Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cool Your Jets!

Abandoned Pratt & Whitney Turbine Lab, East Hartford #3

From Dave Brigham:

As I noted in the inaugural post for this site more than six months ago, rivers offer some of the best views of the backside of America (see Take Me to the River, 3-1-10). On a recent cruise down the Connecticut River on the Hartford Belle, I enjoyed seeing the wooded banks, the osprey nests and the boats. But I was more interested in the Wethersfield Cove warehouse, which is operated by the local historical society, and, especially, the hulking green slab you see above.

I asked the Belle's captain about it. He told me it was an old Pratt & Whitney jet engine testing facility. "They used to do things like toss dead birds into the engines to see how they held up," he said.

The facility's official name is the Pratt & Whitney Andrew Willgoos Turbine Laboratory. After a little research online, I found out that the lab was built in the late '40s, and that the with help of acoustical engineers, "none of the noisy operations inside the building [could] be heard at nearby residences," according to a 1952 report from the Acoustical Society of America.

I also found a real web gem (to steal an ESPN phrase): a copy of The Tech, , M.I.T.'s official newspaper, from 1956 that describes in -- surprise! -- very technical terms the kind of work done at the facility. Check out the file here; you'll have to scroll down a bit to find it.

As for the dock shown below, it seems as though supply boats tied up there to transfer oil to the facility. The lab also used an incredible volume of water from the Connecticut River to cool the engines and testing equipment, so it's possible that the wharf helped facilitate that process as well.

As usual with these places, there's no way to know what's next. I imagine taking this facility apart and cleaning it up will take millions upon millions of dollars, lots of time and effort and that it probably won't happen for a long, long time.

Dock at abandoned Pratt & Whitney lab, East Hartford #1

6 comments:

  1. Just want to make a comment about your last paragraph on "cool your jets". As it happens, that when you posted this article, September of 2010, Pratt and Whitney was in the middle of, and is currently in the process of tearing down the facility. What can be seen from the river really is only a sneak peak of the whole facility down there. What was really neat, a coworker of mine took me through a tour of the facility last spring (2010) an it was as if everybody left the facility on a Friday night only to never come back the following Monday. Everything was still inside, equipment, computers, paperwork ect...
    However, now Pratt is trying to save all the money it can, and by tearing down the facility, they can save money on taxes. Also, there is talk that there is already a deal in the works that the land is going to be sold to the college next door.
    Warning, do not attempt to enter the facility, dangerous conditions exist. Not only that, tight security patrols.

    Pratt employee.

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  2. Hey, thanks for the update! Fascinating to find out that all that material was still inside the facility. Strange. Must have been very cool to tour the plant. If you or anyone you know has pix of the inside, I'd love to post them here.

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  3. WFSB news here in CT has an article relating to this facility along with an other photograph. Its not the best pic in the world, but it shows part of the front of the facility. There was a fire in the facility, which is currently being demolished.
    http://www.wfsb.com/news/26625474/detail.html

    Pratt employee.

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  4. Thanks for another update. The picture isn't very good, but it does indicate the size of the place, which you can't tell from my photos above. Very vague report about the extent and cause of the fire. And what were people doing inside? Demolition work, I presume.

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