Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Don't Back Up!

I think this means I can go wherever I want, so long as I don't back up.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Goodwin Hotel

The bright reddish-orange brick, ornate building on the left is the facade of the Goodwin Hotel in downtown Hartford. 

Our tax laws give breaks to developers who preserve historic buildings.  In this case, only the facade was saved.  The inside was gutted.  Above it rises a modern highrise hotel and office building.

Regrettably, the center city has been struggling economically, and the recession that began in 2008 accelerated the problems.  Today the hotel is empty, awaiting better times and a better-funded owner.

Here is a view from Bushnell Park.  You can barely see the historic facade that gave rise to the tax benefits, can you?

(A sharp-eyed friend points out that the close hotel occupies only the lower floors, and the offices above remain open.  Sorry.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Long Walk

A college campus can be VERY quiet on a late August morning.  But, it is the lull before the storm.

First-year and transfer students arrive at the Hartford main campus of Trinity College on September 2.  The Long Walk shown here will swarm with student life.

Maybe I will come back next month.  Meanwhile I will show some quiet scenes from this pretty campus in the coming days.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010


This is a grand site for a pharmacy, isn't it?  CVS occupies the corner store.

My real reason for posting this photo was to show the way that, at certain times of the day, light reflects off the Gold Building, across the street, and bathes this building in shimmering gold.

For other posts with reflections, see Weekend Reflections.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


This gentleman was taking photographs at last week's gymnastics exhibition on the lawn of the Old State House.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Red Sox and Yankees

Hartford is equidistant between Boston and New York City. The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees have a fierce rivalry.  People living east and north of Hartford are generally Red Sox fans.  People living south and west of us are mainly Yankee fans.  In greater Hartford, the count is pretty even, although the Red Sox have better radio and TV coverage.

This is my blog.  I can post only a Red Sox photo if I want.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Horace Wells

Horace Wells discovered anaesthesia.

Unfortunately, the public unveiling of his discovery went badly.  He used an inadequate dose.  As the operation began, Wells' patient lay there screaming in front of the doctors assembled to see the new way to operate pain-free on patients.

Wells kept tinkering with his formulations.  He often used himself as the object of experiments.  Wells must have done this a few times too many.  He went nuts and eventually committed suicide.

Today he has a nice spot in Bushnell Park.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Common Can Be Special

The most common house style in central Connecticut is probably the center entrance colonial.  There must be tens of thousands, many of them white.  It is a very straightforward design, very functional, with  little embellishment.

They all have a central hall, with the living room on one side and the dining room on the other.  The kitchen is behind the dining room.  Upstairs, there are two to four bedrooms.

The top house is lovely, built in the 1920s or 1930s. 

The second house is smaller and simpler, probably from the 1960s.

The last house is an older house, probably dating to the 1700s.  With animals in front.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bushnell Hall

Bushnell Hall is Hartford's largest performance venue, for plays, symphonies, opera and other similar events.  The original hall seats 2200 and a newer hall seats 900.

Of course, my main reason to post this photo was to show off the sky.  Pretty cool, eh?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Soldiers' and Sailors' Arch

This 1886 arch was built to honor Hartford soldiers and sailors who served in the Civil War.

I usually focus on the unique overall form of the arch, but viewing it more closely gives me a chance to appreciate the detailed carvings.  In the center, note the stag, or "hart," the symbol of Hartford. 

Friday, August 20, 2010


The owner of this stationery and novelty store became ill this winter.  The store shut down overnight, after anchoring an important location in West Hartford Center for decades.  We are all awaiting a new occupant.

The Tudor revival style became popular in greater Hartford around 1920.  We see it everywhere.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Connecticut Governor's Residence

Prospect Street runs north and south, dividing Hartford from West Hartford.  The Governor's Residence is on the Hartford side of the street.

Governor Rell is not running for re-election, so she leaves office in January.  The residence is badly in need of repairs and was scheduled for a significant renovation.  The governor's chief of staff canceled the work because she didn't want the governor to be disturbed by construction during her last six months in office.

The building badly needs refurbishment and upgrading, and the best time to do it politically is at the end of a governor's term.  No incoming office holder wants to be criticized for spending to preserve the governor's residence when the state is in tough shape and there are other priorities.  But, the outgoing governor wants it quiet (naps?), so the work will be deferred again, and the residence will continue to deteriorate.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Men Would Be Scarce

With Mark Twain and Noah Webster having strong Hartford ties, the developers of Blue Back Square naturally used quotations, words, letters, alphabets and other literary symbols as the theme for this area.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blue Back Square

Blue Back Square is an area of perhaps 6 - 10 city blocks in West Hartford, which used to house several municipal buildings and abandoned automobile dealerships.  The developers cut a deal with the civic fathers to pay for relocation, reconfiguration and upgrading of the municipal buildings, in exchange for the right to develop the property more intensely.

On the right, you see part of the town's main library, financed and constructed by the developers, and on the left you see part of Barnes & Noble, the bookseller, with a courtyard between. Book borrowing on one side and book buying on the other . . . clever, isn't it?

BBS has retail stores, restaurants, services, apartments and condos, parking garages, a Whole Foods grocery store and even a small branch of Harford Hospital in a dense and walkable area.  The development was controversial initially, but now it is an essential part of the fabric of an expanded West Hartford Center.  I am a fan.

Why "Blue Back"?  West Hartford's Noah Webster published the Blue Back Speller in 1783, and most American children over the next century learned how to read and spell by using it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Public Art

Ken Kahn is the former executive director of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, a non-profit organization that raises funds for the arts and heritage in central Connecticut.  It also produces arts and cultural events.

Hartford has an impressive inventory of monuments, sculptures, statues and other public art, much from the 19th century.  But, by the time Ken arrived in the late 1990s, budget pressures had all but eliminated new public art projects.  Ken breathed life into the effort, persuading and cajoling city and state officials, corporate leaders and private philanthropists to fund new art projects.  About 50 new pieces of public art in the past decade are Ken's legacy.

Ken is shown in the Ancient Burying Ground.  Behind him is a statue of one of Hartford's founders.  Ken was instrumental in raising funds for the statue as well as funds to clean up, restore and maintain the Ancient Burying Ground.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hartford Whalers

Hartford doesn't have a major league professional sports team these days.  From 1979 to 1997, the Hartford Whalers of the National Hockey League played here. 

Hartford has never forgiven team ownership for relocating the team to North Carolina, but there are still many Whalers fans who harbor hope that they will return some day.  There is a movement underway (too long to explain here) aimed at restoring the Whalers to Hartford. 

On Saturday, thousands of fans attended a special event at which former Whalers players were introduced to the fans and signed autographs.  The lines for autograph signings were loo-o-o-ng.  And, the loudspeakers blared Brass Bonanza, the team's theme song, continuously, which is nostalgic for many and annoying to others.  (I like it and the memories it stirs.)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

USA Gymnastics

The Visa Championships are in Hartford this weekend.  At lunch on Friday, three acrobatic gymnast champions put on an exhibition at the Old State House.  They also invited some young girls to try some gymnastic moves.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Noah Webster

Noah Webster is a West Hartford native who devoted decades to writing the first American dictionary.  Those of us old enough to remember books (those things with sheets of printed paper encased in hard covers) all learned how to look up the spelling and meaning of words in a Webster dictionary.

Today Noah stands in front of West Hartford's main library, oddly enough called the Noah Webster Library (in brick to his rear), and Blue Back Square, a new development that will get some ink (er, some pixels) in the coming days . . .

This 13 1/2 foot statue was a gift from a West Harford-based sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski.  Mr. Z later helped Gutzon Borglum with the large-scale carving at Mount Rushmore, before going on to carve the Crazy Horse Memorial into another South Dakota mountain.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Red House

I have always liked this house.

The photo was taken on a searingly hot morning, with a sun so bright that it turned the black roof to white.  I was tempted to re-take another photo on a less scalding day, but I thought that the photo captured the sizzling moment.

I like the auto-posting feature.  You didn't even know that I was away from Hartford, visiting my daughter in London for the past week, did you?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Aetna and The Hartford have already had their day.  Today is Travelers' time.

Sorry.  No red umbrella.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stone Field

Now, you might think this is a bunch of rocks, but you would be wrong.  They aren't rocks.  They are sculpture. 

In 1977 Hartford contracted to pay a noted sculptor, Carl Andre, $87,000 for an installation of 36 boulders on a small plot of land in downtown Hartford.  The project was funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.  Some narrow-minded citizens objected, and a controversy ensued.  Eventually, Andre was paid and the rocks -- er, the art objects -- are still there.  (I have become used to them.)

More people heard of Carl Andre a decade later when he was acquitted of charges that he murdered his wife by pushing her from the window of their 34th floor Greenwich Village apartment.

Monday, August 9, 2010


I don't know.  I just thought she fit the scene.

This is the Goodwin Parlor at the Wadsworth Atheneum.  They took apart a room in a mansion before it was torn down and recreated it inside the museum.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Gold Building

This is the Gold Building, home of United Technologies Corporation.  Among UTC's main businesses are Pratt & Whitney (aircraft engines), Hamilton Sundstrand (a variety of aviation and space products), Otis Elevators, Carrier (air conditioning) and Sikorsky Aircraft (helicopters).  See the helipad on the roof?

The Gold Building adjoins the Ancient Burying Ground, featured yesterday.  Quite a contrast, isn't it?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ancient Burying Ground

An old cemetary occupies a prime location on Main Street in Hartford.  On one side is First Church of Christ (previously Center Church) and on the other side is a tall office building occupied by one of Connecticut's biggest companies. 

The cemetary got there first, in 1640, just four years after Rev. Thomas Hooker and his followers settled the city.

In the summer, school children volunteers give tours of the graveyard.  I felt badly that I was in a hurry and couldn't let the little girl give me the tour she offered.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pond in Bushnell Park

Bushnell Park is downtown Hartford's park.  The park is below the state capitol and at the edge of a ring of high rise office buildings.  It offers a peaceful lunchtime sanctuary to office workers.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Katherine Seymour Day House

The home of Katherine Seymour Day stands next to the home of Harriett Beecher Stowe on Forest Street in Hartford, just off Farmington Avenue.  Ms. Day was Stowe's grandniece. 

In 1941, Ms. Day founded the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, a history museum, program center and research library.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chick Austin House

Chick Austin was a revered director of the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford's principal art museum.  Austin was appointed to that position when only 26 years old.  He was an innovator who expanded the museum's exhibition space and mounted shows as varied as Italian baroque paintings and Picasso.  Austin also championed modern music, bringing Stravinsky and Satie works to this conservative city. 

Austin married into a moneyed Hartford family.  When in Italy on his honeymoon, he was attracted to the architecture of Palladio.  Austin and his wife built this house on Scarborough Street in the West End of Hartford.  It is very long but only one room deep.  The house is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  Austin's family donated the house to the Wadsworth Atheneum in 1985.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bushnell Park Carousel

The Carousel in Bushnell Park is about 95 years old.

I haven't figured out yet how to take photos of moving objects and still focus on one of the elements, but I thought this came out pretty well for a beginner.

See what Oakland Daily Photo did with a similar carousel moment out on the West Coast last week.  I SWEAR I didn't know about that photo when I took this picture and put it into auto-posting.

Monday, August 2, 2010

General Israel Putnam

Israel Putnam was a general in the Revolutionary War.  These days he occupies a prime site in Bushnell Park, below the Connecticut Capitol. 

General Putnam was a Connecticut native who had connections with my Massachusetts hometown.  One of my classmates was a descendant.  Regrettably, I must have skipped class on the day we learned his role in history, because I don't remember.

However, his house was re-made into a very nice ice cream store and some of the prettiest girls in town were hired to scoop ice cream there.  I worked at a competing ice cream store and wasn't anywhere near as good looking.  We sold much less ice cream.  I do remember that . . .

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Theme Day: Bright Colors

Sol Lewitt was born in Hartford.  He developed his interest in becoming an artist as a child taking Saturday art classes at the Wadsworth Atheneum.

Lewitt is credited as a founder of Conceptualism and Minimalism.   He often expressed the plan for a wall installation and then left it to the art students or other volunteers to execute.  Two installations were "ten thousand straight lines and then ten thousand not straight lines" and "fifty randomly placed points all connected by straight lines."  It is an unusual way for an artist to create -- more cerebral than manual skill -- but I find his works fascinating and sometimes exciting.  Would you paint the walls below a very ornate skylight like this?  It wouldn't have occurred to me.

The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford has a Lewitt exhibition that ends on August 15, 2010, though the painted walls will be there after the exhibition closes.  A spectacular exhibition at Mass MOCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, is showing through 2033, so you can see it if you hurry.

Click here to view thumbnails for all participants