Jared Edwards: Raconteur, Historian, Architect

For those of us who have been associated with Coltsville becoming a national park there are many exciting events incorporated with this spectacular win for Hartford. However, for this scribe, nothing surpasses the opportunity to participate in meetings with Jared Edwards. Long the voice of historic preservation here and throughout the State his presence guarantees that his opinion matters. But more to the point of this blog, is Jared’s encyclopedic knowledge of buildings and the history of them here in Hartford. Who knew that there is a building behind Armsmear (the Colt mansion) that hosted cock fights? Still exists and rumored to have a very impressive interior for such a gruesome utility. Further, there is a house across the street from Armsmear along Wethersfield Avenue which has a pretty juicy history with perhaps a touch of scandal. He has cleared up for me several misconceptions of buildings largely accepted as the truth. He knows his stuff. I now look forward to sitting in on meetings about Coltsville solely because I am certain to learn something about the history, architecture and…….gossip associated with the buildings. Perhaps we might encapsulate some of the lore for visitors which can contribute to making Coltsville a deservedly terrific national park.

Day-Taylor House 81 Wethersfield Avenue

Day-Taylor House 81 Wethersfield Avenue

All fine but it seems to me that we need to create a series of public events where Jared Edwards can speak to Hartford’s historic bones. We need to capture his knowledge and bask in it as we work to preserve and retain the important fabric of the City. Stay tuned, we might just organize our own “Jared Edwards Tonight”. We all strive to be “good company”. Jared Edwards is good company and Hartford has him!

Community Investment Act (CIA)


In 2005, Senator Don Williams championed a bill to create a fund to support affordable housing, farms, open space and historic preservation in Connecticut. It is funded by a document filing fee charged on all real estate transfers.   Through CIA funding open space has been permanently preserved, smaller family farms have been able to continue operation, affordable housing has been crated and historic preservation has been accomplished throughout the State.

The beauty of how the CIA was designed is that a steady funding source was put in place to provide money to preserve and protect critical resources which are hard to finance. Almost immediately the funds drew attention, being viewed by the executive branch as a pot of gold to be raided if money were needed to close budgetary gaps. The current proposed budget includes a sweep of $15 million of CIA funds for the FY 15-16 budget and a total grab of all CIA revenue for the FY 16-17 budget.

Redevelopment of the old Swift factory on Love Lane was aided by CIA funding.

Redevelopment of the old Swift factory on Love Lane was aided by CIA funding.

CIA funding has been used here in Hartford in preserving and protecting some of our most treasured landmarks including The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Center Church, Bushnell Park and the Charter Oak Cultural Center, to name just a few. Because of CIA funding, HPA was able to create the Parkville Historic District, enabling property owners to make use of preservation tax credits to maintain their historic properties as well as adapt and reuse existing buildings for 21st century use. One need only look to the current surge in downtown residential development to see the benefits historic preservation brings to a city’s economic health and vitality.

Without a doubt the next two years are going to be difficult for Connecticut.  Many interests are vying for fewer resources.  However the shift of emphasis to better and more accessible public transportation seems to be the priority.  No one disputes the benefit of improving the infrastructure to allow Connecticut to become sustainable however to do so while poaching from funds with an identified purpose is disappointing.  The CIA was created to support and sustain activities which directly contribute to the quality of life in this small state.  Or as pointed out by the CT Main Street Program:

While investing in a world class transportation infrastructure is important, with CIA funds we’ll end up with roads and trains to places no one wants to go.

On March 9, 11:00 at the Legislative Office Building there is to be a hearing and HPA will be there to advocate for preserving CIA funding. Voices in support are very necessary.  We will be sending out an email to our list shortly outlining what you can do to support this cause. If you are not already on our contact list, please sign up today. We will continue to keep you updated at the legislative session progresses.

So many ways to skin a cat . . .

220 High Giadone rendering

During the past several weeks much has been written about 220 High Street on the Facebook nanosecond news cycle. Let’s be clear the Preservation Alliance seeks alternative preservation strategies to preserve an historic property.

We asked our resident architect and technical assistance guidance counselor, Valerio Giadone, to consider a project which incorporates the property as a component of new development. Hartford hopes to create a new neighborhood, DoNo, which draws new residents, retail and vitality across the great divide known as I-84. Our take on a High Street development brings an historic streetscape back to life with the creation of townhouse structures. Any developer seeks density to make a project cost-effective and such was the cause for variances of these parcels of land now vacant. With historic row house examples, many of which have been torn down, a design like this would be totally appropriate and in keeping with former blocks in the City. The cost to incorporate 220 into the overall development might add to the budget but by no means so extraordinary as to prevent a reuse. Rather, a preservation strategy to spark a human scale and  historic street development might be just the ticket to enliven a neighborhood renaissance.

Please bear in mind that our take on the street is one of many possibilities. We post this to suggest what might be……….. Please join us in imagining.

53 Wadsworth: An Entirely Different Approach

In February the Preservation Alliance will publish what we believe to be “The Ten Most Endangered Buildings” in Hartford.  Among the structures we cite are Hartford’s Italianates collectively.  Last week’s challenge was to prevent the City from demolishing 220 High Street.  This week I write about an altogether different project which we are working with to protect and preserve one of these fine iconic buildings.

2When Catholic Charities built their Institute for the Hispanic Family building on Wadsworth Street, their plans included demolition of the adjacent Italianate building. For a long time 53 Wadsworth Street sat vacant and abandoned.  It contributes to a streetscape of several houses along Wadsworth Street which once must have been magnificent.  HPA advocated for its preservation alongside the South Downtown NRZ, the City planning department and the State Historic Preservation Office and the Catholic Charities board decided to proceed without demolition. Nearly eight years later this building will now be renovated and returned to the neighborhood.   

Recently we were contacted by Smith, Edwards, McCoy Architects to consult on Catholic Charities’ application to generate State Historic Tax Credits.  They wanted to fill a gap in the project cost by utilizing tax credits.  Attempting to do this on their own was frustrating, the process was more cumbersome than expected.  Tyler Smith called and asked if we could help.  Absolutely was our response.  With our increasing capacity to provide technical assistance we now are engaged with the application process with the State Historic Preservation Office.  If successful our work will help to generate roughly one-third of the cost with funds raised by tax credits.

Our direction is new.  We are engaged in a unique role, one which for us is a priority activity incorporated in the HPA’s Strategic Plan. We are determined to be a robust partner in providing technical assistance to property owners in Hartford.  Not only are we available to offer advice but offer a link to a data bank of materials and contractors.  We hired an architect, Valerio Giadone, who offers professional preservation advice.

53 Wadsworth is yet another example of how “beyond repair and too expensive to save” more often than not can become preserved, saved, adapted and reused.

Parking Garage as Architecture – Who Knew?

I wish to begin this screed with the disclosure that I favor public transportation over any form of enabling the automobile.  These days it goes against conventional wisdom for sustainable cities to favor cars rather than explore and create alternative transportation resources.  Sermon over.

The next concept I want to address if forced is the design and development of parking facilities which contribute to a city’s self-esteem.  In a recent meeting my neighborhood was presented with a design to expand a garage by an architect who termed the bunker a reflection of “modern” architecture.  Precast concrete with concrete panels of a rough surface painted white does not, in my opinion, represent anything modern rather than something inexpensive.  At the meeting I made the point that the garage does little to contribute to the architectural transition to its adjacent neighbors, one of the older, historic neighborhoods developed in the 19th-century.  Landscaping is a relatively inexpensive solution, perhaps covering the new structure with ivy to soften the exterior is one consideration.

Enough about ivy, this blog wants to explore examples of parking structures which are both functional but exciting as architectural elements.  On December 8, 2014 we posted an Urbanland article on our Facebook page about a multi-functional garage being developed in Miami Beach, Florida.  It is about the utilization of space to accommodate several uses which makes the project interesting and financially feasible.  Ground floor retail as a means to soften the exterior and make the structure pedestrian-friendly is a good response to form based zoning.  Rather than a monolith the garage becomes part of the streetscape.

unnamedIn Columbus, IN, Cummins Diesel, the city’s major employer needed to expand both parking downtown and housing for its exploding workforce.The solution was to build housing facing the street encapsulating a parking core (pictured above).

Further I submit for your evaluation and consideration several neat (in my opinion of course) examples of how parking structures have been incorporated in a downtown streetscape or on a campus. Some are expensive, some relatively inexpensive however all show a desire to standout as architecture and not as cast concrete monoliths.  It is all about what a city thinks of itself and therefore public opinion demands more of projects filling open spaces.

Okay, your turn to chuck the concrete at me and respond. Feel free to join the conversation below or comment on Facebook.

Happy and prosperous New Year!

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