Brass Valley, the Fall of an American Industry

A Photo Essay on the Brass Valley, and the fall of an American Industry

Emery Roth II, of Washington, CT, gave a richly illustrated talk on the legendary history of the Naugatuck River Valley’s brass industry as part of the Kent Historical Society’s Sunday Series, on September 20, 2015 at the Kent Town Hall. The talk was drawn from Roth’s newly released book, Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry.

The Brass Valley began in 1802, when two metalworking families joined forces to manufacture brass. Business soared during the War of 1812 with the demand for buttons, and soon brass parts became essential in the age of steam and electricity. As large-scale brass manufacturing grew across what became known as Brass Valley, mill towns along the river, such as Torrington and Waterbury, developed into thriving cultural centers. This continued until 2014, when the last plant closed.

Emery Roth II earned degrees in architecture and literature from Carnegie-Mellon University. After 40 years living and working in Connecticut’s Northwest Hills, he became fascinated with the old mill towns of the Naugatuck Valley. This poignant elegy captures the glowing metal flying through the air at the Ansonia foundry in its final days as well as abandoned opera houses and train tracks, the vestiges of a dying infrastructure and American way of life. Roth’s photographs evoke an entire way of life that has vanished from the region.

This event was presented in collaboration with the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association

The Kent Historical Society sponsors the Sunday Series every other month September through May. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

The Kent Historical Society’s mission is to collect, preserve, interpret and present the rich history of Kent as well as to provide educational and research material to enrich the public understanding of Kent’s artistic and cultural heritage. For more information, see or call 860-927-4587.


Annual Fund

 Why does the Kent Historical Society need an Annual Fund?

The Kent Historical Society is embarking on something brand new this fall – the Annual Fund for the Kent Historical Society. Many of our members are probably asking why the organization would need this and why they should donate, when they already pay membership dues.

You’ve probably recognized that recently the Society has increased its public programming and expanded what it offers to both the town and the region. The Board of Trustees has consciously been planning to increase the financial backbone of the Society.

About a year ago we hired fundraising consultant Nancy Baker, a longtime resident of the Northwest Corner and the former Director of Development of the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston.  She has been guiding us through the process of developing a more sophisticated fundraising program that includes funding from a variety of sources. We’ve revamped our membership renewal process so that your membership is now on an annual basis, rather than based on our fiscal year. For example, when you become a member in July, your membership renewal is due in July.  I’m pleased to report that 22 members renewed at a higher membership level than they had the previous year.  

Fund raising for a non-profit must come from many different sources and we are cognizant of this and are working hard to expand the income streams. We have increased our contacts with state and local foundations and applied for multiple grants.  We have been successful with two during the past year. We hope to hear in the upcoming months on at least two more.

The new Annual Fund is another important source of funding for the Society. The purpose of these donations will be to support the mission of KHS through donations to augment our operating budget: “Our mission is to collect, preserve, interpret and present the rich history of Kent as well as to provide educational and research material to enrich the public understanding of Kent’s artistic and cultural heritage.”

In the next couple of weeks you’ll receive a letter encouraging you to give to the Annual Fund. I hope that you will consider the important work that the Kent Historical Society does for the town as well as the region and decide to make a gift in support of the organization, in addition to your annual membership dues so we can continue to add new programming, exhibitions and events to our calendar.  Your support is deeply appreciated.

Lynn Mellis Worthington, President


1772 Foundation Grant

Kent Historical Society Wins $15,000 Grant from the 1772 Foundation

Earlier this year, the Kent Historical Society applied for a $15,000 grant from the 1772 Foundation through the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation to replace the clapboard siding on the Seven Hearths Museum. The grant request has been approved.

This grant adds momentum to the extensive program of restoration and improvement that is underway at Seven Hearths, explained Executive Director Brian Thomas of the Kent Historical Society. The new siding will protect the entire building and return Seven Hearths to the way its exterior looked in the Colonial era. The project is scheduled to be completed this fall.

Thomas said the Society owes many thanks to the 1772 Foundation and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation for their generosity in supporting the Society’s quest to improve Seven Hearths, while maintaining the highest standards of authenticity. This year’s competitive grant program awarded $190,000 in grants to 21 local historical societies, museums, and non-profits for maintenance and preservation projects. The entire list is available at

“We are delighted that our grant application was successful,” Thomas said. “It’s a vote of confidence in the care we’ve taken to make sure the restoration is done properly.”

Bruce Whipple is the Chairman of the society’s Building and Grounds Committee and has been guiding the planning for this project.

 “In addition to replacing the clapboards to their original dimensions, the scope of work also includes replacement of beaded edge corner boards, water table boards, the original cornice and moldings. Two doorways, on the southern and eastern facades, that were covered over will be restored and put back in use. Lastly, a window will be moved back to its original location in the back eastern parlor that was supplemented with an additional window in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.   Hand forged, wrought iron, square nails will be used in the construction,” Mr. Whipple said. “We are grateful to have the accomplished and trained historical expertise of Jeffrey Morgan and Roger Gonzales on our board to supervise the project management of the construction phase this fall.”

The Kent Historical Society’s mission is to collect, preserve, interpret and present the rich history of Kent as well as to provide educational and research material to enrich the public understanding of Kent’s artistic and cultural heritage.

Outpourings of Memory and Emotion

Outpourings of Memory and Emotion

 In putting together “Camps of Kent: Memories of Summer,” Curator Marge Smith was worried that we would not be able to collect enough material to fill an entire exhibit. But Board Member Melissa Cherniske connected with many camps’ alumni associations through social media, and discovered an energetic, active network of former campers and they supplied the KHS with an abundance of material.

 Once these groups learned of the planned exhibit, they began making reunion plans tied to the exhibit. The largest contingent was from Camp Kent, with over sixty people attending on Saturday, June 13. It was standing room only on a hot day. The docents kept boxes of Kleenex in every room of Seven Hearths. Shrieking and yelling rang through the house, accompanied by tears of joy at reconnecting with childhood friends. Several of the attendees were couples who met at camp.

 Campers and counselors from Kenico, Camp Francis, and Po-Ne-Mah also organized their reunions with the Historical Society over the summer.

 Sunny Cohen attended Kenico, from 1965 to 1972, wrote in the guest book: “A million thank yous to all involved in putting this “Camps of Kent” exhibit together.  The memories provoked by photos, and collected artifacts for a time that surpasses [all others] is truly a gift that you have given to me … and apparent love for the special place that these camps held in your town. We were welcomed then and continue to feel welcomed in this cherished tribute exhibit walking down memory lane together.”

 Abigail Ceppos, who also attended Camp Kenico from 1966 to 1972, sent us a package early on that found its way into the exhibit.  She wrote in the guest book: “Going to camp changed my life forever. Developing friendships (that have lasted over 50 years), in addition to skills and life experiences that have shaped my choices and path along the way. There’s so many memories that have been sparked again by visiting this phenomenal exhibit — intercamp activities, ‘community activities’ like going to sing to the seniors at Cour D’Alene, Olympics, Kent Falls day trips, and so much more. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!”

 Abby’s lines in the guest book actually contain an important historical clue confirming the location of Camp Cour d’Alene. It also revealed that it was a camp for older folks that was part of the entire system of Kent camps, not just a private house.

 In all, there were five reunions and each group made the exhibit part of their festivities. Many came from great distances. Some were unwell, but they came anyway and brought spouses, children, and grandchildren. All five reunions glowed with the pleasure of reconnecting with the treasured past, and the Kent Historical Society helped brighten the joy.

 On Saturday, September 19 at 11:00 a.m., at Seven Hearths, a “Curators’ Talk” will summarize the experience of mounting this exhibit.