Asylum Hill Doors II – #Thursday Doors

847 Asylum Avenue.

Last week, we visited the Asylum Hill neighborhood of Hartford, Connecticut. There were a lot of doors, but other than their design and the designs of the houses to which they were attached, I didn’t know much about them. As I was sorting through my photos from that walk, I found several buildings (doors) for which I was able to find some information to share.

Note: the some descriptions are from Historic Buildings of CT, while others are from a combination of that website, the National Registry of Historic Buildings (NRHB) and the book Victorian Hartford Revisited. The pictures, unless indicated are mine.

852 Asylum Avenue – Built around 1875, the George A. Bolles House is located on Asylum Avenue in Hartford and is an excellent example of the elaborate and creative homes built in the Asylum Hill neighborhood in the nineteenth century. The house originally had a different front porch, as well as a side porch, which has since been removed.

Asylum Hill Congregational Church – was constructed in 1865 of Portland brownstone in the Gothic style of an English parish church. Its tall spire, 227 feet high, and elaborate door and window moldings add much to its character. Stained glass windows by Charles J. Connick enhance the interior. A later chapel addition to the east is in the same style.

Asylum Hill Baptist Church – One block west, of the Congregational Church, is the Asylum Hill Baptist Church. Originally built in 1872, the church was altered and enlarged in 1869, and in 1931 was severely damaged by fire and rebuilt in a Collegiate Gothic idiom that does not resemble the original.

Between those two churches is the Capewell House. George J. Capewell (1843-1919) invented an automatic process to make horse nails. In 1881 he started the Capewell Horse Nail Company in Hartford. His residence in the city was an Italianate-style house at 903 Asylum Avenue, built in 1870. The house was slightly over 8,000 square feet (~745 square meters) and had 11 bedrooms. It last sold in 2019 for $560,000.

The house, long owned by the Holcombe family, was later converted to apartments. Some of you might remember an earlier mention of George Capewell in a post this past summer featuring the Atlantic Screw Works in Hartford’s south end.

West Middle School – is on the south side of Asylum Avenue. The present Georgian Revival building of 1930 replaces an earlier building on the same site that was executed in High Victorian Gothic style. According to the Hartford Public Library:

The original West Middle School building was designed by Richard Mitchell UpJohn (1827-1903), and stood in back of the present West Middle School building that faces Asylum Avenue. UpJohn’s school building was built of brick and brownstone in the high Victorian style, with “vivid polychromy”, considered by architectural historians as “one of the best built during Asylum Hill’s period of growth and greatest prestige.” It stood three stories high and had sixteen rooms. The cost of the land and the  building was $154,165. It was completed and first occupied in 1873. In 1886 the original building was added onto at a cost of $15,000. The school could accommodate 50 pupils in each room. A kindergarten was opened in the school in 1886. Major Thomas Smith served as the military instructor of the school’s Companies A and B, and cadets drilled for one hour each week after school. The were some 80 cadets in the program.

Personally, I like the original building much better.

NRHB – Across from the Baptist Church are two older houses, both solidly Italianate. 837-839, a  double house, has heavy dripstones over the short, round-headed windows of the third floor, close under the roof overhang.

847 Asylum Avenue is a glorious red brick Italianate with two towers, one octagonal, one square, each with a roof rising to a point on which rests a  copper finial. The house has handsome brownstone window arches and brownstone for the wall of the first floor of the octagonal tower. A long porch of turned and sawn wood stretches across its front.

As I was trying to get a photo of the house at 847, a man asked me if I was taking pictures of the house for any particular reason. He thought perhaps it was for sale. I explained Thursday Doors to the man and a friend who joined him from the house at 839. We talked a little bit about the house. He said that if not for restrictions due to the pandemic, he would offer to let me inside. The building has been made into apartments, but he says much of the original details remain. We all remarked that it was simply good to be talking to strangers.

Thursday Doors is a weekly blogfest organized and championed by Norm Frampton. If you like doors, and especially if you have doors to share, you will want to visit Norm’s blog up in Canada. Norm always has wonderful doors on display, and you can add a link to your doors. You can also check out the other doors that have been put on display today.


  1. Loved the post Dan. That steeple of the congregational church is pretty impressive. I always try to imagine the kind of foundation on which steeples like that are set. Just love the architecture.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love 847! Great porch and I too love turrets. When I see such beautiful old buildings I wonder about their history, their stories. Did a little girl play in the turret? Did and old man sit on the porch and watch the world from his rocking chair? And I agree with Rivergirl: I want to live in the Asylum! hahaha

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Holy cow Dan, what’s not to like? The buildings are incredible. Turrets, a steeple, porches, arches, beautiful red doors on one church, but gorgeous blue doors on another. Arched windows, some with stained glass, the brickwork and stonework are all works of art.

    But I have to say, I like the original West Middle School building hands down over the current one, even though it conjures up thoughts of an asylum!! Lol.

    Asylum Avenue is quite a piece of real estate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ginger. Couldn’t you just imaging going to school in that building? The new school looks like every school I attended, blah. That building had character. I wish they hadn’t torn it down. I am glad so many other building has remained and seem to have been well cared for. I had a close-up of the doors at the Capewell house, but they were most disappointing. IT looks like the owners just blew into Home Depot and bought whatever was on sale that day.


  4. The original West Middle School is some building! It must have been great to talk to the gentleman at 847–and then 839 came over to talk, too! Imagine no Covid–you would have gotten a tour of both of those homes. I can see you snapping away ‘for educational purposes.’ How wonderful that would be!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that original school, Lois. How sad it is that we’ve come to the point where having a (distant) conversation with two strangers seems like a big treat. We actually all mentioned how good it felt just to be talking. I would have loved to have gotten a look inside 847. Imagine the interior of the round turret.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Good one Dan. This is definitely a neighborhood I’d love to explore. That Bolles house is quite something. I’m predicting that turrets are gonna be making a comeback in 2021…you heard it here first ;-)
    And hey, talking to strangers and not just to politely remind them to keep their distance? Priceless!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, we were far enough apart that we weren’t wearing masks. I was on the sidewalk. The two men had come out of their respective buildings do do something in the yard. We were probably 15-20 feet apart. Almost normal, except it didn’t end with “is there a place around here we could go for a beer?” and then continue all afternoon ;-)

      Can you imagine going to school in that building?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Dan, these are photos that I could come back to again and again. The buildings capture my imagination from so many directions. I particularly like the featured house — and how awesome that you got to talk to the neighbors! Wow. That would have made my day. Too bad about not getting inside, but still very cool. Have a fabulous Friday. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Teagan. I may be back in this neighborhood. I discovered several other historic houses that I missed (but are listed on the registry). It’s funny how talking to a couple strangers felt so good.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow! The churches are wonderful. There is something about 847 that reminds me of a Frank Lloyd Wright house, even though it looks nothing like one of his houses. I think he would have really liked this one. Great doors post, Dan. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Dan – it’s fascinating … how the church building appears to be the first constructed – before the settlement started to take off and the houses appeared. Magnificent buildings … well I hope next year – you can perhaps get inside with those two guys and see a bit more of the area close-up. Yes – it’s good to talk …Happy Thanksgiving and take care – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

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