“Our Community at Winchester: an Elm City Story,” is an exhibit, created by the Greater New Haven Labor History Association (GNHLHA), that reminds us of how communities are formed within and around factories and industrial workshops, as well as the impact and rippling effect that the disintegration of these industries have on the lives of their workers and the greater communities, towns and cities where they are located. The exhibit is currently available for viewing in the Norman Stevens Gallery in Homer Babbidge Library until early June.
As one of New Haven’s most important employers in the latter half of the 20th century, the Olin-Winchester Repeating Arms plant had an enormous impact on the Newhallville community and the city of New Haven, Connecticut. During this time, workers created a variety of social outlets, from the Winchester Club to bowling to musical performances, plays and gatherings of all kinds, creating a community within a community. But the struggle to achieve better, more equitable, working conditions was ongoing and often met with brutal resistance from the company. Later, with the introduction of Science Park, employment at the plant was repeatedly downsized until accessible work opportunities for people in the community no longer existed. The plant closed in 2006, throwing its remaining 198 employees out of work.
The stories of Winchester’s workers and the impact of this important employer throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries are told in this exhibit through the use of oral histories, photographs and documents. The exhibit utilizes materials from the records of the International Association of Machinists Local 609, now held by the GNHLHA, which represented workers at the plant beginning in 1956, as well as articles, donated images and personal recollections from those who were involved with the plant.
The photographs above show some of the panels in the exhibit as well as Greater New Haven Labor History Association director Joan Cavanagh and member Monica McGovern.