Neighborhoods of Hartford, Connecticut
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Central Business District/DowntownEdit
Downtown is Hartford's primary business district. It is the location of the city government offices as well as the State Capitol.
Parkville is a mixed industrial-residential area on Hartford's west side, bounded by Capitol Avenue, Interstate 84, and New Park Avenue. It was one of the city's last areas to be developed.
Frog Hollow stretches along Capitol Avenue directly west of the State Capitol until Laurel Street, and south towards Trinity College. The area takes its name from the marshy conditions in the low land near what is now the corner of Broad and Ward streets.
Most of the area was farmland until 1852 when the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company constructed a factory, beginning the area's transformation into a major industrial area. Although not the first factory to be situated along now-buried Park River, Sharps located there specifically to take advantage of the railroad line that had been constructed along the river in 1838. After the Sharps Rifle Company failed in 1870, the Weed Sewing Machine Company took over its factory and soon surpassed the Colt Armory in nearby Coltsville in size.
Inspired by a British-made, high-wheel bicycle, or velocipede, he saw at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, industrialist Albert Pope bought patent rights for bicycle production in the United States. Wanting to contract out his first order, however, Pope approached George Fairfield of Hartford, and the Weed Sewing Machine Company produced Pope's first run of bicycles in 1878. Bicycles proved to be a huge commercial success and production in the Weed factory expanded, with Weed making every part but the tires, and by 1890, demand for bicycles overshadowed the failing sewing machine market. That year, Pope bought the Weed factory, took over as its president, and renamed it the Pope Manufacturing Company.
The bicycle boom was short-lived, peaking near the turn of the century when more and more consumers craved individual automobile travel, and Pope's company suffered financially from over-production amidst falling demand. In an effort to save his business, Pope opened a Motor Carriage Department and turned out electric carriages, beginning with the "Mark III" in 1897. Pope's venture might have made Hartford the capital of the automobile industry were it not for the ascendency of Henry Ford and a series of pitfalls and patent struggles that outlived Pope himself.
After his business failed, Pope donated a 75-acre (300,000 m2) parcel park provides recreational facilities for neighborhood families. Today, the park provides recreational facilities for neighborhood families.
Park Street has also been called "New England's Spanish Main Street" because of the predominantly Puerto Rican population and merchants. Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez hoped to attract new merchants looking to expand their businesses into Hartford and in 2005, plans were first floated to spend $64 million on a project at the intersection of Park Street and Main Street. Original plans included two luxury condo towers, some retail, and a massive main square—or Plaza Mayor, as it came to be known. The plan later got smaller in size, and was eventually shelved entirely during the Great Recession.
The neighborhood is home to Hartford Superior Court, Hartford Community Court, Family Court, Trinity College, The Learning Corridor, The Lyceum Resource and Conference Center, and Broad Street Juvenile Court.
Asylum Hill is a 615-acre (2.49 km2) centrally located Hartford neighborhood with about 10,500 residents. It rises uphill directly west of Downtown Hartford but is mostly flat until it slopes downward at its western edge, along the flood plain of the north branch of the now-buried Park River. Aside from the river, it is bound on its other three sides by railroad tracks and I-84.
Originally known as 'Lords Hill', the area was primarily farmland and named after one of the city's original settlers. In the early 1800s, the area was dominated by the 100-acre (0.40 km2) Imlay farm, which occupied most of the land from present-day Imlay Street west to the north branch of the Park River, and from Farmington Avenue south to the Park River.
In 1807 the Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons was founded here and its first student, Alice Cogswell, was enrolled. She is depicted in a commemorative statue, designed by Frances Wadsworth, that honors Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, Mason F. Cogswell and Laurent Clerc, founders of the American School for the Deaf, which was the first of its kind in the country. It remained at its original location for 100 years. The area became known as Asylum Hill.
John Hooker and Francis Gillette purchased the farm in 1853 for the purpose of developing the real estate into smaller holdings. They built their own homes and encouraged friends to do the same. As a result, a literary colony developed that included Isabella Beecher Hooker, the Gillettes, Charles Dudley Warner, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, and other reformers and activists. The area became known as Nook Farm, taking its name from the bend‚ or “nook‚” in the Park River‚ which bordered the area.
Some houses of this colony still survive. Most notably, the home of Samuel Clemens who wrote under the pseudonym Mark Twain. He created some of his most notable works, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, while living in Hartford. These houses, along with the Katherine Day House, are preserved as museums open to the public. By the early 1900s Asylum Hill had become an established residential area, with spacious Victorian-style homes.
Beginning in the 1920s, major insurance companies began moving from downtown to Asylum Hill and would bring major change with office development. The Hartford was the first major corporation to move into the neighborhood, followed by the Rossia Insurance Company (now Northeastern Insurance Company) and Aetna. To make room for corporate headquarters, employee parking and housing, blocks of single family homes were gradually replaced by apartment buildings with small one-bedroom and efficiency apartments. Aetna remains as a major fixture along Farmington Avenue and recently moved more than 3,400 of their Middletown employees to its Hartford campus.
With many dating from the 19th-century residential period, a number of significant religious institutions are located in the neighborhood, including the Asylum Hill Congregational Church (1864) (where Mark Twain's good friend Joseph Twichell was minister for nearly 50 years) and the Trinity Episcopal Church (1890s). The modernist Cathedral of St. Joseph, was constructed in the mid-20th century and dedicated in 1962. Asylum Hill also was home to many educational institutions. The original Hartford Public High School was designed by architect George Keller. It was demolished in 1963 to make way for construction of Interstate 84.
Saint Francis Hospital was established in 1897 by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chambéry. The 617-bed acute care hospital is located on Woodland Street and is the largest Catholic hospital in New England.
In March 2006, the Connecticut Culinary Institute, which was recently renamed the Lincoln Culinary Institute, opened a branch in the former Hastings Hotel and Conference Center next to the world headquarters of Aetna. The Hastings was primarily a business hotel; President Bill Clinton stayed here when he visited the city while he was in office. The hotel closed abruptly in 2003, but reopened as the Lincoln Education Center. In late 2016, the Lincoln Culinary Institute announced that it was closing.
The West End neighborhood, which runs from the Park River, just past the Mark Twain House to the West Hartford border, was mostly farmland until 1870. During the 1900s-1920s many two and three story homes were built, lending a residential, Victorian air to the neighborhood which persists to this day.
Elizabeth Park  in the West End was created in 1895, when Charles N. Pond gave his estate to the Hartford Parks Commission which created the park and named it in honor of his wife. The park boasts a playground, softball field, and other recreational facilities in addition to views of the downtown skyline. It features the oldest, and one of the largest, municipal rose gardens in the United States. Elizabeth Park's famous rose arches were designed by noted rosarian Theodore Wirth in 1904.
The University of Connecticut School of Law, Watkinson School and the Hartford Seminary are located in the West End. Prospect Avenue boasts belle epoque and jazz age mansions, including the Governor's Mansion. Grand estates also line Scarborough Street including the former residence of A. Everett 'Chick' Austin (Director of Wadsworth Atheneum from 1927 to 1944).
In the neighborhood, the now-buried Park River connects to the Connecticut River via an underground conduit. In 1633, the Dutch chartered a trading post on the south bank of the river in the present-day Sheldon/Charter Oak, then known as the Little River, to contrast it with the Connecticut, the Great River. The area became known as Dutch Point, and the name of the Dutch fort, "House of Hope," is reflected in the name of Huyshope Avenue. It was here that, in 1636, the first English colonists founded the settlement of Hartford and laid out house lots in the South Plantation. The area was the site of The Charter Oak, an unusually old white oak tree in which, according to legend, colonists hid the Connecticut Royal Charter of 1662 to protect it from confiscation by an English governor-general. Thus the grand, stately tree came to symbolize the power of nature as a defender of freedom throughout Connecticut. In fact, the state adopted the image as the emblem of the Connecticut state quarter. The Charter Oak Monument is located at the corner of Charter Oak Place, a historic street, and Charter Oak Avenue.
The greatest influence on the development of Sheldon/Charter Oak and South Green was Samuel Colt, inventor of the automatic revolver, and his wife Elizabeth Colt. Although Colt is often considered the father of the Connecticut River Valley industrial revolution, there were in fact a handful of small outfits already in operation by the time the Colt Armory opened in 1848 in the South Meadows area of Sheldon/Charter Oak. Inspired by what he had seen during a trip to London in 1851, Colt embarked upon one of the boldest real estate development campaigns in Hartford's history. His intention to build an industrial community to house his workers adjacent to the armory. While not the largest, the most prominent or the most tightly controlled of America's 19th century company towns, Coltsville was among the country's first - and easily the most advanced of its time. By 1856, it was a city within a city, where workers of many nationalities and religions worked, lived and recreated alongside one another. Colt's complex also included the largest armory in the world, wharf and ferry facilities on the Connecticut River, and a gathering place named Charter Oak Hall for community gathering and leisure. Crowning the hilltop in the northwest corner of the complex was Armsmear, an enormous Italian villa Colt built for himself and his wife in 1857 that was likely by far the most luxurious structure in Hartford by fair at the time.
After a major fire destroyed the original armory in 1864, Colt's widow had the original armory rebuilt including the original structure's most dramatic feature: the blue onion dome with gold starts, topped by a gold orb and a rampant colt, the original symbol of Colt Manufacturing Company. Visible to commuters on I-91, the Colt Armory stands a monument to Hartford's first "celebrity industrialist," and the once mighty empire he created.
Following her son's death, Elizabeth Colt commissioned the Church of the Good Shepherd in 1896 as a monument to his life. Built in High Victorian Gothic style, architectural features include a variety of gun parts, such as bullet molds, gunsights and cylinders. This unusual characteristic earns the building the title of likely being the only church in the world with a gun motif.
When Elizabeth Colt died in 1904, she willed the majority of her estate, Armsmear, to the City of Hartford for use as a public park. Today, the 105 acres (42 ha) Colt Park services the community with a number of athletic fields, playgrounds, a swimming pool, playground, skating rink and Dillon Stadium.
Another Hartford industrialist who made his mark in the neighborhood is George Capewell. In 1881, he invented a machine that efficiently manufactured horseshoe nails, and his success made Hartford the "horseshoe nail capitol" of the world. The Capewell Horse Nail Company factory was built in 1903 at the corner of Charter Oak Avenue and Popieluszko Court. Shuttered by mid-century, it is slated to be turned into apartments. The factory's Romanesque Revival square tower and high pyramid-shaped slate roof is one of the last of its kind in Hartford. Capewell continued to manufacture horsenails and other products at its Bloomfield facility until its closure in 2012.
Towards the end of the 19th century, an influx of Polish immigrants occurred. Many worked in Hartford's factories and shops, including Colt and Capewell. The concentration of factories in the neighborhood allowed the Polish immigrants to settle along Sheldon, Governor, Woodbridge and Union streets. A second influx of Polish to the area during World War I grew the community. In 1913, the Polish National Alliance was formed to assist both newcomers and established residents and, in 1915, a new Saints Cyril and Methodius church was built on Governor Street to accommodate the ever-expanding congregation. The Polish National Home is a cultural and social organization that was created more than 80 years ago to serve the Polish-American community in Hartford. The 1930 Art Deco building on Charter Oak Avenue contains a full-service restaurant, banquet hall and meeting rooms.
Clay-Arsenal and Upper AlbanyEdit
Once home to a mostly Irish and Jewish population, Upper Albany and Clay-Arsenal today are primarily African American, West Indian/Caribbean and Latino. Following World War II, a series of events occurred that led to a sharp decline. This began with the construction of Interstate 84 which gutted the neighborhood, separating it from nearby downtown. During this time the city's once strong manufacturing base dissolved, creating the start of a mass exodus to ringing suburbs (most notably north to neighboring Bloomfield and Windsor). Much of the short-term housing built to accommodate factory workers during World War II was converted into housing projects, creating a high concentration of low-income housing. But perhaps the most devastating blow occurred on April 4, 1968: Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a riot ensued that resulted in massive arson, particularly on Albany Avenue. Within a few hours, the North End's major commercial strip was simply gone, and the area's middle class population, white and black alike, promptly moved out.
Today the Upper Albany and Clay-Arsenal are home to an active community of West Indian/Caribbean immigrants that provide the area with a cultural and artistic presence: the West Indian Social Club and Scott's Jamaican Bakery are two notable neighborhood institutions. In an effort to increase home ownership in distressed parts of the neighborhood, some real estate companies have begun to call the Upper Albany and Clay-Arsenal areas as 'Uptown', after Manhattan's well known Harlem neighborhood. The Hartford Housing Authority has razed the Stowe Village projects on Kensington Street and built single family townhouses in its place. Habitat for Humanity and other community organizations have built several homes throughout the neighborhood and the rest of the city.
In spite of these neighborhoods' overwhelmingly negative reputation for its crime, distressed economic state, and dilapidated appearance, there are some positive recent developments. There are isolated pockets of renewal, such as the revitalization of Belden Street (seen below in the gallery).
South End and Little ItalyEdit
Maple Avenue, Wethersfield Avenue and Franklin Avenue are the three major roads in the South End, adjacent to the Hartford-Wethersfield town line in the southern part of the city. Franklin Avenue is known as the city's Little Italy. Although many Italians have moved just over the border to Wethersfield, Newington, and Rocky Hill, there is still a major Italian presence in that portion of the city. Eric Mangini, the former Head Coach of the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns grew up on Franklin Avenue.
There are numerous Italian bakeries and merchants along Franklin Avenue. In the past few decades,[when?] there has been migration out of the South End, with many Puerto Rican families moving into the neighborhood but nevertheless there are many local favorites (restaurants, bakeries and stores) that draw people back into the South End.
The area's Italian population came out in full force when Italy won the FIFA World Cup in 2006 with thousands marching and driving down Franklin Avenue for hours with Italian flags raised high. In recent years[when?] many eastern European ethnic groups have moved into South End neighborhoods, predominantly Bosnians, Albanians and other ethnic groups from the former Republic of Yugoslavia.
The Hartford portion of 237-acre (0.96 km2) Goodwin Park (85 acres of which are in the town of Wethersfield) is in the South End.
South Green is home to Barnard Park in honor of Henry Barnard, whose home is located on Main Street. Congress Street and Morris Street compose a historic district with many Greek Revival and Italianate homes. Previously it was rumored that many of the homes in this area were slated for demolition in the early 1980s as many were boarded up. Today, Congress Street is a well-kept street complete with cobblestone crosswalks and architecturally harmonious lighting.
South of the South Green neighborhood is Barry Square, named for Father Michael Barry, Roman Catholic priest of St. Augustine's Church on Campfield Avenue, built in 1902. Trinity College's campus is in this neighborhood.
Located at the southeastern corner of the city, the area is home to many industrial and commercial businesses. The neighborhood is home to the Regional Market, a 32-acre (129,000 m²) facility with 185,000 of warehouse space. Brainard Field along I-91 serves small aircraft and offers flight instruction. The Hartford Electric Light Company which started in 1921 is still operational and owned by CT Light and Power. One of the Metropolitan District Water pollution control plants is located in the south meadows. Also, the Mid-Connecticut Resource Recovery Facility, which opened in 1987 and is on 57 acres (231,000 m²), is located in the area.
South West is a predominantly residential neighborhood at the southwestern corner of the city, adjoining the towns of Wethersfield, Newington and West Hartford. Cedar Hill Cemetery, which was designed by landscape architect Jacob Weidenmann is located in Southwest.
The eastern boundary of the neighborhood is Fairfield Avenue, which runs along a natural ridge of land that is 159 feet above the Connecticut River and was once promoted as the "highest elevation in Hartford." The road was considered to be the main thoroughfare to Wethersfield and attracted leisure drivers with its sweeping vistas eastward and westward. In 1874 the Hartford Courant reported, "[Fairfield Avenue] commands from almost every rod of its entire distance a view of the Connecticut valley on the east and the fine stretch of country lying on the west—a most sightly and beautiful landscape in either direction. It will make altogether the longest direct drive with unobstructed outlooks, and the most attractive too, that we have in Hartford, and that is saying a good deal...."
While there are houses on Fairfield Avenue that date from the nineteenth century, the majority of the single and multi-family houses in the South West neighborhood were built between the 1940s-1960s. Recognizable patterns of American vernacular architecture predominate in the South West, including small colonial revival and cape cop designs, and there is a large degree of variability in house and lot size.
The most notable landmarks in the neighborhood are the beautiful Hyland Park and Cedar Hill Cemetery. Hyland Park, an old stone quarry site, was acquired by the City of Hartford in 1907 and, with its neighbor Rocky Ridge Park, was opened in 1911. Cedar Hill Cemetery is an exemplary landscape-park style open space. Laid out by landscape architects Jacob Weidenmann and Fredrick Law Olmsted, the chapel, gatehouse and several monuments were designed by George Keller. Several notables are buried at Cedar Hill, among them J.P. Morgan, Samuel Colt, the Galludets, and poet Wallace Stevens. Forster Heights Playground and Park, in the most southern portion of the neighborhood, also borders Cedar Hill Cemetery.
Behind the RocksEdit
Behind the Rocks is a predominantly residential neighborhood at the southwestern corner of Hartford below Parkville, bordering the town of West Hartford. It was named from the rocky outcropping that serves as the western border of the Trinity College campus.
In the 1890s, the Rocky Hill Quarry, located on what is now called Rocky Ridge, produced trap rock which was used primarily for road building. Much of the heavy labor was performed by Irish immigrants. In 1876, the first St. Lawrence O'Toole Church was constructed to meet community needs.
By 1912, the Rocky Hill Quarry had become a park, that is today known as the Thomas Hyland Memorial Park. The park provides a playground and sports fields for area families.
Located just north of downtown along the CT River and I-91 the North Meadows is a largely commercial and industrial area that is home to many of the area's car dealerships including dealers for Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Nissan, Infiniti, Jaguar, Toyota and Mazda as well as a brand new CarMax dealership. The North Meadows is also the home of the CT Expo Center which features 88,000 square feet (8,200 m2) of exhibition space, the Meadows Music Theater (formerly the Dodge Music Center), which hosts dozens of big name concerts each year, and Riverside Park. Also in the North Meadows are some of Hartford's "adult" attractions: Multiple shops specializing in pornography and other sexual novelties and a strip club are visible from I-91 north of the I-84 interchange.
The CT DOT operates regional CT Transit buses out of the North Meadows, near Riverside Park. Riverside Park is part of Riverfront Recapture, a project undertaken by the State of Connecticut and the City of Hartford, aiming to renew interest in the waterfront of the Connecticut River. Included in the park are a high ropes challenge course, a playground, boat launch, and the Riverfront Recapture boathouse, home to numerous private clubs and the crew teams for numerous regional schools, including Watkinson School, East Hartford and Hartford public schools.
Primarily a residential neighborhood, Blue Hills is located in the city's northwest section, and borders the suburbs of Bloomfield and West Hartford. The neighborhood is bordered by Albany Avenue on the south, Keney Park on the east, City Line to the north and the North Branch of the Park River (Hog River) to the West. It is home to approximately 10,000 residents, and is home to several schools and the University of Hartford. Other well-known institutions include Mount Sinai Hospital and Oak Hill Academy, the latter being a century-old establishment serving people with disabilities. The neighborhood boasts a wide variety of housing styles, varying from large, historic Tudors and colonials along Bloomfield Avenue and Ridgefield Street, to duplexes and modest capes and colonials. Although Blue Hills contains housing projects, it is mostly a working-class, African-American and Caribbean-American enclave. Its main thoroughfares include Granby Street, Blue Hills Avenue (Route 187), Plainfield Street, Bloomfield Avenue (Route 189) and Albany Avenue (Route 44). Connecticut Transit operates several bus routes through the neighborhood, such as the 50, 52 and 54, which run on Blue Hills Avenue, the 56 and 58, which run up on Albany Avenue and Bloomfield Avenue, the 74, which runs through Westbrook Village on its way to Copaco Shopping Center via Granby Street, and the 76, which runs on Cornwall Street towards Bowles Park. Blue Hills Avenue serves as both a main artery and a light commercial district and is home to the two fire stations serving the area.
The Northeast neighborhood (sometimes known as North End) is the portion of Hartford east of the Blue Hills neighborhood and west of Interstate 91. It is home to the 1944 Hartford Circus Fire Memorial, Keney Park, which is the largest municipal park in New England and Weaver High School, which was also the alma mater of ER actor Eriq La Salle, All in the Family producer Norman Lear and (actress/comedian) Totie Fields.
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