The Capewell Horse Nail Company was founded in 1881 by George Capewell, who invented an improved machine for making horseshoe nails. Located next to the old Capewell factory in Hartford is the company’s office building (60 Popieluszko Court, formerly Governor Street), built around 1900. Designed by an unknown architect, the office building features an elaborate brick, brownstone and terra-cotta façade.
Here’s a building that has recently been beautifully restored: 93 Elm Street in Hartford (on the left in the image above) is part of a row of houses (93, 95 and 97 Elm Street) located across from Bushnell Park. These Italianate brownstone structures, many more of which once lined Elm Street along the park, were built in the 1860s by Andrew West, builder-architect. They were probably originally built as two double (two-family) houses (93-95 and 97) and are referred to in the Nomination for the Elm Street Historic District as the Huntington-Callender and Chapman-Taft Houses. In recent years, No. 93 had fallen into disrepair, with exterior walls actually crumbling. Owners Sara and Luke Bronin restored the house, recreating a bay window to match the one at No. 95. For their efforts, they received an award from the Hartford Preservation Alliance last year.
Isidore Wise (1865-1956) was a leading merchant in Hartford and a prominent civic leader. The son of Leopold and Rosalie Wise, he was born in Hartford in 1865. At the age of eleven, he took his first job as a cash boy for $2.00 a week at Stern and Mandelbaum, a local dry goods store. At the age of twenty-one, with two partners, he opened a own store at the corner of Main and Kinsley Streets in Hartford, later buying out the Clark Company, located in the Cheney Building. Having run I. Wise & Company for several years, in 1897 he joined with Robert Smith and other partners to form Wise, Smith & Company, which opened on the opposite side of Main Street (You can read more about the growth of Wise, Smith in my book Vanished Downtown Hartford). Isidore Wise ran the store until 1948, resuming control in 1954, a month before it finally closed. Wise was a civic leader in Hartford, serving as a city councilman, alderman and police commissioner. He was also president of Congregation Beth Israel and the United Jewish Charities. In 1907, Isidore Wise and his first wife, Selma Stern Wise (1870-1931), moved into a Swiss Chalet/Craftsman-style residence at 810 Prospect Avenue in Hartford. Designed by Isaac A. Allen, Jr., the house has stylistic similarities to the nearby Charles E. Shepard House (1900), at 695 Prospect Avenue.
The house at 24 Cone Street in Hartford’s West End was constructed in 1915. The house was designed by architect Russell F. Barker (1873-1961), who designed many other residences in the area. Early in his career, Barker had worked for George Keller and later for William, H. Scoville. Read the rest of this entry »
The twenty-six-floor office tower at 777 Main Street in Hartford (at the corner of Pearl Street) was built between 1964 and 1967 as the headquarters of the Hartford National Bank & Trust Company. The city’s oldest bank, the Hartford National Bank, had its origins on this very same block back in 1792. From 1811 to 1912, the bank was located in a Greek Revival building on State Street. It then moved to a new building (demolished in 1990) at the corner of Main and Asylum Streets (considered to be Hartford’s first skyscraper). In 1915 it became the Hartford-Aetna National Bank. It merged with the United States Security Trust Company in 1927 to become the Hartford National Bank and Trust. At that point, the bank moved to the United States Security Trust Company’s building, located at the corner of Main and Pearl, which had been built for the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1870. This building was demolished in 1964, along with the neighboring State Bank and Phoenix Bank buildings, to make way for the current office tower on the site. Designed by Welton Becket and Associates of New York, the building has gone by several names through various bank mergers: Shawmut, Fleet and, most recently, Bank of America. Vacant since 2011 and up for sale, plans are being discussed to convert the building into into mixed-income apartments.
Grace Lutheran Church, at 46 Woodland Street in Hartford, is the descendant of three Lutheran churches that once existed in the city. One was the German Lutheran Church of the Reformation, which was founded in 1880. It was first located on Market Street in the former St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, later to become St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church. The German Lutheran Church moved to a new building on Charter Oak Avenue in 1898. Another Lutheran church founded by German immigrants was the German Evangelical Lutheran Trinity Church, established in 1894, which had its church building at the corner of Russ and Babcock Streets. In 1916, these two churches, both founded by German immigrants, merged, retaining the name of Trinity Lutheran Church. In 1906, St. Paul’s English Lutheran Church was established. For a time it used the German Lutheran Church on Charter Oak Avenue, but soon moved to its own church building at the corner of Park Street and Park Terrace. In 1943, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church also merged with Trinity Lutheran Church. The united church then took the new name of Grace Lutheran Church. Finding its church edifice at Russ and Babcock Streets to be too small for the enlarged membership, the church acquired land at the corner of Woodland and Niles Streets in 1945. Construction of a new church building was approved in 1948 and work began in 1950. The church was dedicated on January 14, 1951. It was designed by Bessell (Wesley S.) and Matz of New York.
At 206 Tower Avenue is a house constructed in 1928. It was the home of Wilfred Xavier Johnson (b. 1920) from 1966 until his death in 1972. Johnson’s family came north from Georgia in 1925 and settled in Hartford. Johnson worked as a “runner” (messenger) after school for the Hartford National Bank. After World War II, in which he served as dental technician, Johnson returned to work for the bank. In 1955 he was promoted to teller, the first African-American to hold the position in the state. He held that position until his death. In 1958, Wilfred X. Johnson became the first black candidate to be endorsed by the Democratic Party in Connecticut. He served four terms as the first black representative in the state assembly. His wife, Gertrude Johnson (b. 1927), was also active in city politics. She served as treasurer of the Young Democrats in 1957.