Historic Buildings and Districts
There are numerous buildings and blocks
on or near Farmington Avenue that have been designated historic
and are listed on the State and/or National Register of Historic
Places. The Mark Twain Home at 351 Farmington Avenue is also listed
as an National Landmark, a designation reserved for very significant
historical or cultural sites.
buildings listed as having historical significance are:
- 86 Farmington
- 180 Farmington
Avenue (Funeral home)
Farmington Avenue (private condominiums)
- 351 Farmington
Avenue, Mark Twain House (museum)
- 360 Farmington
Avenue, Immanuel Congregational Church
Farmington Avenue, Rusden Lake House
- 36 Forest
- 66 Forest
- 71 Forest
Street, Harriet Beecher Stowe House (museum)
- 77 Forest
Street, Day-Chamberlain House (museum office)
- 140 Hawthorne
Street, John and Isabella Hooker House (apartments)
- 22 Woodland
Street, (Town & County Club - private)
- 49 Woodland
Street, Perkins Clark House (office)
Park (public park)
- Asylum Hill
- Laurel and
Marshall Streets Sub-district
- Nook Farm
and Woodland Street Sub-district
- Imlay and
Laurel Streets Sub-district
- West End
Little Hollywood Historic District
- West End
North Historic District
- West End
South Historic District
Avenue Historic District
Until the mid
1850’s Asylum Hill was mostly farmland and known as Lord’s
Hill, named after one of Hartford’s original settlers. One
farm, the Imlay farm, was as large as 100 acres. Area farmland also
included Hartford’s Town Farm and Almshouse in the Sigourney
Square area, located on the northern section of the neighborhood.
became known as Asylum Hill after the American Asylum for the Education
and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb (now American School for the Deaf)
was built in 1821 on land later bought by the Hartford Fire Insurance
Company. The asylum was built by a prominent Hartford doctor whose
daughter, Alice Cogswell, became deaf after a bout with spotted
established a school with Thomas Gallaudet to teach deaf people
to communicate by sign language. Gallaudet traveled to France to
learn the newly developed technique of sign language and brought
his knowledge back to Hartford to establish the first school of
this kind in the United States. In 1953 the National Association
for the Deaf erected a bronze statue of Alice Cogswell at the junction
of Farmington and Asylum Avenues that serves as a welcoming gateway
to the neighborhood.
Hill began to emerge as a residential district as living conditions
in downtown Hartford became crowded by the rise of immigrants who
came to work in factories. Homes in Asylum Hill were developed for
the upper middle class and the very wealthy. It was a fashionable
place to live and its residents had prominent roles in Hartford’s
economic, cultural and political life.
In 1851 John
Hooker and Francis Gillette bought the 100-acre Imlay farm. They
called it Nook Farm as it hugged a large bend in the north branch
of the Park River. Hooker and Gillette built homes on the former
farm and then subdivided the land and sold it to family and friends.
Hooker’s enormous Gothic style house, built in 1853, still
stands near the corner of Forest and Hawthorne Street, tucked behind
some 1950’s era apartment buildings.
Nook Farm became
internationally known as a literary and politically active community.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of numerous books and internationally
known for the antislavery bestseller Uncle Tom’s Cabin, moved
to Nook Farm in 1863. Stowe’s sister was married to John Hooker.
Stowe’s Gothic revival home with Victorian gardens are beautifully
maintained today and opened to the public as a museum, research
library and program center.
better known by his pen name, Mark Twain, was so impressed by the
Asylum Hill neighborhood he brought his bride to live at Nook Farm.
Twain built an extraordinary home, with lots of gables, colored
and textured brick, porches and other effects said to be inspired
by the style of Mississippi River steamboats.
Twain lived in Hartford for nearly 20 years. He and his wife Olivia
raised three daughters and were very happy in their home. Here he
wrote most of his major works including Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry
Finn, and a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. A bad
business investment in a typesetting machine brought Twain to the
brink of bankruptcy. He moved in Europe in 1891 to economize and
raise money to pay off his debts. Sadly his wife died in Europe
and a few years later his daughter Susy died suddenly from meningitis
while living at the Farmington Avenue house.
two tragedies Mark Twain never lived in his Hartford house again.
It was sold and became a boy’s school, apartments and a Hartford
Public Library branch. Restoration of the house for a museum began
in the 1970’s. Today it has many of the original furnishings,
stained glass and even one of the original typesetting machines
that led to Twain’s financial ruin. The Mark Twain House has
the distinction of being designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Nook Farm other farms were sold off and developed for middle and
upper middle class families. The homes on Gillett, Laurel and Marshall
Streets were well built, modestly imitating many of the features
of the grand homes in the neighborhood such as textured masonry,
ornamental shingles, front porches, stained glass and fancy trim.
The north section of Laurel Street is a good example of the kind
of housing that was built in Asylum Hill in the late 1800’s.
As the neighborhood
developed as a residential area, churches and a hospital were built.
St. Francis Hospital was opened in 1897. Three large Gothic brownstone
churches were erected in the late nineteenth century. Asylum Hill
Congregational Church was built on Asylum Avenue in 1864-65; Trinity
Episcopal Church on Sigourney Street in 1891-98 and St. Joseph’s
Cathedral in 1892. Immanuel Church on Farmington Avenue, dedicated
in 1899, was a completely different style from what was popular
at the time. Architect Ernest Flagg used a fourth-century, Renaissance
style church in France as a prototype. Immanuel has green and yellow
Byzantine tiles above the front door of the church that were so
controversial that they were plastered over and not uncovered until
the time Hartford Fire Insurance Company moved from downtown Hartford
to Asylum Hill in 1920-21, Hartford had become known as the insurance
capital of the nation. Conservative management by Hartford Fire
and other local companies had enabled them to pay out all claims
and remain solvent where other companies faltered when disaster
struck in 1871 with the great Chicago fire and years later in 1906
with the San Francisco earthquake.
Aetna Life and Casualty Company built an enormous brick, classical
Colonial style home office at 151 Farmington Avenue. Other companies
would follow, such as Connecticut Mutual, Security and Covenant.
became an employment center for tens of thousands of people. Most
of the single-family residences were replaced with apartment buildings
designed for single workers, changing the character of the neighborhood
as population density and traffic increased. Large institutions
– corporations, churches and cultural – remain a major
and important feature of Asylum Hill.
neighborhood has changed greatly in the last 150 years, many architecturally
interesting buildings from by-gone eras remain, especially within
one block of, and on, Farmington Avenue.
West End of Hartford was developed as a residential neighborhood
mostly between 1890 and 1920. While neighborhood streets were laid
out decades before and some houses were built in the late 1870’s,
periodic economic slumps caused unsteady development of the area.
Enterprising real estate developer Eugene Kenyon went broke as he
tried to cash in on homes built on speculation.
built on the main arteries in the West End, Farmington, Asylum and
Prospect Avenues, were for the wealthy and the side streets in between
were for the middle and upper middle class. Houses were constructed
in a variety of styles, such as Second Empire cottages, Gothic Revival
cottages, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Georgian Revival and Tudor
Revival and were influenced by other architectural styles such Renaissance
Revival, Mission, Swiss Chalet, Bungalow and Prairie.
The mix of
architectural styles in the West End is not incompatible. In fact,
it has made this well-preserved residential neighborhood one of
Hartford’s most visually interesting.
has two architecturally significant public schools, Noah Webster
and the University of Connecticut School of Law. Noah Webster, named
after the author of the Webster dictionary, was built in phases,
beginning in 1900. Its Tudor style, with stone, timbers and stucco,
blends in well with nearby residences. Some of its classrooms and
library were built with fireplaces. Special architectural features
of Noah Webster may be attributed to the additional funds neighborhood
residents collected for its construction.
University of Connecticut School of Law was originally built in
1923-29 for Hartford Seminary Foundation. Built on 30-acre campus
with multiple Gothic style buildings, Hartford Seminary educated
men and women for the clergy. In the late 1970’s the complex
was sold to the state to house its growing law school. When the
state expanded the campus by building a four-story library in the
1990’s, it duplicated the style and materials used in campus’s
early construction. The builders did research to find the quarry
used for the original buildings and constructed a Gothic style library
using the same local quarry. As a result the library blends in perfectly
with the original buildings.
Seminary sold its campus for the law school, it didn’t leave
the West End. It hired noted architect Richard Meier & Partners
to construct a post modern style new building that is a regular
attraction for architects from around the world.
residential areas of the West End look as they did when they were
built at the turn of the twentieth century, Farmington Avenue has
not fared as well. A few of the original houses remain and have
been converted into office use. However, low-rise commercial construction,
geared to accommodate the automobile, has replaced an avenue once
lined with gracious homes.
Most of the
West End neighborhood is listed as an historic district in the National
Register of Historic Places.
on the Asylum Hill and West End neighborhoods can be found in Hartford
Architecture Conservancy’s publication, Hartford Architecture:
Volume Three: North and West Neighborhoods, the Hartford Collection
at the Hartford Public Library and the library of the Connecticut
Historical Society, located on Elizabeth Street, in Hartford’s