It doesn’t much matter whether the establishment is a small, mom-and-pop retail store or a big industrial factory. Whenever a new tax stream is added to the grand list, residents take notice.
But some arrivals attract a little more attention than others. It could be because of the uniqueness of the business — the recent news that Cheshire will welcome multiple breweries caused quite the stir, given the popularity of craft beer at the moment — or the familiarity of the name. If, say, Amazon were to open up a facility in Cheshire next year, there’d be quite a lot of conversation generated.
That was certainly the case in the spring of 1961, when a well-known New England business decided to move to Cheshire and open a state-of-the-art facility.
It may not be as well known now, but back in the mid-20th century virtually everyone in Connecticut knew about the Waterbury Farrel Foundry & Machine Company. Founded in 1851 as the Farrel Foundry & Machine Company and rebranded to include “Waterbury” in the name in 1880, after being purchased by Edward Lewis and — you guessed it — moved to Waterbury, the company had already established itself as one of the oldest machinery builders in all of New England by the time the 1960s rolled around.
The factory did a little bit of everything and, according to VintageMachinery.org, “… undertook a varied assortment of work in order to keep the business moving in the direction of a probable profit.”
“When times were dull and orders scarce the men were employed on such equipment as the working demands of the plant would digest and the management built vertical millers, traversing head shapers, and other machine tools,” according to the historical account provided by VintageMachinery.
Considering that the factory had called Waterbury home for approximately eight decades, it was big news when it was determined that Farrel Foundry was on its way to Cheshire. On May 25, 1961, The Herald announced the opening of the plant, giving the occasion the kind of fanfare usually reserved for a major holiday:
The significance of the construction of the new facility in this area of New England will be highlighted by the presence of United States Senator Prescott Bush of Connecticut as principal speaker at the Waterbury Farrel open house and dedication ceremonies on Friday …
The new one-story plant replaces a century-old multi-story, multi-building plant in downtown Waterbury, 10 miles away. By eliminating the necessity for moving heavy machinery parts from one floor to another and by modernizing production flow, the new 314,000-square-foot factory has substantially increased efficiency.
The article went on to explain that the building was considered one of the best of its time for such manufacturing needs, allowing the centuries-old company to increase its expected production by as much as 18%. In fact, the ability to move into such a new facility, and out of one built in the 19th century, had been one of the main attractions that led to the move away from Waterbury.
Exactly how the plant came to be was laid out in rather specific details in an article in the May 25 Herald, entitled “Construction Of Plant Was Race Against Time.” In it, the author explains how those who agreed to take on the construction job did so under a very strict: 150 days from shovel-in-ground to completion. The work began on June 30, 1960:
By the middle of August, despite an eleven-day state-wide strike delay the foundations were nearing completion and the work of installing the underfloor utilities was in progress. On August 24 this work had progressed far enough to allow for the first section of the factory floor to be poured.
… Finally, on December 15, just 118 working days since the contract had been signed, the factory area was complete (inside the building) and the installation of manufacturing equipment began.
As impressive as had been the speed with which the workers started, erected, and finished the new plant, perhaps even more startling was the coverage afforded the entire situation by The Herald on May 25. In addition to the front-page story, a special 8-page section was dedicated solely to Farrel’s move, chronicling in detail the company’s history, the construction of the Cheshire plant, and the open house that had been scheduled in the coming days. In addition, several advertisements were run, not just by Waterbury Farrel, but by other businesses offering their congratulations on the move.
“Best wishes” came from M. B. Foster Electric, Glen Terrace Nurseries, Inc, and The Southern New England Roofing Company, Inc., amongst others.
Seldom is such a red carpet rolled out for a new arrival in town, but the coverage is indicative of how important the move was and the level of respect that existed for the company.
Waterbury Farrel would change ownership hands a number of times afterwards, and in 1995, 34 years after its much-celebrated opening, the Cheshire factory would close down. The company is now based in Ontario, Canada, and is part of Magnum Integrated Technologies, Inc., but its roots will always be in Connecticut … and Cheshire.