The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Hartford (Connecticut)

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Hartford (Connecticut)
Edition of 1920. See also Hartford, Connecticut on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

HARTFORD, Conn., State capital, seat of Hartford County, port of entry, head of navigation on Connecticut River, 60 miles by water from Long Island Sound. Its steam railroad lines, all owned by the New York, New Haven & Hartford system, run in seven directions, making it the greatest inland railroad centre in the Atlantic States save two. By the main line it is 110 miles to New York and 124 to Boston (a midway position which has enhanced its business, social and cultural development), 36 to New Haven, 26 to Springfield, Mass.; by the old New York & New England lines, on the Highland Division 110 to Fishkill on the Hudson and 90 to Providence, R. I., and via Willimantic 117 to Boston; the Valley Division skirts the river nearly to its mouth (44); the Connecticut Central runs to Springfield by the east side of the river; the Central New England to Poughkeepsie (109) and beyond to Erie and Lehigh connections. Its electric suburban lines, mostly under the same ownership (as is the city system), extend without change to Springfield (a line each side of the river), Rockville (17); Middletown (16); and Bristol, via New Britain (21); besides Umonville (13); Rainbow (12); and South Glastonbury (10); and a line to Norwich (about 38) is under construction. Permanent pop. about 120,000.

Hartford lies on the west bank of the river (which divides it from East Hartford), on rolling ground. The first real hills are the Talcott Mountain Range, half a dozen miles west; but the elevations of Prospect avenue in the western part of the city and Fairfield avenue in the southern afford a superb view across the entire Connecticut Valley, some 20 miles wide. It extends about five and one-half miles north and south to Windsor and Wethersfield lines, by three and one-half west to West Hartford line, about 18 square miles in all; the town and city are conterminous. It is divided about equally by the little Park River, which joins the Connecticut just south of the centre and is crossed by many bridges, whose dams afford large water power, and through whose bed runs the great main sewer into the Connecticut. The chief business street is Main, the original highway to Windsor and Wethersfield, following the river line along the first high ground, the banks of old being widely overflowed in the spring freshets; next State, east from Main to the steamer landing with the chief tobacco and other wholesale warehouses, opening at Main into a wide flare — formerly the market square for country produce teams, now containing the central trolley station — and paralleled on the south with Central Row, a block long; between them lying the old State House (later till recently the city hall) with the post-office building in the rear; then Asylum opposite State, running west past the railroad station, and Pearl parallel opposite Central Row, joining Asylum at its foot by Ford; and Pratt parallel for a block on the north as far as Trumbull, western parallel to Main, from Park River to North Main, whose section from Pearl to Pratt is of rising importance; Church next north of Pratt, just widened 10 feet, is fast assuming business consequence.

It is a place of remarkable beauty in business and public structures, parks and (relatively to its size) unmatched extent of handsome residential streets. Of the latter, with some handsome places on Wethersfield avenue (the chief, Samuel Colt's of firearms fame, is now by his widow's legacy a home for old ladies), the most distinguished are Washington street with its magnificent arch of old elms; western Asylum avenue and correspondent Farmington avenue, with Woodland across the end; and Prospect avenue (north) — the West Hartford boundary, and long built up only on that side to escape Hartford taxes, a reason now obsolete — the most coveted street for new social magnates. Woodland for many years held that position, and the square from it to Forest between the avenues was the pinnacle of social desire; aided by the fact that Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Gen. J. R. Hawley, Charles Dudley Warner and William Gillette had each a house on Forest or the avenue near by. (The costliest place in the city, the granite “palace” of J. P. Morgan's relatives, the Goodwins, is at Woodland and Asylum; but their and other landholdings north left few vacant sites). This position has now been transferred to the section west of Park River beyond Woodland to Prospect avenue, with handsome places extending well into West Hartford; though the edges of Keney Park are drawing in a good class, and there are very many other fine streets and individual dwellings.

The Connecticut is spanned by a superb granite bridge at Morgan street, finished in 1907, the largest in mass of any purely stone bridge in the world, and one of the greatest masses of cut stone of any kind. It has nine spans, and is 1,192.5 feet long, 82 feet wide (London Bridge is 42) with a clear roadway of 80 feet including 10-foot sidewalks, and its arches 45 feet above mean low water, with foundations 50 feet below. All above water is dressed and carved in graceful forms. Its cost was about $1,600,000 by itself; but attendant improvements, including a broad boulevard to State street along die river front, raised it to nearly $3,000,000.

The park system contains above 1,300 acres; there are seven chief with lesser ones, lying in every quarter. The oldest is Bushnell Park (from the great preacher Horace Bushnell who secured its creation), in the heart of the city, 48½ acres; continued south on a sharp rise by the grounds of the State Capitol, where were formerly the buildings of Trinity College. The largest is Keney Park (formerly Ten-mile Woods), purchased, prepared and maintained from the bequest of Henry Keney, in the extreme north, extending into Windsor, containing 663.4 acres. It is managed by private trustees, and is the only one in which automobiles are limited. Next is Goodwin Park in the extreme south, some 200 acres, bought at a generously low figure from Francis Goodwin, Esq. Elizabeth Park in the extreme west, largely in West Hartford, of 100 acres, the bequest (with a maintenance fund) of Charles M. Pond in memory of his wife, is the most beautiful in flowers and trees, and is the nursery for the other parks. Pope Park southwest of the centre, in the chief manufacturing district, is mainly the gift of the late Col. Albert A, Pope of bicycle fame, and has 92 acres, 19 being city additions. Colt Park, 106 acres, was the bequest of Mrs. Samuel Colt, and extends down to the neighborhood of the great fire-arms works. Riverside Park, 80 acres, is a reclamation and beautifying of the formerly squalid river-front north from the stone bridge to the New York and New England Railroad bridge, and was laid out by the late Frederick Law Olmsted, a native of the city. The last two are most useful, being the only practicable resorts for the poor thousands near the river, and the chief city playgrounds for active games. Rocky Ridge Park, 28 acres, is the long narrow strip of the old stone quarry (for street paving) next the bluff at and north of Trinity College, overlooking Zion street and Parkville. There are several smaller squares and spaces: one of a block, Sigourney Square in the west, is on the site of the old poor-farm pesthouse graveyard, shunned for building purposes, and has transformed the whole character of its neighboring residence section.

The city has a remarkable number of handsome and architecturally notable buildings. Foremost is the State Capitol, of white marble, towering over Bushnell Park; the handsomest in the country except the one at Albany, and architecturally surpassing that in many ways. It was completed in January 1880, at a cost of $2,534,024.46; land and other expenses made the total $3,342,550.73. The general plan was of 13th century Gothic, but modern needs forced very many changes in this. Each side is an individual and separately beautiful design; and the interior is as notable as the exterior. Its extreme length is 295 feet 8 inches; depth of centre part, 189 feet 4 inches; depth of wings, 111 feet 8 inches; height from ground line to top of crowning figure, 256 feet 6 inches. It is fire-proof, the only fire-proof capitol in existence. It is still more curiously distinguished as being the only considerable public building in America built within the appropriation. The State Library and Supreme Court, formerly in the Capitol, have been moved since 1910 into a new and splendid building just south, costing $1,375,500; of granite, Italian Renaissance style, fire-proof throughout (the only one of its kind), 294 feet 8 inches frontage on Capitol avenue, and 137 feet 6 inches deep, the main entrance 90 feet back from the curb with a well-kept lawn. The State Arsenal and Armory, finished 1909, is the finest in the United States: of Mohegan granite, 325x275 and 166 feet high, occupying one and three-quarters acres, its drill-room holding 12,000, people. It is on virtually the west part of Bushnell Park across the Park River, near Broad street. East of the Capitol, on Trinity street, is the handsome white granite building of the Orient Fire Insurance Company. Trinity College has fine buildings on high ground in the south part, designed to form a quadrangle.

The south central section of Main street on the east side is rapidly developing into one of the handsomest and most artistic street ranges in the country. To the old nucleus of the Ætna Life Insurance Company's white granite structure (formerly the Charter Oak Life's, but now elevated by four more stories), and across an alley next south the Wadsworth Atheneum's dark-brown, castellated and towered building designed by Ithiel Town, have been added on the north of the former, first the nobly beautiful white granite home of the Ætna (Fire) Insurance Company; then the immense gray skyscraper of the Travelers Insurance Company, 21 stories high including a large tower, the largest business structure in the city; on the south of the Atheneum, the small but elegant memorial of Mrs. Samuel Colt, of Quincy granite and thus lighter colored than its neighbor, joined to the latter without break and continued so by the white marble Morgan Memorial, extending through to Prospect street, erected by J. Pierpont Morgan (of Hartford birth) for a memorial to his father Junius Spencer Morgan, the eminent banker. A 65-foot way was reserved south of the Morgan Memorial grounds, and next have since come the new municipal buildings, handsome classic structures of white granite. Going north, the city hall (old State House), completed May 1796, is of double interest, architecturally and historically; it was designed by Charles Bulfinch, the architect of the United States Capitol, and the famous Hartford Convention of 1814 (q.v.) was held here. The post-office in its rear, of white granite, is a Mullins creation of the Grant era. Opposite this on State street is the tall handsome building of the First National Bank. The red sandstone Cheney Building well north on Main Street, put up as a monument by the great silk firm, was designed by Henry H. Richardson (q.v.), the most original and influential of American architects. On the corner of Main and Pearl is the deep office building of the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company, and down Pearl a short distance are the Phœnix Mutual Life and the National Fire on the south, and the Security Company and the Connecticut General on the north, with the Hartford Fire just beyond at Pearl and Trumbull. The Hartford Life is at Asylum and Ann. The Rossia has a very handsome new structure at Farmington and Broad, next to the high school and theological seminary. Of the individual bank buildings, the most impressive are the Hartford-Ætna's 11-story, on the north corner of Main and Asylum; the First National as above; the Phœnix, Main just south of Asylum; and the Society for Savings on Pratt street. There are many other attractive business and public structures. The three leading hotels are the Allyn (Asylum and Trumbull), the Heublein (facing Bushnell Park at Mulberry and Wells) and the Bond (Asylum near High). Of several handsome church buildings, Saint Joseph's Cathedral (Roman Catholic), on Farmington avenue near Sigourney street is most striking; it is 26x178 feet and 93 feet high, with two heavy towers intended to be crowned with spires. Of the others, Christ Church (Protestant Episcopal) at Church and Main, with its superbly equipped new parish house; Saint Patrick's (Roman Catholic) at Church and Ann, the church of the Good Shepherd or Colt Memorial (Protestant Episcopal) on Wyllys, Trinity (Protestant Episcopal) on Sigourney, Immanuel (Congregational, formerly the Pearl Street) at Farmington and Gillette, and the Church of the Redeemer (Universalist) on Asylum avenue east of the School for the Deaf, call for special notice architecturally. The Center Church (Congregational), Main south of Pearl, is of the highest interest historically, as housing the oldest church society in the city, reaching back to its beginning.

Of the city monuments, the three most prominent for artistic effect are the Soldiers' Memorial Arch, forming a gateway into Bushnell Park across the Park River south of Pearl and Ford; the endlessly satisfying Corning fountain in that park, a gift from John J. Corning of New York — a bronze with symbolical Indian figures, the work of J. M. Rhind; and the modified exedra in Colt Park, crowned by the statue of Colonel Colt. It has also statues of Israel Putnam, by J. Q. A. Ward — an eight-foot bronze with granite pedestal given by J. P. Allyn in 1874; and Horace Wells of Hartford (the discoverer of anæsthesia) by Truman H. Bartlett, erected by State and city in 1875. The city has also two statues of Nathan Hale: one in the Capitol, by Karl Gerhardt, the other in front of the Wadsworth Atheneum, by E. S. Woods. One of the bridges across the river into Bushnell Park, that from Mulberry street, is the gift of George E. Hoadley, Esq., in memory of his grandfather, Jeremiah Hoadley; it is of red granite and excellent workmanship. On North Main street is a clock tower with chimes, erected from the bequest of Henry Keney, the giver of the great park.

The educational institutions are of high grade and distinction. At their head stands Trinity College (q.v.); Episcopal in origin and headship, but wholly non-sectarian in teaching and with a singularly able corps of instructors. The Hartford High School, on Hopkins and Asylum just west of the railroad station, with some 2,500 pupils, stands in the foremost rank and is the most completely equipped in the country. Its main building is 426 feet long with an average of 50 feet wide, and cost in buildings, land and equipment $598,500; but in 1911-15 land was bought through to Broad street and buildings erected for a supplementary technical high school, which cost $689,529.88, has a gymnasium and assembly hall and seats 1,500 pupils. Pupils from surrounding towns are admitted on payment. The city schools are on the district system, despite many attempts at the polls to consolidate them; but the taxes for their support are equalized by reapportionment. There are nine districts, with 20 buildings altogether. The school outlays are about $750,000 a year. There are also three commercial colleges or schools, and a commercial high school at Saint Joseph's Convent; four parochial Roman Catholic schools, with some 2,500 pupils, besides a convent school for Polish children. Hartford has also a theological seminary, the Hartford Theological Seminary on Broad street, managed by the Pastoral Union (Congregational) of Connecticut, with an affiliated School of Religious Pedagogy, once famous at East Windsor; a Roman Catholic seminary for training priests, Saint Thomas' on Collins near Woodland; and a missionary college and seminary of the Fathers of La Salette.

Religiously, Hartford is the seat of a Roman Catholic and a Protestant Episcopal bishop. There are about 70 church societies, of which the Congregational (11), for a century the only one, Roman Catholic (10), Baptist (9), Episcopal (10), Methodist (7), and Hebrew (7 synagogues), are the chief denominations. The Connecticut Missionary Society has its head office here. There are 10 convents: four of the Sisters of Mercy (mother house in the State, established 1853), two of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, two of the Sisters of the Holy Ghost one of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and one of the Felician Sisters of Saint Francis (Polish).

Its charitable and related institutions are renowned. It was the earliest seat of attempts to instruct the United States deaf and dumb, through Thomas Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc; and the School for the Deaf, formerly Deaf and Dumb Asylum, carries on the work in buildings on Asylum and Garden. The Retreat for the Insane (now renamed Hartford Retreat), on Washington street, has endowments which reduce its charges to patients. The Hartford Hospital an South Hudson, Saint Francis' Hospital at Collins and Woodland (R.C, but open to outside paying patients), the Hartford Orphan Asylum, the Watkinson Farm School, the Young Men's Christian Association, the City Mission and Open Hearth, the Hartford Social Settlement, the Old People's Home, Mrs. Colt's munificently endowed home for old ladies, and various other refuges for the aged and indigent, are only part of its overflowing charities. One of the most useful is the Woman's Christian Association establishment on Church street, affectionately known among its friends as “the Home,” for girls' lodging and board, with two buildings, one lately finished; it is managed so as to earn its expenses but make no profit, and place is given to working girls at the lowest rate consistent with this. Saint Elizabeth's Home, R. C., Main opposite Park, does the same service for its class. The Connecticut Humane Society has also its head office in Hartford.

The library facilities of the city are extraordinary; and having been gathered by several different institutions for very diverse functions, are far more varied in contents and utility than if collected by any single one. There are 12 public or class libraries, all cordially helpful to the investigator, containing toward three-quarters of a million volumes, and fully four times as many pamphlets and manuscripts. Two of these, the Hartford Free Public and the Case Memorial, are circulating libraries; the others reference only. In the Wadsworth Atheneum are housed the Hartford Free Public Library, with about 125,000 volumes; the Watkinson Library, with nearly 100,000 and some thousands of pamphlets (the only collections of art books of any extent are in these two); and the Connecticut Historical Society, with some 40,000 volumes and as many pamphlets and about 50,000 manuscripts, its great field being New England and adjacent genealogy and local history. The library of Trinity College, towards 90,000, is strong in the demand by nearly a century of professors for the latest textbooks for their classes in many fields. The Case Memorial Library (endowed by the late Newton Case), in the Theological Seminary, has about 108,000 volumes and above 60,000 pamphlets; and is rich not only in its necessary specialty (including Oriental and other “missionary” languages for its training work), but in English literature, sociology, mediæval history, church music and other relied subjects. The School of Religious Pedagogy has also a considerable library of its own. The State Library has not only an immense collection (close on 200,000 volumes and toward 1,000,000 pamphlets) of public documents, legal reports and digests, State and other laws, Hansard's parliamentary debates (the one set in the city), and a good general reference library, but above 1,000,000 manuscripts, and is the authorized State depositary of all local records in the State not needed for current use in their localities. It and Trinity are also official depositaries of all United States government publications. The Hartford County Bar Association's library in the County Court House (Trumbull and Allyn), the lawyers' working library, has above 10,000 volumes. The Hartford County Medical Association, in the Hunt Memorial building on Prospect street (across the street from the Atheneum Annex, which contains the children's department of the Public Library), is building up a strong medical library from a large recent endowment. Two church libraries also have notable gatherings of great service to both clergy and outside users: that in Saint Joseph's Cathedral of Catholic works especially, and the (Sunday School) Teachers' Library in the Center Church parish house, on Gold street, a large and well-chosen collection of high grade, very different from its old congeners. The High School has a good library.

The Wadsworth Atheneum is a peculiar institution. It is a board of trustees holding the buildings and grounds so named, and including the control and management of the Colt and the Morgan Memorial buildings, already mentioned; in addition, it houses in its buildings the three libraries just specified; and it is also a collector and exhibitor of art objects and museum contents of all kinds. These collections it now places wholly in the Morgan Memorial, which contains not only the late J. P. Morgan's matchless set of tapestries, the finest in America, his splendid collection of Dresden and Meissen porcelains, old faience and other art works, the magnificent illustrated catalogues of his art treasures, his sets of Gould's Birds and Curtis' North American Indians, and other rare and valuable articles, but all the Atheneum's gallery of pictures, gifts and loans of the same, beautiful collections of pottery, silverware, bric-à-brac of all sorts, coins, etc., and also of minerals, birds and eggs, and other matters of natural history. It has also lately come into possession of the late J. Coolidge Hill's fine collection of medals and badges, with his library of literature on them deposited in the Watkinson Library. Mrs. Colt's memorial has collections of firearms illustrating the development of the Colt revolver, and of art objects. Both these are connected with the old Atheneum building by passages on two floors, forming one unbroken interior as exterior. The Connecticut Historical Society has also an interesting and valuable collection of colonial and Indian relics.

Hartford, as the head of navigation and therefore distributing point for the Connecticut Valley, early gained an importance as a centre of wholesale trade which it has never lost; to accommodate this, the Hartford Bank, then the fifth and now (as Hartford-Ætna) the fourth oldest in the country, was organized in 1792. But its largest importance is now as one of the leading insurance centres in the world, and second in the United States. This business seemingly originated in marine insurance on its West India cargoes, and later added fire insurance, which speedily far overshadowed its mate. After tentative efforts in the 1790's, it became permanently established in 1803 as marine, and in 1810 as fire, in the Hartford Fire Insurance Company, followed in 1819 by the Ætna. Life insurance was begun in 1846 by the Connecticut Mutual; accident in 1864 by the Travelers; steam boiler in 1866 by the Hartford Steam Boiler; employers' liability in the early 90's by the Travelers; and live-stock in 1866 and 1867 by companies which abandoned it forever in 1868. The loans of these insurance companies, especially the life with their vast reserves, not restricted in investment by law as are those of New York, have been one of the greatest agencies in developing the West, amounting to billions of dollars. There are now six independent fire companies, the Hartford (largest in the United States), Ætna, Phœnix (also owning the Connecticut Fire but letting it operate separately), National, Standard and Hartford County Mutual, besides the United States branches of several foreign companies; six life companies, the Connecticut Mutual, Ætna Life, Phœnix Mutual, Travelers (life branch), Connecticut General and Hartford; three accident companies, the Travelers, Ætna (department of Ætna Life), and Hartford (branch of Hartford Fire); two general indemnity companies, brandies of the Travelers and Hartford Fire; and the original and largest steam-boiler insurance company of the United States, the Hartford. There are 11 banks of discount, four of them national banks; five trust companies; one State bank, and five savings banks — one (the Society for Savings or “Pratt Street Bank”) the oldest in Connecticut, chartered 1819, and by far the largest.

The manufacturing interests are extremely heavy and varied, leading the world in several important lines: there are about 150 incorporated manufacturing companies in the city. The famous Colt works make all kinds of firearms, including machine guns, and also a great range of machinery for making special machines and tools, a line of work which engages other powerful Hartford companies; two of the foremost typewriters, the Underwood and Royal, have their works here, and in amount and value of product it heads the world, as it does in horseshoe nails and leather belting; it has the largest drop-forging plant in America, if not in the world; it is very prominent in electric machinery, screws, machine tools and chucks, cyclometers, steam-boilers and engines, knitting and book-sewing machines, blowers, steam turbines, coil pipes, plumbers' and railway supplies, and other heavy metal articles; and manufactures also church organs, rubber goods, pottery, furniture, carriages, harness, knit goods and many other things. It has also one of the largest printing houses In New England, The Case, Lockwood & Brainard Printing Company, which has manufactured many famous works; three daily papers, the Courant (morning, Rep.), the oldest newspaper in the country (founded 1764), Times (evening, Dem.) and Post (evening, Rep.); and many regular or casual business and other publications.

The mayor holds office for two years, and the city government is of the regular two-chambered form. The assessed valuation of property is about $145,000,000, making it per capita one of the richest cities in the United States — toward $1,200 per head. The tax rate is something over two cents on the dollar, varying with the district school tax.

The first white settlement of Hartford was by the Dutch in 1633, at the junction of the Park and Connecticut, still called Dutch Point (although the original point is out in the Connecticut). They built there a fort called the “House of Hope” (commemorated by Huyshope avenue). (For the settlement of the Newtown men in 1635-36, and the adoption of the first written constitution of modern times, whence Hartford is called the “birthplace of American democracy,” see Connecticut). Hartford was first named Newtown, changed to the present name in honor of its minister Samuel Stone's English birthplace. From here in 1637 sailed the expedition of 90 men under John Mason which heavily crippled and caused the ultimate destruction of the Pequots, the tribe of recent Indian invaders who had dispossessed the original Indian holders and terrorized the other Connecticut Indians, and who were making Connecticut untenable for civilized settlers. This campaign made possible Connecticut as it stands, and probably in any form. The Dutch were ejected from their fort in 1654; they had never really made a settlement. (For the attempt of Andros to seize the charter, in 1687, see Charter Oak). In 1701 Hartford became joint capital with New Haven. In the Revolution, Hartford, as the head of the one rich store of supplies which the British could not seize, became of prime importance; the second commissary-general of the United States army, Jeremiah Wadsworth, was a Hartford merchant. Governor Trumbull (Washington's “Brother Jonathan”), much of the time in Hartford, was also a strong reliance of Washington, who came to Connecticut to consult him; and in 1780 Washington and Rochambeau planned the Yorktown campaign here. The Hartford Convention (q.v.) of 1814 sat here. In 1873 Hartford became the sole capital of the State. From its original limits have been cut off the towns of West Hartford, East Hartford and Manchester (the latter directly from East Hartford).

Its native and adopted citizens have made the city one of the intellectual glories of New England. It was the birthplace of Noah Webster (West Hartford was cut from Hartford), Frederick Law Olmsted, John Fiske and Edmund Clarence Stedman, and others of less note but of high merit; it had the services of Joel Barlow, George D. Prentice, John G. Whittier and others — after the Revolution, so brilliant a group of Connecticut authors and professional men gathered here or made it their literary headquarters that they were known all over the country as the “Hartford Wits” (q.v.), and are still remembered by the name; it was the long or permanent residence of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Charles Dudley Warner and Horace Bushnell, besides John Trumbull the poet, Lydia H. Sigourney, and the remarkable Stonington Trumbull family — James Hammond, the antiquarian, Indian scholar and librarian, Gurdon the nature painter, and Annie (Mrs. Slosson) the story-writer and entomologist. In the musical field, Dudley Buck, the distinguished composer, was from here; and Henry C. Work of Middletown, the second greatest of American song-wrights, lived much here and died here. In the business world, J. Pierpont Morgan was born here, his father, Junius S. Morgan (by parentage and associations really a Hartford man himself), began his great business career as a Hartford dry-goods merchant, and Edwin D. Morgan, the war governor of New York, began his as a Hartford wholesale grocer and provision merchant.

Forrest Morgan,
Assistant Librarian, Watkinson Library.


Americana 1920 Hartford Conn.jpg

The State Capitol and Soldiers and Sailors' Memorial Bridge and Arch, in Bushnell Park