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I thought I was going to be finishing my tour of the Clay Hill district today, hence the nondescript title, but I was wrong. Crawling through the images I have, I found one building that is just kind of cool, and I found a pair of buildings that are historically and socially significant. I also discovered that this latter pair of buildings are separately described in a National Register of Historic Places nomination form.
The first building is interesting because it has a corner door, two elevated porches and a series of bullseye dormer window. It’s a retail site with residential units on the upper floors. In a former life, in the late 1970s, it was a bar.
The pair of buildings are the remaining portion of what was the Hartford Widow’s Home. As in previous weeks, I’m going to let the NRHP nomination form speak for itself.
The Widows’ Home, constructed in 1864 and 1865, consists of two nearly identical brick buildings facing west along Main Street in Hartford. The property is now bounded on the north and south by empty land parcels, and to the east by modern housing projects. A small heavily wooded lot at the rear of the property once served for recreational use. Though now quite isolated from other historic buildings, the Widows’ Home formerly had a fine visual complement in the U.S. Arsenal, a three-and-a-half story stuccoed-brick structure built in 1805 a few hundred feet north of the site of the Home; it was demolished in 1909.National Registry of Historic Places nomination form
The Widows’ Home is a rare local example of institutional architecture from the mid-nineteenth century. It has substantial historical significance as a physical embodiment of the 19th-century approach to social problems, which was to rely almost entirely on private philanthropy. One of several charitable facilities established in Hartford in the nineteenth century, the Widows’ Home is distinguished by the fact that its buildings survive with much of their historical appearance intact. Despite changing uses and recent (written in 1982) neglect, the property retains a high level of architectural integrity, featuring a well-preserved combination of vernacular design elements, After the 1843 Mather Homestead, the Widows’ Home is the second oldest building in Hartford’s North End. The citizens of nineteenth-century Hartford conceived of their city as one of the leaders in the establishment of charitable institutions.
From 1821 through the end of the century, organizations were created to address a wide variety of social needs. Some of these, such as the American School for the Deaf and the Retreat for the Insane, became nationally known and established Hartford’s reputation as a benevolent community.
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