Coe Dam Park

Property Information

Coe Brass Dam & Coe Dam Park

The Alexander Land Family Trust (surname is Land) donated the mill pond in the heart of Torrington containing the Coe Brass Dam, the last vestige of the brass industry in downtown Torrington. The 12-acre Coe Dam Park can be found in downtown Torrington at the end of a one-way street called Hotchkiss Place which is nearly opposite Pearl Street. 

A neighbor has turned this area into a pretty park, and with the waterfalls at the dam, it is likely the prettiest spot on the river downtown. The park is open during daylight hours in spring, summer, and fall.

Harnessing Water Power

Before the age of abundant electricity, enterprising men harnessed water power to energize countless factories up and down the Naugatuck Valley. The drive of these men would shape the future of the area for decades to come.

For a long time, manufacturing was the lifeblood of Torrington, and brass was a key player. Manufacturing transformed Torrington from a rural agricultural economy to the center of population and business in Litchfield County. Torrington attracted workers from all over the globe and its products were sold worldwide. The Coe Brass Dam and adjoining gatehouse are a proud part of Torrington’s heritage.

The Coe Brass Manufacturing Company

The Coe Brass Manufacturing Company was established in 1834 by Israel Coe, John Hungerford, and Anson Phelps, (for whom Ansonia is named). Coe Brass contributed mightily to the success of these individuals and helped make possible their family’s philanthropic gifts to the community: Coe Memorial Park was donated by Coe’s grandchildren and the Hungerford family provided the seed money for the Charlotte Hungerford Hospital.

The earliest dam on this site was constructed in 1834 when Andrew Jackson was president and the British Empire had just abolished slavery. There was nothing but tall pine trees on either side of the river. At this same time, historians note, downtown Torrington, then known as Wolcottville, had only forty dwelling houses, four mercantile stores, an extensive woolen factory, two taverns, a handsome Congregational Church, and an establishment for the manufacture of brass, believed to be the only one of its kind in the United States.

Initially Coe Brass made brass kettles. The dam provided water power to roll brass into thin sheets and it powered the massive trip hammers that formed the brass into a kettle shape. The mill was powered by an overshot water wheel that was 20 feet in diameter and 10 feet wide.

The dam and gatehouse have a beautiful vista of the impounded water. This area is home to all sorts of wildlife and is without question the prettiest spot on the river downtown.

Grants Received for Coe Brass Dam Park

Heritage has received two grants to improve the gatehouse, one from the Torrington and Winsted Rotary, for exterior painting, and another from the Khurshed Bhumgara Fund of the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation to improve the inside of the structure. The gatehouse contains the mechanism that controlled the water flow from the pond. Inside are two heavy mechanical “operators” that open or close sluices feeding the canal. The building also housed a small office where an employee stood on duty. When that person received the directive to open the valves, he would turn the wheels to allow the water to flow beneath the structure and into the canal. We believe this building to be unique.

According to our bylaws, Heritage is to “engage in and otherwise promote for the benefit of the general public the preservation of natural resources in Torrington and Northwestern Connecticut including water resources, wetlands, woodlands, and open spaces, the wildlife therein, and historic and scenic sites.” The Coe Brass property is preserved for every single one of these reasons. On October 2, 2008, the gatehouse, dam, and pond were placed on the Connecticut Historic Registry.

A Park-like Setting

A park-like setting has been created and both sides of the river have been improved, thanks to the hard work of neighbors Jim Febbroriello and Anthony Purcuro. The area is open to the public free of charge on a seasonal basis.

None of the manufacturing giants of old exist in town anymore, making the preservation of what little is left critical. This is just a little bit of the history associated with this old dam and raceway, but one of the most important stories is developing right now. That story is all about the Heritage and our work to preserve this piece of Torrington history and to beautify the land surrounding it for public access.

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