Asylum Hill is a 615-acre centrally located Hartford neighborhood
with about 10,500 residents. It rises uphill directly west of downtown
Hartford but is mostly flat until it slopes downward at its western
edge along the flood plain of the north branch of the Park River.
It is a neighborhood with natural and man-made boundaries. Besides
the Park River it is bounded on its other three sides by railroad
tracks and interstate highway I-84.
the early 1800’s the area became known as Asylum Hill after
the first institution for educating the deaf in the country, the
American Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb
(now American School for the Deaf), was built there.
the early 1900’s Asylum Hill had become an established residential
area with spacious Victorian style homes. Many prominent Hartford
citizens lived in the neighborhood.
insurance companies moved to the neighborhood from downtown in the
1920’s and brought major change to Asylum Hill. To make room
for corporate headquarters, employee parking and housing, blocks
of single family homes were replaced by apartment buildings with
small one-bedroom and efficiency apartments.
In time, people’s
housing preferences changed. As the market shrunk for one bedroom
and efficiency units, the need for family housing increased. The
city and neighbors have been working for several years on housing
programs to reduce the amount of small apartments in Asylum Hill,
replacing it with housing that can accommodate families.
insurance companies, Aetna, The Hartford, Mass Mutual, a regional
hospital, St. Francis Hospital Care, and ING have a large presence
in Asylum Hill. They employ 20,000 people who travel to and from
work through the neighborhood.
Hill is home to major cultural institutions, mostly located
within a few blocks on Farmington Avenue. The Hartford Courant
Arts Center on Farmington Avenue provides a home base for three
arts groups attracting students and performers from the region.
The Arts Center has dance studios for the dance program of the Hartt School
of the University of Hartford, rehearsal space for Hartford
Symphony and Connecticut
Opera. One block away on Asylum Avenue, Hartford
Conservatory offers music
training programs, especially for young people.
Also on Farmington
Avenue is Nook Farm, where homes of Asylum Hill’s most famous
residents have been restored and opened as museums. The
Mark Twain House and Museum, a national historic landmark, and
Beecher Stowe Center attract one hundred thousand visitors from
around the world annually. Across from Nook Farm a carriage house
has been recently converted into a black box performance center
A new addition
to the Asylum Hill is Connecticut Public Television. CPTV is renovating
an office building for a state-of-the-art headquarters on Asylum
in 1864 with Asylum
Hill Congregational Church, religious institutions have been
a prominent physical and social presence in the neighborhood for
over a century. Churches like St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Trinity
Church and Immanuel
Congregational have stunning, yet vastly different, architectural
features. Other neighborhood churches are Grace
Lutheran and Asylum Hill Baptist.
As part of
their ministry, most churches offer outreach and social service
programs to the neighborhood. The congregations of some Asylum Hill
churches are predominantly suburban. Yet the parishioners have immersed
themselves in neighborhood projects like tutoring at West Middle
School, art programs and the Loaves and Fishes food pantry and jobs
neighborhood project led by church members and neighborhood residents
has resulted in the construction of a Boys and Girls Club to provide
supervised recreation for the children of Asylum Hill.
are active in improvement projects through the Asylum Hill Problem
Solving Revitalization Association. Traffic calming, public safety,
housing and education are key issues. In 2003 area corporations
funded a new organization, Northside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance
(NINA), to support continued revitalization projects in Asylum Hill.