Boilerworks: Reconstructed

Bigelow Boilerworks was an important fixture of New Haven’s industrial heritage.  Between the Civil War and middle of the twentieth century, Bigelow was the country’s leading manufacturer of fire-tube and later water-tube boilers which were used for everything from driving locomotives to powering homes, sugar distilleries, and factories to generating electricity for entire city grids.  The company employed several hundred tradesmen who lived and worked in the vibrant industrial district along the Mill River.

 

Designed and built in New Haven, Bigelow boilers were in global demand and shipped across the country and around the world via a national, transatlantic, and eventually worldwide network of trains, trucks, and barges.  These shipping routes are but one network in which the Bigelow complex was enmeshed. Flows of raw material, labor, and intellectual property also convened at 198 River Street.  While railroad, highway, and sea routes leave traces in the landscape and on maps, other flows are invisible — evident only in legal documents, photographs, patents, and ephemera.

 

Boilerworks: Reconstructed brings together photographs of the company’s expansive facilities on River Street with images and illustrations of their products.  Photographs are both historical and contemporary, gathered from the application prepared by Bruce Clouette to recognize The River Street Historic District on the National Historic Register and taken onsite by myself.  Other images and illustrations are culled from the trade catalog archive at Beinecke Library and original patents held at the New Haven Museum. Using collage, this project aims to reconstruct the Boilerworks at various points in its history.  It proposes a walking tour of the site at 198 River Street during which framed views of the past and present come into alignment, collapsing time onto fixed points in space. Boilerworks: Reconstructed (re)maps the buildings, products, and people that were part of Bigelow’s operations onto the site in which they operated.  These “ghosted” reconstructions simulate historical moments and enact key views that allow visitors to abide with the past while occupying the present.

YALE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE | Spring 2018 | Ghost Town

Professor Elihu Rubin

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