The History of Dams in Middletown A Presentation by Elise Springer
Co-Sponsored by the Middlesex County Historical Society
Thursday, November 8, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
First Church of Christ, Congregational
190 Court Street, Middletown
Like many European settlements in New England, Middletown fueled its expansion by building sawmills and grist mills along its best streams. Yet by 1800, Middletown was becoming a magnet for early industry. In addition to its hilly interior with ample water-power, it boasted a burgeoning population and a deep-water harbor for trade. Only a handful of cities enjoyed such a combination. Flowing out of Middletown — along with its exhausted water — were textiles, firearms, tools, locks, marine hardware, rubber goods, brakes, and more. During the era of water power, the Coginchaug River and Sumner-Pameacha stream systems each hosted more than a dozen industrial dams.
This economic past is visible in the neighborhood of every old mill, and some of these dams remain in place today. Yet the industries have left, and newer roadways run high above the industrial ravines. Join us to explore the significance of these streams and the industries that relied upon them.
Elise Springer is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wesleyan University. Her philosophical work includes reflection on ecological awareness and critical interventions. She has served as a fellow at Wesleyan's College of the Environment and studied the history and legacy of Middletown's industrial dam sites.