One of several old factory buildings that survive on Capitol Avenue in Hartford is located at 376-400 Capitol Avenue, at the corner of Flower Street. The building was originally constructed around 1890 as part of the Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool Company, which already had factories across the Park River. The new building was part of the company’s Small Tool Division, which had its address at 285 Flower Street. The structure went through many alterations of the years and additions were made in 1899, 1902 (by Wilson & Bros. of Philadelphia) and 1916 (by Harris & Richards of Philadelphia). The building was later home to the Hartford Office Supply Company and is still known by that name. Plans in recent years to redevelop the vacant property for condominiums have not worked out and the building has been in foreclosure.
Frank T. Simpson helped lead Connecticut’s first civil rights organization. Born in Alabama in 1907, he moved to Hartford in 1929. Active in social work, in 1944 he became the first employee of the Connecticut Inter-Racial Commission, now the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. Simpson eventually became executive secretary and worked to end discrimination. In 1952, Dr. Simpson purchased a 1912-13 Tudor Revival house at 27 Keney Terrace in Hartford. He lived there until his death in 1974. The Waverly School, at 55 Waverly Street in Hartford, was renamed the Dr. Frank T. Simpson-Waverly School in his honor.
At 1886 Park Street (corner of Amity Street) in Hartford is Tempolo Sion Pentecostal Church. The church was built in 1900 as St. Paul’s Methodist Church. Designed by George W. Kramer, it replaced an earlier St. Paul’s built in 1894. The Romanesque Revival church has a flexible design (following the Akron Plan) adapted to its relatively small urban lot. The church lost its steeple in the 1938 hurricane.
The Corning Building is at the southwest corner of Main and Trumbull Streets in Hartford. Today’s Corning Building was built in 1928–30 and replaced an earlier Corning Building on the site, which dated to the 1870s. Before that, the three-story Robinson and Corning Building stood here. Dating to the 1820s, it was long home to the Brown & Gross bookstore, which later moved to Asylum Street. Arriving by train to deliver a speech in Hartford on March 5, 1860, future president Abraham Lincoln walked up Asylum Street to the bookstore, where he first met Gideon Welles, the editor of the Hartford Evening Press. Welles would later serve as Lincoln’s secretary of the navy. Dr. Horace Wells had his office here, where in 1844 he had a tooth successfully removed without pain after first inhaling laughing gas–the first use of anesthesia. A plaque was placed on the Corning Building in 1894 to honor Wells on the fiftieth anniversary of his discovery.
February is Black History Month! At 61 F.D. Oates (formerly Mahl) Avenue in Hartford is a house constructed about 1897. It is one among the many two-family houses on the street constructed by developer Frederick Mahl between 1893 and 1898. The house at No. 61 is notable because it was the home of Marietta Canty (1905–1986), an African American actress who appeared in theater, radio, motion pictures and television from the 1930s to the 1950s. She is best remembered for her roles in such films as Father of the Bride (1950) and Rebel Without a Cause (1955). The house was purchased by her father, Henry Canty, in 1930. Marietta Canty lived in the house after her retirement from acting in 1955 to care for her father. She also continued her social and political activism, for which she received many awards.
Founded in 1906 by Alfred C. Fuller (whose 1917 house still stands on Prospect Avenue in Hartford), the Fuller Brush Company, famous for its door-to-door salesmen, was located in Hartford until the 1960s. The company built a factory at 3580 Main Street in Hartford in 1922-1923. On March 31, 1923, as it was nearing completion, a 56,000-gallon water tank dropped through 4 concrete floors of the factory’s tower, a disaster in which ten people were killed. The tower was eventually rebuilt. Today, the former factory contains employment and social service agencies. This building is mentioned on p. 180 of my book, A Guide to Historic Hartford, Connecticut.