Several weeks ago the Hartford Old House Club (http://www.hartfordohc.com) held one of its summer meetings on Asylum Hill. Our host was Jonathan Clark, a thirty-year veteran of Huntington Street and the lively neighborhood located in the shadow of the Aetna, the Hartford, St. Francis Hospital and St Joseph Cathedral. Jonathan, a friend of many years, did a great job of giving us a tour of the Hill, more specifically, Sigourney Square, as he pointed out various strides in community improvement. He had also resurrected several historic pictures and maps to give the group a taste of how Asylum Hill has developed. Unknown to me was the installation the Lord’s Hill Reservoir which served the city briefly at the end of the 19th Century. Apparently it didn’t work. It was situated where the Hartford’s office tower now stands. Much of Sigourney Square was occupied in the early 1800’s by the Town Farm!
During the tour we had the opportunity to visit the new two-family house on Sargeant Street which has been renovated by Northside Institutions Neighborhood Association (NINA) and is now for sale. Just a few steps from the Sigourney Square Park with the neatest water playscape. This whimsy presents kids with a lively and imaginative water feature to stay cool in the summer. Several of these playscapes are installed or being proposed around Hartford.
I have always been captivated by the spirit of the people living on Asylum Hill. 142 Collins Street was my first address in Hartford. Many great people have come and gone but their work and dedication lives on. Most recently I visited with Dulcie and Valerio Giadone and their son, Alex. They have done some terrific renovations on houses they bought on Ashley Street. These Italianates are lovely and make amazing contributions to the streetscape. Sadly, the introduction of several apartment building in the 60’s truly dominates the original residential fabric of the neighborhood. Still and all, commitment to neighborhood improvement and cohesiveness is so apparent on every block. As neighborhoods go, this is one with much life and vitality.