Call to Arms!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The massive Remington Arms complex in Bridgeport, Connecticut is slated for demolition.

The Remington Arms factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut is a spectacular 1.5 million-square-foot structure of 13 interconnected buildings stretching over 76 acres. Now its future is imperiled. Long a monument on the city’s East Side, it was originally built by the Remington Arms-Union Metallic Cartridge Company beginning in 1915 to fill an order for one million rifles and 100 million rounds of ammunition to supply czarist Russian armies. Later, the building turned out bayonets, Colt automatic pistols, Browning Machine Guns, and automatic rifles. In 1920, General Electric purchased the property, and produced thousands of small kitchen appliances in the plant, but GE slowly pulled manufacturing from the building, and closed it entirely in 2007. The company claims to have looked for development opportunities for the shuttered factory, but concluded that it is “functionally obsolete (and) inappropriate for modern uses.” Now GE plans to demolish the structure, leaving a huge vacant property in Bridgeport—a city that can ill afford more dereliction.

The Remington structure’s simple yet dignified brick pier design is the kind of architecture that is often overlooked in history books but is a textbook example of what the late Italian architect Aldo Rossi highlighted as a building that expresses “the ageless originality found in formal types.” His long research into the value of repetition and fixation of essential forms in architecture meant to prove that complexes like Remington provide a valuable background for the history of human events.  Though several local politicians have spoken out in favor of the demolition, it would be a terrible loss to this country’s industrial, urban, and architectural heritage. Local architect Nils Wiesenmüller of the Bridgeport Design Group has set up a Facebook page to stop the demolition. This organization and The Architect’s Newspaper have created a petition to save the factory, and begin a search for new uses for this important structure. Please sign the petition here.

23 Responses to “Call to Arms!”

  1. Nils Wiesenmüller says:

    Here is the link to our blog:

  2. Ken says:

    Great post.
    A remarkable structure.
    The Rossi reference is both eloquent and poetic.
    AN should sponsor a student competition.

  3. caleb says:

    It truly is a remarkable structure. It could be converted to all kinds of uses. Housing comes to mind. How far is it from transit? However, it may be so laden with toxics that it may be easier to remove, but just judging by its manufacturing history, I can’t imagine anything more toxic than machine oil.

  4. Bill says:

    It could easily be remediated and the history of the building is amazing. The real problem is that it has such good bones and will likely be replaced by nothing but a hole in the ground for years. It’s insanity to take this down for nothing better than a vacant property in Bridgeport-a city that cannot afford more vacant properties.

  5. […] can find out more here, and sign the petition […]

  6. scott says:

    Honestly, I don;t see any point in keeping the building. If it has in fact been deemed to be uninhabitable and unfit for renovation for a modern use, I’d say tear it down. I don’t mean this in a harsh way. Most likely 80% of the materials still in the building could be recycled for new construction and by saving it in tact, it only becomes more derelict over time. Either you have a derelict building with no further purpose, or your have recyclable building materials, and a temporarily derelict site with the opportunity to be redesigned into, say a public park.

  7. bill says:

    This is so typical of preservation of amazing industrial buildings in Connecticut; nobody cared about them until it’s too late! We’re losing our heritage as a primary site of the industrial revolution that Manchester England or Lowell Mass would have to recognize as significant to world history which is bad enough, but what’s even worse is the squandered opportunities for the future by not making the investments in these unique and amazing structures. They’re sites of unique and marketable place. What will Bridgeport do after these are all finally gone? Build luxury condos? That never seems to really happen after decades of talk even in good market booms. Start a Detroit style urban farm in its place? Tearing these down has their own costs and it’s about time they entered the conversation in CT. The Nutmeg State could preserve the Merritt Parkway trees, but not this? Does the state even have a SHPO anymore? It’s a disgrace to national history that so many significant structures in CT’s cities can be lost, while so many historically unimportant nonsense like covered bridges are pampered.

  8. Bill says:

    This Bill agrees with the previous Bill… and Scott the city’s memory is at stake here and who will pay for a park…not General Electric and Bridgeport needs the tax base to pay for park. This is a historic structure and needs to be saved.

  9. Chua Toon Ming says:

    Architecture is not just about icon, monument or style. History will tell he future generation what had happen and the history behind them wheather big or small.

    The Remington Arms factory in Bridgeport has character and I think is a vital historical (Industralization) linked to the city of Connecticut.

    Learn from mistake and never repeat them.

    You have my vote.

    Toon Ming from Singapore

  10. Nancy Hadley says:

    Vital structure? When?
    That building has no reuse potential.
    The GE folks have been marketing it for years following the remediation work they did on the building, the lake and the land. I am all for historic preservation. I am living in downtown Bridgeport in a historically restored building that took very sophisticated tax credit financing in order to give the banks the comfort to make the deal. Several buildings have been historically rehabilitated and the adaptive reuse zone in the City’s zoning is cutting edge.

    A detailed history of the building is in order for the archives but Bridgeport’s tax base is 43% tax exempt and there is environmentally contaminated properties all of the city that are the remnants of industry that did the dirty deed and left town. Forget the petition. Figure out the economics. Dreaming does not make the investors invest. It has to be economically viable. If you know of a truly viable option, GE will listen. They have been listening for years and none of the hair brained schemes had any financial backbone.

  11. Stefan Bieri says:

    Wow, this has great potential…..

  12. scott says:

    I don’t pretend to understand the historical significance of this building, but as it was simply a factory and not a public or religious structure, nor is it a precedent of unique structural or architectural ideas, I cannot see any reason to keep it. Its presence alone as an abandoned industrial building dismisses all sense of liveliness of its context, not to mention driving property prices down, and makes its presence (at least in its current state) inviable and financially unfeasible for the amount of space it takes up. Its seems to me overly romanticized, yet nothing more than a crutch for its immediate context.

  13. Bill says:


    There are no plans to replace the complex and it could remain a hole in the ground for years? It is unquestionably a monument of our industrial history so I say “save it” and everyone sign the petition!

  14. Patrick says:

    Well put Nancy and scott.

    Historical preservation is nice but I wouldn’t want to live “there”. I already have too many encumbrances on my “private” property as it is.

    The complex is an array of typical factory buildings not worth saving as a whole. There are many identical to them across the US. They are not a particularly unique building type. Perhaps they have historical significance to the city, but not that significant. Saving one or maybe two (bookends) for posterity and creating green/brown space to the river may be an option that would suit most. In the end though, it is all about the Benjamins ($), and I could think of myriad other ways to spend public and private funds to benefit the city.

  15. scott says:

    Bill, Even if it is a hole in the ground for years, it’s much easier to reuse than a hole-in-the-wall factory without enough structural and design integrity to be easily renovated. It does more harm than good. Do you really think Remington cared about its architectural interest when choosing this design? It was made to be cheap and efficient; simply a shell of masonry with a few windows, much like most American buildings these days. This city needs a better icon than a run down factory, but I’m not sure it deserves it if this is the type of architecture it values. I hope I’m wrong. I’m not really for demolition on principle, but even less sustainable is keeping an uninhabitable industrial building.

  16. Bill W says:

    Just can’t level and dump in a landfill this icon of our industrial past. Maybe something can be done to inspire the reindustrialization of our nation.

  17. Robert Halstead says:

    I believe there are a lot of facts and truths not yet being brought to the fore with this demolition debate. I don’t think there have been many creative experienced representatives from the City of Bridgport who’ve been given the ear of GE to express economic development ideasl The line-up of names so far mentioned in the press are notorious for tearing thousands of acres in Bridgeport and letting them just sit there.

    Obviously the City has been discussing this deal with GE for years but yet creative minds have not been allowed to participate. While the City is running community based “charettes” and NRZ and Master Plan “forums” to plan for the future of our City, ostensively in an open, transparent process, the real deals are being done behind closed doors. The Mayor announced that funding has already been secured from the State DOT to run a roadway through this site. The roadway has been on the brain of certain powerful people for decades. Is there already a deal with someone for recycling all these bricks in the name of environmentalism, I suppose?. I wonder if this brick recycling scheme will continue down to the Remington Factory. Was there a deal made with GE about its taxes? How does this demoltion and other agreements with the City factor into GE’s commitment to invest in Downtown development through CHFA?

    First and foremost we have to stop listening to what may be “the big lie” that these buildings are contaminated. Let the public see what conatmination is reported. Make the environmental reports public

    Secondly, the mantra that old industrial buildings are obsolete because they are multi-storied and have pillars has been proven wrong in this City and in all other cities. This notion has been an excuse for years to tear down many of our treasures such as the Bryant Building where vacant fields still stand 15 years later..

    Thirdly, there are a lot of assets embodied in this building and its location. I heard that the walls in this place are 6′ wide. I see beautiful brick work and balconies at the building’s ends. I see beautiful landscaping, trees and gardens between some of the sectinons. The buildings are laden with an enormous array of very large windows. This building is next to a small lake. This building is a link between Boston Avenue and Remington Woods. There is a possible link to the north with Route 8. The Remington Railroad runs through this property that connects the Remington Shot Tower with Remington Woods.

    In addition to the release of environmental reports, a real cost benefit analysis should be made. For instance, what is the cost of demolition? How much will GE’s taxes go down when the buildings are taken down. What kind of a PILOT arrangement could be possible to give GE a tax break if the buildings stay up? The City will get no money on the buildings once they are down anyway. Why can’t the tremendous cost of demolition that would be saved by keeping the buildings standing be used towards its adaptive re use? Why can’t the City arrange a PILOT with GE?

    Diversity is the key to revitalization of these structures, Educational institutions, housing, indoor farming, cutting edge green technology, incubator space for small businesses, movie theaters, recreational centers, manufacturing, etc, etc. Creative ways of financing could be used to do them all

    The rail line that exists could transport commuters from the new train station being planned for Barnum and Seaview Avenues and could shuttle commuters to Remington Woods as well. It would be better than a highway

    Lastly, from an environmental standpoint, demolition of these buildings are about as ungreen a thing that can be done. The bricks make only a small portion of the entire structure as most of it is concrete and other materials athat will make some landfill increase drastically in size. The building constitures “embodied energy” There are foundation holes already dug, forests already harvested, energy already expended, bricks already quarried and a lot of structurally sound, weathertight open interior spaces. “The Greenest Building is the One Already Build”

  18. millers says:

    I say tear it down and allow the spirits who have been trapped there for centuries to finally be free!!!

  19. millers says:


  20. Edward says:

    It has been 5 years since this post and they haven’t torn down those buildings yet, except for the ones General Electric owned. They could have been used for housing. If you want to see the rest of Remington come down, wait for a few more years. Someone will torch it and then all they will have left will be scrap metal. I think they are waiting on the past due taxes, which they will never get. Why don’t they film another episode of Ghost Adventures there. I enjoyed the first one.

  21. William Menking says:


    It seems a good time to update this article…can you call me at the Newspaper?

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