Senate to consider Naugatuck Valley heritage bill

The Senate plans to move forward this week on an effort to designate the Naugatuck River Valley as a federal heritage area.

Designation would allow the region’s 14 municipalities to apply for historic preservation grants and other federal funds.

The legislation that will be considered Wednesday in a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee would authorize a study that would determine the area’s qualifications for designation.

Sponsored by the entire Connecticut congressional delegation, the bill says that the Naugatuck River Valley has made a unique contribution to the cultural, political and industrial development of the United States.

The bill cites some of those contributions. It says the valley is the birthplace of the U.S. brass industry, was once the “rubber capital” of the world and was the site of the nation’s first law school. It says further that the Naugatuck River Valley has been home to many authors, diplomats, inventors and patriots.

Those include David Humphreys, aide-de-camp to General George Washington and the first American ambassador; Commodore Isaac Hull, Commander of Old Ironsides during the War of 1812, and Ebenezer D. Bassett, the country’s first black ambassador. The valley was also home to John Howe, the inventor of a pin-making machine, and Pierre Lallement, inventor of the modern two-wheel bicycle, the bill notes.

As if that isn’t enough history, the bill says the area was important during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War and that Waterbury was known as the “arsenal” of World War II because of its high concentration of war industries.

The Senate is likely to approve the Naugatuck River Valley National Heritage Area bill, although the bill’s future in the House is less clear.