In 1893, Emily Wells Foster, a Sunday school teacher at the Morgan Street Mission School/Morgan Street Chapel in Hartford, started the nation’s first nursery for blind children in a house on Kenyon Street in Hartford. Her efforts began with her interest in a blind baby on Hartford’s East Side who spent his waking hours in a small pen in a dingy room. In 1983 she also became Assistant Secretary of the State Board of Education for the Blind, later serving as Secretary and Treasurer from 1901 to 1905. (“Will Honor Benefactor Of Blind People: Memorial to Be Placed on Grave of Mrs. Foster, Who Started Education Program Here,” Hartford Courant, November 12, 1936) The nursery school soon moved to a larger residence on Asylum Avenue. A grammar school was also added, which moved to a new building at 120 Holcomb Street in Hartford in 1911. A Colonial Revival building, it was designed by Andrews, Jacques & Rantoul, the same firm that designed the Governor’s Mansion and the Hartford Club. The Nursery and Kindergarten for the Blind had moved to Garden Street in Farmington, but later moved to join the grammar school in the building on Holcomb Street after a fire. The school would become known as the Connecticut Institution and Industrial Home for the Blind, then the Connecticut Institute for the Blind. In 1952 it was renamed the Oak Hill School. Today Oak Hill serves children and adults with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities.
Happy Fourth of July! As described in my book Vanished Downtown Hartford (pp. 143-144), Hartford’s First Unitarian Society built a church, known as Unity Hall, on Pratt Street in 1881. It functioned as both a church and a public hall and was used by the Unitarians until 1924. They then moved to a new building on Pearl Street, which later became Ados Israel Synagogue, and then to their current building on Bloomfield Avenue. In 1891-1892, when they were still based at Unity Hall, the Unitarians constructed a five-story brick Romanesque Revival commercial building in front of their church. It was no doubt built to provide additional income for the church to add to that gained from renting out Unity Hall. A similar move was made by the Universalist Church of the Redeemer on Main Street, when it constructed a commercial building in front of the church in 1899 (it only stood until 1906 when Travelers acquired the property). Unity Hall was eventually demolished, but the Unity Building survives today. There is an interesting article about trouble early on with the buildings foundation: see “Foundation Stones Tipped: The Pratt Street Building Trouble Laid to a Surface Drain” in the Hartford Courant, April 13, 1892. The Unity Building has a Jacobethan first-floor facade that was added in 1928.
The Cook Building is a three-story brick commercial building constructed in 1888 at 84-88 (then 36) Pratt Street in Hartford. The building was owned by Charles W. Cook, who may be the same Charles W. Cook (d. 1912) who was the partner of Charles S. Hills in the dry goods firm of Cook & Hills, which became C.S. Hills & Company after Cook’s retirement in 1896. The store was located at the corner of Main and Pratt Streets, not far from the Cook Building.
I will be giving a talk tonight at the Hartford Club. Check it out if you are a member! Here is a Hartford building for today: Designed by Hapgood & Hapgood, the house at 310 Collins Street in Hartford is transitional between the Queen Anne and Tudor Revival styles. Built in 1895, it was the home of George W. Flint, a furniture dealer who partnered with John M. Bruce to form the Flint-Bruce Company on Asylum Street in Hartford. The company later had a building on Trumbull Street. Read the rest of this entry »
At the corner of Pearl Street and Ann Uccello Street in Hartford is a brick building that displays the name “——— Building.” The part that has been chiseled out once read “Telephone.” The Telephone Building was built in 1890 and is attributed, based on its style, to architect William D. Johnston. The three-story Renaissance Revival building was constructed for the Southern New England Telephone Company. The company’s growth led it to construct a new building in 1911 at 185 Pearl Street, which was later torn down. Yet another Telephone Building was erected in 1931 at 55 Trumbull Street (later enlarged, it has since been converted into apartments). The original Telephone Building, at 249 Pearl Street, is now used for offices.
At 13, 17, 21, 23, 29, 33, 37, 41, 45 Curcombe Street in Hartford is a row of cottages. These were built in 1859 as part of Samuel Colt’s factory village of Coltsville. To protect his famous armory in Hartford from flooding, Samuel Colt constructed a dike along the Connecticut River. Willow trees flourished there and this inspired Colt to import workers from Potsdam, Germany, to produce furniture from the trees’ wood. Colt constructed ten “Swiss Cottages” (a style today referred to as “Carpenter Gothic”) to house his imported workers, nine of which survive today. These were built as two-family houses. Most have been greatly altered, but several still display original architectural features, including brick first floors with decorative half-timbering, board-and-batten siding on the second floor and prominent overhanging eaves. Similar in style to the cottages was the willowware factory itself that stood behind them on Warwarme Avenue. Built in 1859, the factory was destroyed by fire in 1873. Today the cottages are across from the park space used as Hartford’s old time baseball grounds. The cottage depicted above is No. 41 Curcombe Street, one of the better preserved examples. Read the rest of this entry »
Back in 2012, workers restoring the house at 1 Imlay Street in Hartford discovered Victorian-era architectural details that had long been hidden under vinyl siding. Thought to have possibly been built in the twentieth century and purposefully excluded from the Imlay and Laurel Streets Historic District, the house was revealed to have been erected in 1875 by Porter Whiton, a builder who also remodeled the Old State House to serve as Hartford’s City Hall. The home’s first resident was Mrs. Eliza Brazell, a widow who was born in Ireland in 1850. Restored by the Northside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, the house has been returned to its original appearance and use as a single-family home.