The now-abandoned Remington Arms plant in Bridgeport, CT is a striking property. Though much of the plant has been destroyed, the shot tower – which bears more than a passing resemblance to a giant whiskey bottle – still looms over the area, reminding passersby of the area’s loss of industries and struggles to rebuild in the aftermath.
The Bridgeport production complex was built in 1867 by the Union Metallic Cartridge Company, and the iconic shot tower was completed in 1909. The 10-story, 190-foot tall tower was the tallest building in Connecticut for years, and was intended to be both functional and ornamental. The production of shot involved pouring molten metal through a sieve at the top and then dropping it 133 feet so that perfect spheres would form and then be cooled and solidified by water in the basement.
Though there were numerous accidents onsite, perhaps the most noteworthy disaster occurred at the plant in 1906 when 16 tons of gunpowder exploded, causing damage as far away as Long Island – although, miraculously, no one was killed. Several years later the Union Metallic Cartridge Company merged with Remington in 1912. The Bridgeport factory became the company’s headquarters and the property was expanded to 73 acres. As one might expect, Remington’s Bridgeport facilities were a major manufacturing location for arms in both world wars, producing weapons used by the United States, Britain, France, and Russia. During the depression, however, the company struggled financially and sold a controlling share of its stock to gunpowder manufacturer DuPont. Though the company diversified over the years, manufacturing clothing, typewriters, housegold utensils, cash registers, and tools at various plants across the United States, firearms and ammunition continued to be their primary source of income.
In 1970 a new ammunition factory was opened in Lonoke, Arkansas, and production of munitions was discontinued in Bridgeport. The company headquarters was moved in 1984 to Wilmington, Delaware, and all production in Bridgeport was discontinued in 1988. The massive complex was left to rot, becoming both a symbol of both economic loss for the city and also a daunting and expensive remediation project that made repurposing the land difficult. Remington filed for bankruptcy in 2018, and again in 2020 – in part due to declining sales, a damaged reputation after a high profile exposé on trigger defects that caused several deaths, and lawsuits brought by the families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting. The company was sold in parts at an auction, with the trademarks and ammunition business sold to Vista Outdoor.
As of 2020, the city of Bridgeport has been moving ahead with plans to demolish the factory and preserve the shot tower. Workers were onsite during my visit, which was a bit unfortunate because it meant that interior photos of the buildings were impossible, although vandalism and several fires since the factory’s closure had destroyed what character remained there long ago. It was still quite a sight to gaze up at the shot tower, which still looked remarkably sturdy despite years of neglect. I hope the city is successful in preserving it and revitalizing the area – it would be nice to see the property as an icon of hope and prosperity rather than blight.
Matthew Christopher CT Bridgeport Aug 04, 2021 Architecture