Golaski Labs was founded by an enigmatic inventor named Walter Golaski who was born in 1913. Golaski started out working as a needle mechanic for the Torrington Company in Connecticut. He founded Bearing Products Company in 1945 and acquired patents for a number of unique technologies and modifications to machinery that he concocted. His most important was the close-knit vascular graft made of Dacron, a proprietary polyester fiber with hypoallergenic and mildew-resistant qualities and used in premium household textiles.
According to the Cardiac Specialty Institute, a “vascular graft (also called vascular bypass) is a surgical procedure that redirects blood flow from one area of the body to another by reconnecting the blood vessels. Vascular grafting is most commonly done to bypass a complete or partial blockage in an artery in order to improve blood flow to the organ supplied by the diseased artery.” At present cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and in the United States over 400,000 coronary artery bypass grafting procedures are performed every year. Though vascular grafts existed before Golaski’s Dense Knit Dacron Vascular Prosthesis, they weren’t particularly effective at adapting to the needs of a host body as they were, according to Jacob Down’s excellent essay in Hidden City, “brittle, stiff, and not sufficiently porous to allow for ideal blood flow or for tissue ingrowth–the process whereby the host actively grows tissue around, and develops a symbiotic relationship with the foreign material.” By comparison, Golaski’s revision of vascular grafts greatly increasing how finely they could be knitted, making them more porous, efficient, and pliable.
Golaski’s problem was that if he acquired a patent for his graft it would take ten years to test and the patent would expire in twenty years, at which point larger companies would likely begin manufacturing the vascular grafts and muscle him out of his own business. Understandably, Golaski didn’t want to lose exclusivity of production. Consequently, every graft was manufactured, packaged, and shipped in his factory.
There was only one personal object in the factory, but it was significant: in a lonely and nondescript corner of the building I found Golaski’s 1927 Packard. After its inspection expired in 1956, he had kept it at his mother’s house until her death, when it was moved to his factory. While his Packard certainly would require extensive repairs, I was amazed by how well it had aged. Walter’s Packard was removed from the building in 2019 and is in storage, although I have still not heard back whether the restoration took place.
Shortly after the Packard was removed, Golaski Labs was razed by Mosaic Development. In its place a $7 million, 45,000 square foot mixed use development was to be built named Golaski Labs, consisting of 40 apartments, offices, a co-op working space, and a restaurant. Construction on the complex was stalled by Covid but according to The Flats At Golaski website apartments are currently for rent.
As for Golaski’s vascular graft designs, he kept them a secret until his death at age 83 in 1996. Dacron grafts are still in use, although Teflon is now the most common type of graft. Nevertheless, Golaski’s improvements to vascular grafts helped prolong hundreds of thousands of lives. Though the property he created them in is gone, it is certainly an impressive legacy to leave behind.
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