Walking The Walk

Fish compressed

Walking the Walking on an HPA led tour during Envisionfest

Last week I wrote about “Nightfall” and how great an event it becomes for Hartford as it draws people to witness something truly creative.  Yet the evening did not end there as often happens when bumping into friends downtown.  The decision was to head to Vito’s By The Park, my favorite watering hole which happens to offer oysters, in this case Blue Points!  We were joined by a woman whom I didn’t know, a friend of friends.  The conversation immediately focused on things Hartford (yes, the ball park was mentioned) and bicycle riding.  What became amazing was how articulate and engaged with and most knowledgeable about all the city challenges, issues and opportunities we natter on about all the time (can you say Dwellers of Downtown on Facebook……….?). I say amazing because almost immediately upon meeting I learned that she does not live in the City!  Anyway, a few more drinks, oysters and funny stories led me to understand that this woman, Bonnie Malley, holds leadership positions in the iQuilt Plan and MetroHartford Alliance and I am certain that these are only two of many organizations to which she dedicates time and talent.  Bonnie has been intimately involved and focused on the many things which we dwellers wrestle with all the time.   She spends much of her voluntary time working on and with the challenges of making Hartford a great town and a better place to live.

Why I write about Bonnie is her commitment to showing up. Boards with missions to do things in Hartford are populated but don’t extend their reach beyond governance.  This does not condemn their contribution at all.  But what struck me as so wonderful was that Bonnie sat on the grass, still damp with the day’s rain, and participated in a magical show we want more people to see.  Yet in further conversation it became so apparent the she spends much of her free time working on behalf of the City.  She does not just talk the talk as so many people do about Hartford but actually does things.  She sees a means to improve the Capitol Region by strengthening the core city and lends her considerable talents at making them happen. I truly appreciate the contribution and would like to encourage more dedication.  Happy to learn of others so if you have people to salute please, please do so.

Oh yeah, there are those of us who hope to get Bonnie to bike the walk soon………..


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A Building Re-Grows in Brooklyn

photo: www.scoutingny.com

photo: www.scoutingny.com

Last evening as I was eating my dinner of Spaghetti-O’s and watching the PBS News Hour (sometimes a way to lose an appetite if topic is scary) I caught a segment which totally captured my attention. A vacant factory building in Brooklyn, once the home of Pfizer, had been vacant and abandoned for years.  Recently an entrepreneur bought the building and has now created a small business incubator.  Not only are the tenants hip and cool so are the products they are manufacturing!  I particularly like the company producing animal collars and leashes which state that the animal is a rescue.  Way cool.  But further the angle of the piece was a discussion of how the Pfizer building once offered 2,500 jobs, good jobs.  With the incubator at roughly 40 percent occupancy 1,000 have been created by these entrepreneurs.  Hopes and plans by the owner/developer are that a similar number of jobs will once again thrive at this site.

Photo: Nathan Kensinger for ny. curbed.com

Photo: Nathan Kensinger for ny. curbed.com

Tell me where we might do this in Hartford. Use the comment section below or comment on our Facebook page to send us your suggestions for buildings which offer a similar potential for revitalization of historic buildings and employment.  Let’s do this together, yes?

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2 Park Terrace: Sometimes No Fences Make Good Neighbors!

This past weekend our buddy and technical assistance client (guinea pig) Jeff Bell tossed a party.  Not just an ordinary affair mind you but one to take a major step forward to improve his home.  This writer arrived too soon to eat or drink but was in time to witness the glee of yanking down a fence which has needed to go for years

2 Park Terrace fence work crewI made sure to take a photograph of the intrepid demolition team.  Those are sort of smiles on their faces; after all it is serious business to wreck a fence (think Robert Frost) but in this case a job well done! 

As you can see the whole corner now looks ready to be improved, replanted and to become a thing of beauty. One can only hope that the party following was as successful.2 Park Terrace after no fence

Congratulations Jeff Ball and team!  We are enjoying working with and for you. 

You Never Know What Will Be Valued in the Future

HPA has invited a group of partners, patrons and friends to be guest bloggers during Preservation Month. We have asked them to write on various topics surrounding the theme “Why Preservation Matters in Hartford” based on the web articles Six Reasons to Save Old Buildings and What’s ‘Historic’- and Who Says? Nine Practical Reasons to Save Old Building

What were they thinking?

Years and decades after a structure is razed, the question is often asked – what were they thinking when they tore down that building? It really isn’t hard to imagine part of the thought process. Styles change and we as a culture have an insatiable hunger for the new – new shoes, new TV’s, new cars, new houses. A real-time example: how many people do you know are dying to live in a 1960’s split-level house? And it is our hunger for the latest and greatest that probably most contributes to the current average lifespan of a commercial building being only 50 years (good example: Broadcast House on Constitution Plaza).

One of the best examples I have come across of buildings destroyed that would be an asset today is Miner’s Garage. Forward thinking Samuel A. Miner became enamored with automobiles after his purchase of a steam-powered Prescott surrey. At the turn of the 20th century, Mr. Miner left his job as a bookkeeper for H. C. Judd & Root wool dealers with the hope of being able to sell three cars a year and do repair work. He soon sold 300. The enterprising Mr. Miner then convinced his former employer to build him an “automobile station” which he rented back.

The Miner Garage Co. (corner of High & Allyn Streets) ca. 1910 (postcard courtesy of the Connecticut State Library PG 800)

The Miner Garage Co. (corner of High & Allyn Streets) ca. 1910 (postcard courtesy of the Connecticut State Library PG 800)

Billed at one time as “The Largest Garage between New York and Boston,” the castle-like building had showrooms (visible through the large plate glass windows at the corner), offices and storage lockers for customers on the first floor. An electric 10’ by 20’ elevator was used to bring cars up to the second floor for servicing, storage and – wait for it – recharging. Mr. Miner filled the need of Hartford car owners for a place to store their vehicles before the advent of individual garages and a way to recharge their electric motors.

Surface parking corner of Allyn and High Streets (photo: Assessor, City of Hartford)

Surface parking corner of Allyn and High Streets (photo: Assessor, City of Hartford)

Imagine if today, instead of the surface parking lot now at this location, workers and residents could still bring their cars here for servicing and recharging. Or imagine visitors arriving a block away at Union Station and walking over to rent an electric car.

What were they thinking?

Thankfully, many of the current downtown building projects involve the adaptive re-use of buildings such as the conversions of the Hotel Sonesta and the Bank of America buildings into apartments. Who knows – in another 50 years Hartford may have a need for more hotel rooms and office space. And Hartford residents in the future will be saying We’re glad they kept these buildings and not asking what were they thinking?

(Read more about Miner’s Garage in our Once Upon A Time section)

Guest blogger Mary A. Falvey is a Senior Program Associate and Webmaster for Hartford Preservation Alliance.


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I Love Old Buildings

HPA has invited a group of partners and friends to be our guest bloggers during Preservation Month. We have asked them to write on various topics surrounding the theme “Why Preservation Matters in Hartford” based on the web articles Six Reasons to Save Old Buildings and What’s ‘Historic’- and Who Says? Nine Practical Reasons to Save Old Building



I love old buildings! Old buildings provide connections to a simpler more gracious past. They evoke a feeling of individuality lost in today’s cookie cutter world. Historic houses help to define a community, create a sense of history and permanence, and contribute to community pride.

There are so many emotional and economic reasons to preserve old homes and structures:

Emotionally: Preservation attaches people to their community, provides a sense of place and past, encourages a connection to neighbors. Historic buildings are much more than bricks and sticks and mortar – they are our past, a physical picture of our evolution, and the soul of our collective developmental growth. The workmanship that went into building even the most modest of antique homes is already a lost art. We cannot afford to have historic amnesia – lest we forget what it’s like to have pride in our workmanship or care about how we cohesively create community. For most of us, historic buildings create an emotional bond to a unique place.

Economically: Historic buildings are often much cheaper to rehabilitate than building new. Modern construction is typically based on a premise of obsolescence, replaceable by the next generation in 25 to 30 years. Historic buildings were meant to last.  Property values are higher and remain more stable in historic districts. Preserving a building is the ultimate in recycling, eliminating the need for buying new materials, reducing landfill waste and saving energy required to manufacture, transport and assemble materials.

That said, for me it is mostly ascetics. I love the way well-crafted older homes look and make me feel: the smell and the luster of old wood, the intricacies of patterns, the nooks and niches to explore, and the thought of carvers and craftsmen leaving their marks.

After - how sad!

After – how sad!

As a young girl, I lived in an old house. At the time I didn’t think too much about architecture or how sad it would make me feel if something happened to it, but I loved its charms and I like the fact that it had a history. Several years after my family bought a newer home a short distance away, a family bought the old house and “renovated” it. It was then that I discovered my passion for preservation.

Guest blogger Lynn Ferrari was a founding member of the Hartford Preservation Alliance She is a co-founder of Hartford History Today, moderator of the Old Hartford facebook group and President of the Coalition to Strengthen the Sheldon/Charter Oak Neighborhood (CSS/CON) NRZ.

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