Post Road Iron Works: A Part of our History
Founder and mastercraftsman William Gasparrini, Sr., prepared his two sons for award-winning work
By David McCabe
Greenwich Time, Wednesday, April 3, 1963
“If I said I wanted to he a fireman, Dad said no, you’re going be a blacksmith.” That’s part of the reason, according to Bill Gasparrini, Jr., that Post Road Iron Works, Inc., of 345 West Putnam Ave., won two of seven first place awards in this year’s nationwide competition of the National Ornamental Metal Manufacturers Assn. at Chicago.
Since childhood, the Gasparrini boys, Joe and Bill, had been readied for the metal working firm their father, mastercraftsman William Gasparrini, Sr., founded in the same location in 1927.
For Joe, older of the two, there never was a “fireman” stage. At 5, he walked two miles from the family home on Locust St. to the Putnam Ave. iron works headquarters so he could watch what was going on.
Mrs. Gasparrini, married to William, Sr., for 41 years, disputes her son Bill’s version of the story, insisting Bill was only three when he made the epic voyage.
It’s undisputed that Gasparrini fortunes soared with the arrival of William Sr., in America from Castle Grande, Italy in 1902.
At first, he worked at the Stamford Iron Works, moving to Mianus Motor Works to make truck bodies during World War I. Soon after this, the Gasparrinis were married. Both had grown up in Castle Grande, but came here separately. Mrs. Gasparrini initially worked in a Paterson, N.J., silk factory.
In 1927, Mr. Gasparrini dissolved a partnership with Palermo Bros. Iron Works of Greenwich and struck out on his own.
Depression years were tough, the iron worker said, but because of jobs given him at the time by architect J. Alden Twachtman, the firm was able to survive and prosper.
Most of their work has been in Greenwich. According to Joe, the business “has a circle of Greenwich customers on the books for every month of the past 37 years. Maybe once or twice it was because one hadn’t paid the previous month’s bill, but almost always we had done work.”
Joe added that two generations of Gasparrinis, including brother-in-law Peter J. Carriero, secretary-treasurer of the firm, had done business with as many as three generations of a contracting family.
A real story behind the iron works is out of the realm of tools once forged there or the railings and stairways, building structure or miscellaneous work done today.
To his sons and many who come in contact with his work, William Gasparrini is an artist in metal. Decorating his home are chandeliers, ash trays, lamps and railings designed and fashioned by the artisan. He has turned flat pieces of steel into this and curved leaves, copper sheets into a rose blossom with dozens of petals.
Skilled work like this pleases Mr. Gasparrini, but, as he said, it was not always profitable. Store bought castings sold for “ten dollars less” he said. In his own eye, some of the finest work he has done are a pair of chandeliers for the altar at Christ Church in Greenwich. He added that he had last heard they were only used for special services.
It was the “special touch” that brought Mr. Gasparrini a second place award in the most unusual ornamental metal category at the metal manufacturers conference. The prize was for a hand-wrought rose ash tray.
First place awards given the company were for interior and exterior wrought iron. A stair and stair well rail in the Pecksland Rd. home of Mrs. H. E. Foster, Jr., designed by Col. J. Alden Twachtman, took one first, while the curved stairway and rail outside the Khakum Wood house of J. P. Stern, by architect John Merrill, won the other. The work was done from seven to 30 years ago.
A second place award, one of three, came for interior wrought iron stairs and balcony rail at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Everett Smith in Quaker Ridge, designed by G. Dewey Swan and built last year. Also won were another second and prize and two thirds.
Joe Gasparrini best described the business of which he and Bill are vice presidents as one that does anything from “A to Z with metal.”
And it’s evident on a quick tour of the premises and recent addition that the 11 employees are doing just that. With their battery of welders and torches, they might be working on the blade of a giant bulldozer or putting a leg on a cast iron bench or shaping girders for an office building.
Experience, according to Joe, is why the men win awards. Given a design they can reflect what the architect wants and still execute it with perfect craftsmanship.
And, as Bill added, were it not for the Town of Greenwich, none of this would have been possible. He said that because people here like and insist things be done well, you can do just that, cutting no corners.