History of Our Building is Topic

Published on April 9th, 2015

Centerbrook Partner Jim Childress is giving a tour of the historic building that houses the offices of Centerbrook Architects on Thursday, April 16 at 6 p.m. The event is free to the public and sponsored by the Essex Historical Society.

Childress will recount the legacy of the former drill bit factory, which housed the Connecticut Valley Manufacturing Co. from 1893 until 1969 ⎯ when an advance party of New Haven architects happened along, searching for a place to do business.

Centerbrook offices are perched above a sharp bend in the Falls River, a productive habitat whose cascading waters have beckoned people, and other species, for millennia. Constant movement and commerce have reigned here. The indigenous Hammonasset and Niantic tribes harvested herring below the falls, and in 1689, English colonists built a dam for their ironworks.

The site, at 67 Main Street in Centerbrook, has been generating power ever since. At times corn was ground, timber cut, ivory fashioned, and then the river’s current drove belts and giant cast iron pulleys to run the machines churning out auger bits. Among the events Childress will explore is the Great Flood of 1982, which destroyed the dam and several of the firm’s buildings but not the main brick structure. The firm rebuilt its campus and continues to derive electricity from the flow of the Falls River.

Childress, FAIA, has designed buildings nationwide, among them the LEED Platinum Center for Community at the University of Colorado, Boulder and numerous research and support facilities for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories on Long Island.