Let’s face it. Many aspects of American society that characterized the last century are disappearing. Malls, department stores, and factories are all being left to decay as we turn towards other means of acquiring and producing products. And our lovely town of New Haven is no exception — abandoned factories and warehouse can be found all over the city.
I discovered the former Lehman Bros. Engraving Factory entirely by accident as I was apartment hunting in East Rock. I had never seen it before, or if I had, I never consciously noticed the empty lot with two small houses on either corner and the gigantic, ramshackle building taking up more than a quarter of a city block.
After I discovered the building, I was unable to keep myself away from it. I brought friends to explore the building with me, recording footage as I fruitlessly scoured the Internet for its backstory. (Can you imagine, not finding something on the Internet in 2017?!)
I spent a week researching (off and on), eventually uncovering its history thanks to some old newspaper articles and property records: the building was home to a family-owned printing and engraving factory for 98 years.
It closed in 2008 and hasn’t been touched since (though not for lack of trying). You see, New Haven is full of rich architects (Ed note: most architects are not even remotely rich) that think they can turn any worn-out husk into an environmentally responsible luxury apartment complex.
And this run down, unstable factory was no exception. One of Yale’s leading professors of architecture, Peter de Bretteville, was quick to announce his plans to build luxury condos in the old factory. He offered $575,000 to buy the property but lowered his offer to $185,000 when he learned cleaning the building could cost up to $600,000.
Two years after the factory closed in 2010, the property went to auction. It was bought by an Israeli yuppie, er, property developer, named Gil Marshak. Strangely, Gil declined to comment on the fact that he hasn’t touched the building since he poured more than half a million dollars into it 7 years ago.
The property itself is fascinating. Entered easily through a broken window, the first thing that stands out about the former factory is a lack of graffiti. Apart from the words LEAVE NOW sprayed on a wall — which serves as more of a welcome mat to urban explorers than anything else — the place is relatively bare. But that doesn’t mean it’s been stripped of atmosphere. A distinctly eerie feeling reverberates off the bare walls and made me feel simultaneously very alone and not alone at all.
There wasn’t much left behind except a few machines in the corners. The cavernous rooms are almost entirely empty, though it’s clear people have been inside thanks to some fresh fast food wrappers. Perhaps it’ s some sort of avant-garde Wendy’s-themed form of feng shui, I do not know.
There are a few interesting sights like a wall dedicated to newspaper clipping pictures of UConn basketball players and a sizable pile of animal shit, but that’s about it. (You can draw your own conclusions about what it all means.) You can access the roof of the factory easily through a window on the second floor, but I strongly advise against climbing out there – the place has been abandoned for a while, and it doesn’t feel sturdy at all. I got the feeling one small step could become one giant leap pretty quickly.
(Editor’s note: Plus, y’know, we don’t want to be held liable for your stupidity. We have enough problems around here.)
This former factory is a fascinating piece of visual history. Sure, it’s not pretty (or remotely safe) but its existence is a reminder to appreciate what came before us. Or maybe it’s just an eyesore that should be torn down and replaced with a luxury condo.
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