Saturday, July 31, 2010

I'm confused

I don't get it.  I think of satellite dishes the same way I think of trash cans.  Yes, you have to have them, but they aren't much to look at, so hide them away. 

A satellite dish on the front lawn?  Down at ground level?  Next to the sidewalk? 

Aside from questionable aesthetics, do the little boogers work when filled with leaves in the fall?  How about when covered by snow in the winter?


Friday, July 30, 2010

Pretty Bungalow

This neighborhood has many attractive bungalows, of which this is a good specimen.

So, what is a bungalow?  I don't really know.  My definition is that it is a simple house with a prominent roof and porch.  But, even though I can't define it, I know when I see one.

Turns out that I am not the only person who is not sure what a bungalow is.  These guys publish a historic architecture magazine and even they don't seem very sure.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


There is no special meaning to today's post.  I just liked the urn.  It is on the same property as the granite marker from the Stevens Walk, shown in yesterday's post.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Stevens Walk

This is posted for the story, not the photo.

Wallace Stevens was a successful insurance executive who also became a noted poet.  He never learned to drive a car, so he walked the two miles from his home on Westerly Terrace to his job at The Hartford. 

One of his poems was Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.  A group called the Friends and Enemies of Wallace Stevens raised funds to place thirteen granite stone markers along Stevens' path to his office.  Each marker bears another stanza from Blackbirds.

Here is a Boston Globe story about the walk.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sessions Woods

Sessions Woods is a conservation area about 30 minutes west of Hartford, in the small town of Burlington.  A 4-mile loop trail leads to a pond covered by lily pads.  Hikers can hide behind a a blind to view visiting wildlife, but mid-day on a steaming hot summer day the birds and animals stayed away.  They must have come out later to feed.

Monday, July 26, 2010


It was a hot day on Saturday in Elizabeth Park.  Some couples were getting married.  Some strolled through the rose beds.  Some fed ducks.  Others sat in the shade.

This girl blew bubbles.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Asylum Hill Congregational Church

The Asylum Hill Congregational Church has been at the edge of Hartford's downtown since the 1860s.  In that 150-year period, it has been led by only eight senior ministers.  The first was Joseph Twichell, who served for more than 50 years.  Twichell was a close friend of Mark Twain, who worshipped at AHCC.

The church is one of the largest in the Congregational denomination.  It lures many committed parishoners who have moved out to the suburbs to return to the city on Sunday morning. 

Asylum Hill calls itself "A church in the heart of the city with a heart for the city."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Harriet Beecher Stowe

The author of Uncle Tom's Cabin lived on Forest Street in Hartford, next to Mark Twain.  The neighborhood was called Nook Farm, and housed several prominent authors of the day.

Friday, July 23, 2010

MDC Recreational Land

The Metropolitan District Commission manages a series of reservoirs atop Avon Mountain.  The reservoirs provide drinking water to cities and towns in central Connecticut.

A side benefit of its mission to protect the watershed is that the MDC also maintains parklands and trails for walking, running and bicycling around the reservoirs.  Hundreds use the trails every day.  Now the MDC is threatening to close the trails, because the jury in a a recent trial awarded an injured biker more than $2 million.

The plaintiff was an experienced biker.  She was riding a mountain bike and was going in the wrong direction.  (There is a marked bicycle lane with frequent directional arrows.)  She ran into a stationary, closed gate.  The gate is painted bright yellow and has been in that location for nearly 40 years.  It has warning signs posted on the side that faces riders who are going in the right direction.  (And, the gate didn't jump out in front of her . . . it stayed where it was and she just ran into it.)

People are outraged, of course, at the jury verdict, and are worried about the possibility that a wonderful recreational area might be closed.  Hundreds attended a public meeting this week to urge the MDC to appeal the verdict and keep the trails open.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Traffic Calming

For decades traffic engineers widened roads and added lanes, to speed traffic from the suburbs into the downtown.  In recent years they realized that speeding cars were threatening neighborhoods.  So, several of our main traffic arteries have been redesigned to narrow the traffic flow to one lane in each direction, with landscaped traffic islands separating the lanes.  Space for bicyclists and parked cars has been added to the right lanes.

I don't know whether the commute to and from the downtown is now any slower, but the drive is certainly prettier, the stress is lower and the neighbors seem happier.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Hartford

The Hartford Financial Services group is another of the big insurance companies in Hartford, perhaps four blocks east and north of Aetna, featured yesterday.  While Aetna now focuses heavily on health care products, The Hartford focuses on wealth management and property and casualty products for businesses and individuals. 

The Hartford celebrated its bicentennial on May 10, 2010.  The last few years have been hard on The Hartford.  It was caught up in the investment losses that affected many financial services companies.  In 2007, The Hartford's stock price was over $103/share, but in the spring of 2009 it fell below $4.  Today the stock price has recovered to the mid-$20 range. 

The Hartford's symbol is the stag, a male deer, or "hart."

The Hartford's main offices are on Asylum Avenue in Hartford, named for the Deaf and Dumb Asylum that later became the American School for the Deaf.  (See my July 16 posting.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Aetna is one of many insurance companies in Hartford.  At one point, Hartford boasted that it was the insurance capital of America.  We still have many insurance companies and the industry is a major employer in the region, but I don't know if we retain our bragging rights.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Victorian Neighbor

In yesterday's post, I mentioned that the Hartford Seminary is nestled in a residential neighborhood among Victorian neighbors.  This colorful home is typical of the houses in the streets near the seminary.  Quite a contrast, isn't it?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hartford Seminary

Hartford Seminary is a non-denominational educational institution nestled into a residential neighborhood in Hartford's West End.  It dates back to 1833, and its roots were Congregational. 

The 1981 building was designed by Richard Meier.  It is a stark white building amidst many Victorian neighbors.  Hartford Seminary

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mark Twain House

Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens) is the author of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, among other American classics.  He lived in Hartford for 20 years, beginning in 1871.  Twain's most famous works were written while he lived in Hartford.

This is the house Twain built on Farmington Avenue in Hartford.  For information about the house, see Mark Twain House and Museum  The brick work is fascinating, and everywhere one looks, something else is jutting out.  The detailing is extensive.

I like visiting the house during the Christmas holiday season, when the festive decorations set off the luscious interior.

Twain was forced to leave the house in 1891 to make a European lecture tour, because his spending and poor investments made this house too expensive to maintain.  His favorite daughter Susie died of meningitis in the house in 1895, making it too painful to stay in Hartford, so Twain moved to upper New York state. 

Mark Twain died in 1910.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thomas Gallaudet and the School for the Deaf

Thomas Gallaudet graduated from Yale in 1805 and casted about for a career.  For a time he became a preacher.  When he met a nine-year old deaf girl, Alice Cogswell, his career turned in another direction. 

The girl's father was a wealthy Hartford surgeon who encouraged Gallaudet to travel to Europe to learn the advanced techniques of the day for teaching deaf children.

Gallaudet returned to Hartford after his European travels.  With financial support from Dr. Cogswell and other local philanthropists, in 1817 Gallaudet founded the first school for the deaf in this country, now called the American School for the Deaf.  Today ASD occupies 55 acres in West Hartford. 

Gallaudet was the school's longtime principal.  His son went on to found a college for the deaf in Washington, D.C., now known as Gallaudet University.

Here is a link to a brief biography of Gallaudet:  Gallaudet Bio

Here is a brief history of the education of the deaf in America, from the ASD's website:  Deaf Education

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Carp and Ducks

It is not a very pretty day today, so I will show a photograph from a few days ago. 

In a local pond, visitors bring stale bread to feed the carp and the ducks.  When pieces of bread are tossed into the pond, the fish and the birds swarm in pursuit.  There are so many big carp that it looks like a carpet for mallards.

I couldn't decide whether to call them carp or koi.  Is there a difference?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


It seems like a shame to leave Elizabeth Park while the roses are still in full bloom.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Many of the houses in this neighborhood were built in the 1915 - 1935 period.  An endearing feature is that the builders made shutters with cut-out images, like the potted tree in these shutters.

Unfortunately, over time the residents "improve" the homes.  For many, a shutterless look is considered more modern, so the shutters are condemned to the basement or [shudder!] the trash. In other cases, deteriorating shutters are replaced by machine-built slatted shutters that are bolted to the siding instead of hung on hinges. 

Here is the whole house.

Monday, July 12, 2010

West Hartford Center in the morning

West Hartford Center is a shopping, dining and hanging-around destination for central Connecticut and western Massachusetts. 

To the west is the original center, part of which is shown here.  To the east is a two-year old mixed use extension of the center, called Blue Back Square. 
In mid-day, the center is busy, and in the evening the lure of dozens of good restaurants means that it is so packed that parking spaces are scarce. 

But, early on a weekday morning, the center is peaceful and sleepy.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Daisy season

Daisies are in full, healthy bloom despite the scorching heat last week.  Yesterday some rain relieved the heat and perked up the foliage.  This week is forecast as beautiful, in the 80s.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Red Dress 5K

Today began with a 5K race for women.  All kinds. 

The race is a fund-raiser for the American Heart Association, calling attention to heart risks for women.  According to their site, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of American women -- and of men. About 460,000 women die of cardiovascular disease annually, more than the total number of cardiovascular disease-related deaths in men or the next four causes of death combined.

Here is a link:  Red dress run

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Colt Dome

Samuel Colt built an armory in the mid 1800s along the Connecticut River to produce his pistols.  He topped the building with a conspicuous blue dome with gold stars and a rampant colt with a spear.  No one really knows why he picked such an unusual feature for a conservative New England city.  One theory is that he had visited Russia and liked the similar bulbous domes on Byzantine churches.  Another theory is just that he wanted to catch the attention of ships arriving in Hartford along the river.  

Today the Colt complex is in tough shape.  It looks like local marksmen practice their aim by breaking windows in the lower levels of the buildings.  Colt has seen repeated efforts to revitalize the area, sometimes as space for artists and more recently as leased space for small businesses.  It is in a very visible location adjacent to U.S. Route 91, but most of the buildings remain abandoned. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Old State House

The Connecticut Old State House lies in the center of downtown Hartford.  Construction began in 1793 but was interrupted for lack of funds.  (Some things never change.)  It opened in 1796 with the legislature upstairs and a museum of oddities in the attic.  Today it is just one historic plot of land in a sea of larger modern office buildings.  Here is the website:  Old State House

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Elizabeth Park

Elizabeth Park is on the line between the City of Hartford and the Town of West Hartford.  It hosts a renowned rose garden.  The City and the Town provide funds for basic maintenance, but the Friends of Elizabeth Park give their money and their time to bring the gardens to a high standard.  The bed in the foreground holds American Pride roses. I contribute to the Friends so they can  maintain this plot in memory of my parents.

Roses are at their peak in late June and moving into July.  The Park is the scene of Wednesday evening concerts and weekend weddings.