The filmed tale of Tremont Nail

WCTV documentary tells story of town's industrial past
Jun 4, 2014

Story Location:
21 Elm St.
Wareham  Massachusetts  02571
United States

It could be, the former workers said, a cold, loud place to work -- with the air often full of an industrial dust.

But the "nailers" spoke with pride of their work at the former Tremont Nail Factory and with affection for the place that employed generations of Wareham men in the manufacture of "cut" nails.

Captured on film, their words and those of local historians, former Tremont Nail president Donald Shaw and public radio broadcaster Naomi Arenberg are interspersed with historic photos and video in a WCTV video documentary that debuted Tuesday evening.

"Forged in Steel," commissioned by Tremont Nail Cultural Center Inc. and funded by the Center and private donors, was pulled together in seven months -- in time to be out on DVD for the Summer of Celebration festivities that begin June 13.

In fact, the need for speed had WCTV member and film editor Renee Walsh pulling the last pieces together just hours before Tuesday's screening at Buzzards Play Productions.

"This is the first time we're all going to see this," joked WCTV Executive Director Jay Heard before cueing the projector.

As the credits rolled and the lights came up about an hour later, no one appeared disappointed. And the WCTV crew assured people that DVD's of the production would soon be available for a $20 donation.

The Elm Street nail factory, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was purchased by the town in 2004 with Community Preservation funds. While ideas for its use and preservation have abounded, a lack of funds and of agreement on what to do have the buildings sitting empty, largely as they were when the town purchased them from the departing nail company.

On film and in remarks before Tuesday's screening, people spoke of the value of the factory in chronicling Wareham's and the region's industrial history. While the old cooper's shop -- where barrels were made to ship the the nails -- has been converted into the Old Company Store, much of the rest of the facility remains as it was left by the departing nail company.

In the documentary, Wareham native and faculty member at Boston Architectural College Johanna Rowley describes the factory as "simple, elegant in its simplicity."

Its features, chronicled in "Forged in Steel," tell of a time when windows rather than electricity provided the light for factory work, goods were shipped down the river to market, and workers caught herring behind their workplace and cooked the fish on factory stoves.