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Posts tagged ‘Dam’

Mills and Dams – The Bernat Mill

Chris, my wife, remembers going to the Bernat Mill store in Uxbridge, Massachusetts to buy yarn.  She certainly isn’t alone.  If you were into knitting, that was what you did in this area.  At one point, the mill was the third largest yarn mill in the U.S.  (Note, the brand still exists and is in use by another yarn manufacturer, Bernat.)  The mill itself had a long and exemplary career in the Blackstone River Valley.  The first iteration of the Mill was built there in 1820 by John Capron.  Why that location?  Falling water.   This is the current dam along the Mumford River that creates Capron Pond.  It’s quite a lovely place with a very nice park, a nice place to think, or have a picnic.

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Capron evolved to the Backman Uxbridge Worsted Company.  They were the first manufacturers to utilize power loops in the U.S., a staggering change moving the industrial revolution forward.  Their ability to engage in mass production doubtlessly lead to their ability to land contracts for the production of Civil War uniforms, World War One Khakis and World War Two U.S. Army uniforms.  Those familiar with the U.S. Air Force dress blue uniform can take note, it was probably manufactured in that mill.  That blue was chosen from the Backman Uxbridge catalogue.

As it did with so many large manufacturers in the Valley, the bust stormed into town in the form of international competition, technological change and an aging plant.   In 1964 the assets were sold to the Bernat Company which refocused the mill on yarns.  As manufacturing declined, the mill was repurposed over time in what was actually a very successful conversion.  The class mill repurposing involves creating small spaces for retail, office and creative studios.  They must have worked quite hard on the conversion because by the night of July 21, 2007, something like 400,000 square feet which had been devoted to manufacture was productively employed by numerous small businesses.  Hundreds were employed there.  Unfortunately, that night and for several subsequent days the mill burned.

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Hundreds of firefighters fought the blaze.  The complex was almost completely destroyed.  Most of the businesses, worth millions, were lost.  There are I would stress still a number of businesses remaining in a portion of the mill complex, but nothing like the number there prior to the fire.

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The damage is still stunningly visible.  Government on several levels planned to help but those plans seem to have floundered.  This is of course not the first mill to burn in the Blackstone Valley.  Many of those mills absorbed a century or more of a variety of chemicals.  Some thought the fire at the Bernat Mill was almost inevitable.  The bust of an economic surge, particularly one that lasted as long as large scale manufacturing in the Blackstone Valley is extraordinarily difficult to manage.  These were very big businesses, not just for their time, but for any time.

Greek Letter

I’m honored to report that one of my images just received a third place award at the “Anything Goes” Photography Exhibition at the Blackstone Valley Arts Association in Uxbridge, Massachusetts.  There is some tremendous work in the exhibition so if you’re in the area, considering stopping in.  I was particularly pleased because the juror was Stephen Dirado.  He’s one of the top fine art photographers in New England and though I’ve actually never met him, I’ve followed him for some time.  He shots large format black and white photography, and his imagery is absolutely stunning.  This is an abstract image, taken at the South Natick Dam along the Charles River.  I thought of a Greek Letter.  You’re invited to  draw your own conclusions.

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Upcoming Publication: Black and White Magazine

I’m grateful to be able to announce a soon to be published portfolio in Black and White Magazine.  My work “Lost in the Water” was chosen for a portfolio merit award and will be published this summer.  For those who don’t know how such things work, in a portfolio competition, you submit one or more portfolios of as many images as the publication requests, grouped around a particular theme.  The interesting question for me has to do with what the editors actually end up choosing to publish.  It is almost never would I expect, reminding me once again just how subjective art really is.  But no matter, as I said, I’m grateful.  Here is my selection of a four favorites from the submission.

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These are from a location that has become very special to me, the South Natick, Massachusetts Dam along the Charles River.  I was able to work there even though I was pretty ill at the time.  The River helped me a great deal and I’m also very grateful for that assistance as well.

If you want to see what the editors chose, you can find their take in Black and White Magazine (the U.S. publication), Issue 177, August 2017.  Alas, photography magazines can be hard to find but Barnes and Noble is probably a good bet.

A Holiday Gift

It’s been a challenging year, largely health wise.  I’m very glad it’s passing for the most part, though many good things have happened.  You realize who you can count on when times are tough and I’m blessed with some folks who were there for me.  My, wife, daughter and son-in-law are at the top of the list, along with a crucially important poodle, a couple of very good doctors and some friends.  Things are looking up so perhaps more productivity will be visible very shortly.  To all who have faced tough times, and there are so many in our world, I hope your 2016 offers some hope.

I must confess, then that in spite of their efforts to assist me, I hate going to the doctor.  It’s not the doctor, it’s going for the visit.  This is my problem, not their problem, but I hate it regardless.  I don’t know what the issue is, but it has always been with me even though I grew up around doctors.    Yesterday, we had the last visit for 2015 (but, ah, it ain’t over yet…..I know, I know, I’m knocking on wood as fast as I can!).  I was relieved, to say the least.  We’re heading home and looking for a creative thing to do for lunch.  Of course, it is spring time in New England (I know, I’m really tempting fate here for the second time in the same blog posting.  I’m sure I will be sorry I said that in a few days or weeks at most).  The temperature is unseasonably warm.  We decided to stop off at the South Natick Dam, a very contemplative spot along the Charles River in the town of Natick, Massachusetts.  Got a couple of chicken caesar wraps and went to sit on one of the benches along the river.  It was very dark and still cool, but getting warmer.  Actually, the air was becoming warmer than the very still water.  The show began.

Fog started to come drift down the river, which was so still it offered perfect reflections.  Always have a camera with you, and I don’t mean an iPhone.  I’ll let the images tell the rest of the story.

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A nice Christmas gift, the left us almost as quickly as it arrived.  Happy Holidays to you and yours.