Pratt & Whitney Artifact Rediscovered During Library Renovations
By Megan Kmetz | Correspondent
EAST HARTFORD, Conn., Wednesday, January 29, 2014
While moving artifacts out of the Raymond Public Library to prepare for renovations, workers discovered an old shovel hidden in a closet behind books. The shovel was a surprising and valued find once it was determined that it was used at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft factory on July 16, 1929, nearly 85 years ago.
Among the attendees of the ceremony were Frederick B. Rentschler, then the president of Pratt & Whitney, and his wife, Faye. Faye Rentschler used the silver-plated shovel to dig the first hole as company representatives, local businessmen and elected officials observed.
An article from the Sept. 29, 1929 edition of The Bee-Hive, a newspaper published by Pratt & Whitney, gave an account of the groundbreaking event and described the $2 million building project.
"The ceremony was held on the rear of James G. Harvey's home on South Main Street, East Hartford," The Bee-Hive reported, "a short distance south of the 600 acres on which the company will build the largest and most modern aircraft engine plant in the world."
By the end of December, Pratt & Whitney was ready to move its production equipment into the new 500,000-square-foot facility in East Hartford. The first machine in the new plant was powered up on Dec. 30, 1929.
Renovations began on the Raymond Memorial Library in East Hartford, Conn., on Oct. 13, 2013. The library will be expanded by 14,000 square feet and there will be added space for computer rooms. "It was the place I lived in," State Rep. Henry Genga said of the library. "We had a lot of great people and resources. But it's long overdue."
Final renovations will include the display of two Pratt & Whitney engines, a J57 cutaway and an R-1830. To further add to the modernization of the library, a 747-engine cowling will but cut and positioned to create an entry into the exhibit. The groundbreaking shovel will also be displayed once renovations are complete.
"Nineteen sixty-eight," Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said at the groundbreaking ceremony in October, referring to the last time a major project had been done at the library. "Quite frankly, that's too long of a time to have transpired without this kind of project taking place."
The renovations to the library are costly and Pratt & Whitney provided a grant to help fund the construction. The expansion of the library is expected to take about 14 months. During the construction, other library branches in the area have altered their hours. Susan Hansen, the director of the East Hartford Public Library stated that the bookmobile will soon be available, along with numerous databases that will be available online 24/7.
Faye Rentschler breaks ground on the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft facility in East Hartford, Conn., on July 16, 1929. The shovel used by Mrs. Rentschler, which was also used to break ground on the Pratt & Whitney facility in North Haven, Conn., in 1953, was recently rediscovered as workers prepared for renovations at the Raymond Public Library in East Hartford. The shovel will be displayed, along with two Pratt & Whitney engines, once the renovation project is complete.