While Willimantic, it its modern iteration anyway, is a mixed bag when it comes to arts and culture, the city certainly has a storied history and appreciable charm. I have generational ties to the city; one of my paternal grandfathers was Alderman-At-Large, then Mayor, and finally Housing Code Enforcement Officer. My other paternal grandfather was employed by the fire department for decades. My maternal grandfather worked at Brand Rex, a cable manufacturing company. I’m fairly certain that all of them worked at the American Thread textile plant at some point in their lives (Alfred Henry Noel as a sweeper and later foreman, for certain).
My return to Willimantic after a long absence has been a very opportune one, as far as exploring my family’s past and the general history of the town. It’s fitting that an area as poor as Willimantic has embraced me in my poverty, but perhaps also apt that the town once known for economic prosperity (a favorable work environment that made it a mecca for immigrants from France, Poland, and Latin/Central America) is the launch site for my new aspirations.
In my explorations and investigations, I’ve come across this fascinating website: http://www.threadcity.com/. There’s an extensive gallery of historical photographs, and while I was around town this weekend I decided to re-create a few of the shots for a “Then & Now” feature. I’ve desaturated the images and tried to recreate the “feel” of the originals. Vibrant images, I believe, would draw attention away from the differences in setting, the documentation of which is the primary intention of the work.