Guns to Apartments

I’m still musing on how I feel about two recent tours and guns pervading every aspect of our lives.  During the Hartford Blooms Garden Tours, I went to the top of the onion-domed Colt Armory–the day after the Orlando shootings.

Having passed the notable landmark so often on the highway, I was both curious and a bit repulsed.  No one else on the tour seemed to make the connection to Orlando.  So I decided to just experience and listen, not share my dis-ease.

We took an elevator almost to the top, only having to climb one flight of stairs.  Then we walked through an industrial, attic-like area to the stairs to the cupola.

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Yes, the view was interesting, as our guide told us how Sam Colt needed the nearby Connecticut River for transporting raw materials and manufactured guns.  She explained how important the horse at the top is to people in Hartford, who clamored, when it was removed from the building, for its return.

Still, I felt restless, just wanting to go back down and get out of the building.

The fact that the factory now has been converted into apartments seems weird and ironic to me.

Who would want to let guns so palpably into the space where they nourish, refresh, restore, and relax?  Their home?

My presumptions were challenged again, with today’s tour of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas and its tour with New Haven Preservation Trust of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.  I have been curious about this site and the transition to living spaces, curious enough to overcome my distaste.

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Yes, at its peak, 30,000 people worked here.  Yes, they produced washing machines and sporting equipment, as well as rifles and ammunition.  And yes, the factory buildings are being converted to office and apartment spaces.

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Yes, I support adaptive reuse and get excited when old buildings find new energy.  Yes, the restoration has preserved a historic character combined with modern sensibilities.  Yes, wonderful Susan Clinard has created art from the wood no longer usable, now hanging on the walls and above the old fireplace (as seen above).

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But somehow, I would rather leave the ruins (knowing that’s not good for New Haven).

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A reminder that guns are not so central to every aspect of our lives.  Or leave some of these dilapidated messes as a balance, a reminder that some things are better left in the past.

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I asked one of our guides about bad juju, cleaning the energy.  He didn’t know what I meant.  He commented on how Winchester labor and workmanship are being celebrated with new life in the old building.  They discovered and restored this ceiling mural from a 1904 wing.  Reinforcing the complex’s past.

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The apartments feature original wood with those fashionable industrial finishings.  And the place is 90% occupied.

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Obviously, many people don’t feel the same way I do.  They aren’t put off by the ground water contamination and hot spots, the lead and asbestos (remediated, of course), the years of water accumulating in derelict structures.

They can look beyond whatever history happened here and throughout Connecticut (Remington was manufactured in Bridgeport) that led to guns, guns, guns, everywhere, all the time.

Maybe I should be celebrating the conversion from guns to apartments.   I just don’t know.  What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Guns to Apartments

  1. These appear to be well designed conversions. Interesting source for them though. Can understand your confusion. I too thought this way until one day when I was in our Colorado home preparing to have the septic tank pumped out (i know strange allusion).
    The young man preparing to do it mentioned how confused he was as to why people wanted to take his guns away from him. He had hunted ever since he was a child. The teacher in me looked at him and tried to step into his shoes (avoiding the septic material) and understand that there are truly many sides to a debatable situation. The story of the blind men and the elephant lives on in this debate.

  2. One more Yes. Yes you should think about the people who get to work in reusing the old buildings and the solidness of these new homes (since buildings were far more solid back then). And that out of the old bad can come new and hope. WHich maybe is strong enough to counter the bad juju.

  3. Thank you Rena for your thoughtful sharing. I was shocked/stunned a few years ago when I discovered the extent of employment that the gun manufacturing companies are responsible for in the Connecticut River Valley. I feel your sense of unease is perfectly appropriate, and resonates with me. Thank you for your post.

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