Bristol-Babcock Factory, Waterbury, Connecticut:
Formerly the Bristol Company and Bristol-Babcock Factory at 40 Bristol Street Waterbury on the banks of the Naugatuck River. 310,000 dilapidated square feet on 6.5 acres of asbestos and graffiti ridden mess hide more than a century of manufacturing history. The Bristol Company was once an American maker of advanced technology. Established in 1899 by inventor William H. Bristol, the concern first manufactured belt fasteners in a barn on these premises. The firm later expand operations and employed 50 in 1904. With increased product demand and expansion of the plant between 1905 and 1918, the labor force grew to 400.
In 1906, Bristol invented the pyrometer, a remote-sensing thermometer. In 1914, he patented the hygrometer, a device for measuring water vapor in confined spaces. The business continued to broaden its product line through the 1940s, adding wrenches, rivets, screws and other tools, as well as airplane instrumentation during World War I, and the Bristolphone c.1920 which led to establishment of the William H. Bristol Talking Picture Corp. Bristol produced one of the first full-length motion pictures with sound. The Bristolphone was used in nearly one hundred movie houses in the U.S. He also developed and manufactured loud speakers, power amplifiers, radios and phonograph recorders. His “Audiophone,” which was used at Yankee Stadium and Grand Central Station in New York, revolutionized public address systems.
During World War II, Bristol made torpedo explosion mechanisms (contributing to the atomic bomb projects), underwater sonar equipment and aerial instruments. The company was purchased in the mid-1980s and operations were moved to nearby Watertown. Acco Industries purchased the property and called it the Bristol-Babcock division. The company went out of business around 2005. A fire destroyed the factory in 2015 and the site is a popular spot for squatters and vagrants. In 2019, the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development issued a $200,000 environmental testing and assessment grant to clean up the site.
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