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.
At 60 Elm Street in Hartford, adjoining Bushnell Park, is a building known as the Pump House. A pumping station, it is part of the Connecticut River Flood Control Project, which helps the now underground Park River‘s waters reach the Connecticut River. The Pump House was constructed in 1947 by the Army Corps of Engineers using stones salvaged from bridges that once crossed the Park River. Today the Pump House also contains a public art gallery.
Two students of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, began conducting Sunday services in homes in Hartford in 1890 and a year later secured a hall for services. A Christian Science Society was formed in 1896 and was incorporated in 1898 as the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Hartford. A church home was built on Farmington Avenue in 1908. Services began in the current church, a Colonial Revival building at 235 Scarborough Street, in 1956. Hartford also has a Second Church of Christ Scientist, which for several years used the former Park Congregational Church on Asylum Street, then had a church home on Lafayette Street, and is today based at the Christian Science Reading Room at 24 Central Row in downtown Hartford. Former Hartford resident Mark Twain was a critic of Christian Science and his view of Mary Baker Eddy was very hostile. In 1907 he published a book, Christian Science, which collected his essays on the subject.