With its distinctive dome, brought to the U.S. from Russia by Samuel Colt in the mid-1850’s, the Colt firearms manufacturing complex has long been a unique feature of Hartford’s skyline. In its heyday, the armory manufactured the Colt single-action revolver, one of two guns “that won the West”; the Gatling gun and the Colt-Browning which was used extensively in 20th century conflict. With the start of this century, the armory has been undergoing a massive, albeit slow, renovation. The pace of these efforts has increased recently with upgrades to residential and business spaces and an effort to designate the area as a national park. Said Jeffrey Ostroff, Principal of the Greater Hartford Arts Academy which now resides in the armory’s Sawtooth building, “We don’t make guns here anymore, we make art.”
Last week, Courant photography editor Sherry Peters asked me to spend some time at the Colt Armory Complex making photographs for a story by staff writer Kenneth Gosselin. Instead of working on photographs that showed what the buildings looked like, however, Sherry encouraged me to look for details around the facility that could be stitched together as a compilation of portraits concentrating more on historical context than appearance. Colt officials granted invaluable access to the site and while walking through the smells, sounds and textures of the building I saw remnants that felt stately, stoic, sad and fanciful.