Last time around, I wrote about a Stamford institution that’s changed form a few times, and mentioned a bunch of others that are no longer around in any way.
It occurs to me I’ve never really written in depth about Time Inc.’s Springdale Labs, my grandfather’s place of employment from the 1940s through 1970.
I’ve mentioned it a whole bunch of times, of course. I’ve even run a picture of my grandpa at his drafting board, dressed stolidly in buttoned-down ’50s/’60s corporate fashion.
But I’ve never really said much about the place except that my grandpa worked there.
So, as part of my bi-weekly barrel-scrape, I’m going to spend some time finding out (and sharing) whatever I can about the Labs, with Blumenau family content wherever I can find a chance to work it in.
Where was it?
Oh, look! Blumenau family content:
So, yes. 835 Hope St., in the Springdale neighborhood of Stamford, Connecticut. Easily accessible from the Connecticut Turnpike to the south and the Merritt Parkway to the north. Located on an 18-acre parcel of land acquired by Time in the fall of 1945, according to the New York Times.
The labs were six-tenths of a mile from the Blumenau family homestead at 1107 Hope, which was located between Weed Hill and Camp avenues. Had it been marked on this map, the house would have been somewhere around the top of the Camp Avenue stoplight illustration.
It never hit home to me until now just how close the Labs really were to the family home. My grandfather would scarcely have been able to travel south on Hope Street without passing it; I wonder if it depressed him, after he was let go in 1970, to pass the building in his daily rounds, knowing he could not go in and reclaim his old drafting table.
What did they do there?
The duties of the Springdale Labs included research and development into printing and papermaking, aimed at helping Henry Luce’s publishing empire serve its millions of readers as efficiently and thriftily as possible.
My grandfather’s journal is studded with references to specific (and, to me, thoroughly obscure) machinery used in the printing process.
Also among his papers is an article from an internal publication in summer 1963 that mentions his role in the design of a “jogger-stacker” — a machine to improve the speed and productivity of magazine printing. I imagine that was pretty well representative of the sort of work that went on at the Springdale Labs.
Apparently, as early as the ’50s, the Springdale Labs were also home to experiments in computerized subscription listing. The techies in the crowd — hi, Dad and Eric! — might get a kick out of this 1959 article about that research.
If nothing else, it’s fun for its use of cheesy IGY-era science-speak: “There exists today in Springdale a completed and working engineering prototype of a large direct-access memory.” Yes, my friends, future events such as this may affect you in the future!
How many people worked there?
I count about 90 in this industrial directory listing, which dates to about 1950. I’m not sure that’s a definitive measure, though.
What happened to it?
The Interwebs do not tell me exactly when the Springdale Labs closed, though online tidbits suggest the entire facility might not have outlasted my grandpa for very long.
A Connecticut state business record indicates a company called Transact International was doing business at 835 Hope St. in the summer of 1971. A somewhat jumbled classified ad from the Bridgeport, Conn., Post in May 1973 suggests a company called Peabody Engineering was also operating at the Labs’ old address.
Jumping ahead a few years, a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission newsletter from April 1981 mentions a company called Gram Industries established at 835 Hope St. and selling shares of stock. Transact was still around at that time as well, judging from this May 1981 help-wanted ad in the Norwalk Hour newspaper. (Transact is described as “an air cargo handling equipment manufacturer.”)
Still other jumbled or secondhand Internet info suggests Xerox had operations there for a time.
And, while a bunch of links didn’t seem to want to work for me, it also seems the old Labs property required some environmental cleanup (not tremendously surprising for an industrial site of its era). It appears on a list of sites in Fairfield County, Conn., that are or were candidates for federal cleanup.
(I apologize for the descent into vagueness. A local newspaper with a good searchable online news archive is a godsend. The Stamford Advocate, bless it, is not that.)
While I haven’t found an article that says as much, it appears that the former site of the Springdale Labs is now part of a multi-use redevelopment called River Bend Center. Compare their map to my grandpa’s and see if I’ve got my directions straight.
It looks all bright and shiny and hard-wired in ways the Springdale Labs never dreamed of. And I tend to doubt the Springdale Labs ever served General Tso’s chicken, as was on last week’s menu at the River Bend Center cafeteria.
No doubt River Bend Center will pass too, given enough years, and some other bright shiny place will spring up there where people go to take on the challenges of American moneymaking.