Asylum Hill Doors – ThursdayDoors

The angled corners make this house look smaller than it is.

Hartford, Connecticut, like many cities in the United States, is divided into named neighborhoods that date to the time when the city was first beginning to expand. Some of these neighborhoods date to the 17 and 1800s. Asylum Hill is one such neighborhood.

Perhaps some of you are wondering if the area was so named because of an asylum. I was curious about that myself. I’ve lived in Hartford since the early 1980s, and although I’ve been in this area numerous times, as a consultant at The Aetna Insurance Company and as a patient at St. Francis Hospital, it’s only recently that I learned where the name came from.

Originally, the area west of the railroad and bounded by the Park River, was known as Lord’s hill, after one of Hartford’s original settlers, Captain Richard Lord. Richard Lord came to Hartford from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636 and, along with some family members, acquired several parcels of land near what was referred to as Centinel Hill. At some point in the early 1800s (there are conflicting dates), the “Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons” was founded. One source says this happened in 1807, but the website of the current school, the American School for the Deaf includes the following:

In 1817, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a recent Yale graduate and ordained clergyman, met the Dr. Mason Fitch Cogswell family and their deaf daughter, Alice. Embarking on a voyage to Europe to learn the art of educating deaf children, Gallaudet encountered the exciting work of l’Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris (school for the deaf in Paris, France). He then enlisted Laurent Clerc, a talented, young, deaf teacher to join him in a historic journey back home to establish the first permanent school for the deaf in the United States.

In any case, our mystery is solved.

Asylum Hill is home to two of the largest insurance companies in Hartford, The Aetna and The Hartford. It is also known for the famous Hartford residents who lived in this area in the 1800s, including, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Calvin Day, James Goodwin and U.S. Senator James Dixon.

I was most recently in this area when I visited the Connecticut Historical Society Museum in August. Asylum Avenue is normally an extremely busy street, with traffic to and from the two insurance companies, Hartford’s second largest hospital and numerous churches and professional offices. Due to the remote working in-force in our state, Asylum Avenue was mostly quiet the day I was there. So, as any good little door fanatic would, I parked and walked around a bit. I don’t know much about the buildings I’ve included in today’s gallery. I have a few others for which I think some history may be found, I’m saving those for Part-2 of this post.

Thursday Doors is a fun weekly blogfest organized and hosted by Norm Frampton. Each week, Norm invites door aficionados from around the world to visit his blog and leave a comment containing a link to the doors they are sharing. If you want to see Norm’s doors and find the links to many other beautiful doors, head on up to his place.

72 comments

    1. That’s true, Judy. As you move to the west on this street, you get closer to the University of Hartford, the UConn Law School and another small college. That’s always an incentive for a bad job of dividing a building.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I am always amazed by the usage of the English language. Asylum means refuge and yet over the years it has been associated with one interpretation. So many words have become offensive or derogatory or just different, because the meaning has been usurped. Ignorant used to mean ‘unknowing’, gay used to mean ‘happy’, straight used to mean ‘without a curve’. No wonder we cause offence or are misinterpreted so often. Smile. It’s safer than talking. Love the houses!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make a good point, Pam. I was curious about the name because I wasn’t sure of the history and the timing of usage of this word. I like learning these things, and I do not like being pressured to not use the words/phrases in context. I don’t think we should always apply the distorted meaning of today.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to visit a distant cousin yearly for Thanksgiving in Hartford. I remember Asylum Avenue from going (driving by/through) to her law office in downtown Hartford. Some of the buildings in your post look vaguely familiar.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hartford has certainly kept the bricklayers busy! Nice collection of doors and these buildings are spectacular. I’m impressed how many buildings were converted into private residences instead of letting them decay from lack of use and maintenance. And we were treated to an interesting history lesson in addition to the tour.
    Ginger

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As always, Ginger, I’m glad you like these doors and the bit of history I could find. There’s more to come on that.

      The bricklayers were busy around here in the 1800s.

      Like

  4. What a beautiful area. I’m glad you were able to stop and enjoy all the doors. Gosh, those old brick buildings with the beautiful porches…so pretty. Friend of mine is all about new ‘unused’ (as she calls them) houses. But they have no character. No matter what they try to do to them, they cannot match the craftsmanship from year ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had a flash of déjà vu while reading your post, Dan. One of my research subjects had a brother who moved to Hartford in the early 1900s and he worked for the Hartford Insurance company. He lived not too far from Asylum Hill, at 200 North Oxford.

    I know, trivial. But it’s fun that we have both walked these streets, so to speak. You, of course, actually walked them!

    Thanks for the tour!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you appreciate the little bit of history I’m able to turn up. I like that it’s not just the early days of the city, but the early days of our country. I think it’s good that some of it survived.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Everybody, everything, and every place have a history – so thanks for a bit of Hartford’s. You gave me an idea … of course, I have a future walk on doors … but I’ll have to remember to post it on a Thursday and then link it to the host. Now, remembering to do that is another matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As Pam mentioned earlier, it’s odd to see how language evolves over time – when referring to a building the word “asylum” is thought of in a much different way today.
    I love the home with the chopped off corners and I wonder if the architect just thought it would look cool or if the client actually wanted to make the place look smaller so as not to be seen as showing off.
    Best of all: those rustic sidewalk flower boxes with sunflowers in them. Yes! Sunflowers for the win :-D

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish I could find more about that house, Norm. I didn’t see others like it. I only walked a few blocks, but similar style homes that I’ve found seem to have been built in clusters. In any case I really liked it. As for the sunflowers, that’s the benefit of procrastinating with a blog post 😏

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Robbie. Calvin Day was a merchant. Goodwin owned a manufacturing business that made machines to make horse nails. I had pictures of that mill back in July (I think). The other guy was a politician, so…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a very cool post, Dan. I’m always interested in how words and the ways they are used changes over time — asylum being one. (Blame my past career in communication…) Sometimes it’s only the connotation in which they are used that changes, but even that can strongly influence how we communicate. Enough of my ramble.
    I especially like the featured house. The rooms inside must be spectacular in how they are laid out, and for lighting. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad people find the word history to be interesting. I don’t think asylum became negative into the 1900s when they tacked the word “insane” at the front. I was happy to learn about the founding of the school for the deaf. Next week, I have some houses with a bit of history. Stay tuned.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Even growing up I associated Hartford CT with insurance companies. Nice to see some photos; and what a collection of famous people. I like the garden boxes with a few brave sunflowers :) Might have been fun to walk to work, at least in fair weather.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A lot of the insurance companies moved to other cities or into the suburbs, but there is still a significant industry presence here. The flower boxes did seem welcoming. In the 1800s, this was a desirable place to live. It still has a lot of nice homes.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I was happy to find that out, and to realize it was the beginning of the American School for the Deaf. I knew that is the oldest school in the country, but I didn’t know thta it began operation so long ago. I really like the house with the multiple balconies.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Stately homes today, Dan!! I honestly do not like the word asylum but that is me. Quite a contrast with these beautifully stateful homes and then the word asylum. The architecture on these homes stirs my heart. Loved this post today. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Dan – fascinating walk around … the two insurance buildings are pretty special. I particularly love your house with the shingles someone else applied! … but great way to get lots of light in … also interesting to learn about the Deaf school … and its beginnings. All the best – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Hilary. That house with the angled corners is fascinating. I wonder what it looks like inside. I was happy to find the origin of the school. I knew it was the oldest school for the deaf in this country, but I didn’t know it was that old.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. must have been named for him. It is considered the premier school for the deaf, I believe. Super doors, Dan. I love the stone church and all the angles to the buildings. The brick home with the columned porch to the side is my favorite.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The university was named for him. When I used to travel to Silver Spring, MD, I would take the Metro Red line from Union Station to Silver Spring. Gallaudet University is the first or second stop on the run. I never knew why it was called they.

      Liked by 1 person

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