towns and cities, seeking out hidden gems of abandonment, but the metal manufacturer remained unchecked, a silent siren call unanswered. 


Now, news of its demolition in May 2024 washes over me with a tinge of regret. The opportunity to document its history, to capture its decaying grandeur, has vanished like smoke in the wind.  It serves as a stark reminder of the ephemeral nature of these spaces, the ever-present threat of progress, and the importance of seizing the moment. So, let this be a reminder to all my fellow explorers:  Always cross your T's and dot your I's. In this exhilarating pursuit of the forgotten, time waits for no one.


The story of the metal factory extends far beyond its recent demise. Its history is intertwined with the Watkins family, who transformed their residence into a bustling hub of industry. In the early 1930s, R.S. Watkins & Sons embarked on a journey that would reshape the property and leave an indelible mark on the surrounding community.


What began as a private residence in 1824, a testament to a bygone era, evolved into a complex of industrial buildings dedicated to the machining of cast iron and steel. Three structures, erected in the 1940s, stood as testaments to the family's entrepreneurial spirit and the region's industrial prowess. Alongside these, two open sheds, their origins shrouded in the mists of time, added to the tapestry of the property's evolution.


Interestingly, the complex wasn't solely dedicated to metalwork. For a period, it housed a surprising addition – rabbits and other animals. Whether this venture served personal or commercial purposes remains a mystery, adding an intriguing layer to the narrative of this multifaceted property.



The entrepreneurial spirit of R.S. Watkins & Sons didn't stagnate with the initial foray into metal machining. From 1974 to 1990, the company embarked on a period of expansion, incorporating welding, brass wire drawing, and annealing operations into its repertoire. This diversification not only showcased their adaptability but also solidified their position as a significant contributor to the region's industrial landscape.


Annealing, a heat treatment process used to enhance the workability of metals, added a new dimension to their capabilities. By carefully manipulating the physical and chemical properties of materials, they were able to produce metals with increased ductility and reduced hardness, expanding their product range and catering to a wider clientele.


The introduction of wire drawing operations further exemplified their commitment to innovation. This intricate process, involving the drawing of metal through a series of dies to reduce its diameter, required precision and expertise. Acid baths, essential for removing scale and lubricants, became a necessary component of this new venture.


An EnviroAudit report from this period sheds light on the potential environmental impact of these operations. The presence of acids, caustics, oils, and a mysterious "green solution" – suspected to be a copper sulfate-based wire drawing lubricant – hinted at the complex chemical processes involved in their expanded operations. 


This era of growth and diversification paints a vivid picture of a company at the forefront of industrial progress. R.S. Watkins & Sons embraced new technologies and processes, leaving an indelible mark on the history of metalworking in the region. Their legacy extends beyond the physical structures they left behind; it's a testament to their ingenuity, adaptability, and unwavering pursuit of excellence.



The story of the metal factory takes a new turn as the town of Newtown steps in to usher in an era of renewal.  With the property now under town ownership due to foreclosure for back taxes, plans are underway to address the environmental concerns and breathe new life into the site. 


Securing $850,000 in bonding, the town aims to demolish the existing structures and remediate any hazardous materials lingering from the site's industrial past. This initiative signifies a commitment to revitalizing the area and addressing the environmental legacy left behind by the former metalworking operations.


The two properties, located at 7 Glen Road and 28A Glen Road, have been eyesores for the community for years.  28A Glen Road, which came under town possession in March 2013, has been a particular concern due to its proximity to a local developer's ambitious project. 


Next door, an 1898 Victorian building is undergoing a remarkable transformation into apartments, a commercial space, and a restaurant, slated to open on September 1, 2024. The dilapidated state of the former metal factory stood in stark contrast to this burgeoning symbol of revitalization, prompting the town to take decisive action.


This move by the town represents a turning point, not just for the properties themselves but for the entire community. It signifies a collective desire to move beyond the remnants of the industrial past and embrace a future of progress and prosperity. The demolition and remediation efforts pave the way for new possibilities, opening doors for development that aligns with the town's vision for a vibrant and sustainable future.






Sources:



1. Taylor, J. (2022, June 7). (Town Poised To Clean Up Two Sandy Hook Sites). The Newtown Bee.

2. Ryser, R. (2022, June 10). (Newtown’s $850K plans to clean up an abandoned toxic eyesore to ‘benefit all of Sandy Hook’). newstimes.

3. Wire Journal. (1975). United States: Wire Journal, Incorporated. pp.46

4. Voket, J. (2020, September 4). (Glen Road Brownfield Cleanup Targeting Hazmat Materials). The Newtown Bee.

5. Ryser, R. (2024, April 29). (Toxic-laden factory to be razed in Sandy Hook, but what happens after the cleanup no one is saying). NYTimes.



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