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.