Talcott Street, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking west on Talcott Street from Front Street (now Columbus Boulevard) in Hartford, around 1903-1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

Street scene

Talcott Street in 2016:

As mentioned in previous posts, this neighborhood along Front Street in the eastern part of Hartford was once home to a large Italian community. When the first photo was taken, the building on the right was owned by Felix Mainello, an Italian immigrant who operated a saloon at the corner. His wife Mary was also an immigrant, from Ireland, and they lived in the back part of the building along Talcott Street. They also rented out apartments in the building, with the 1910 census showing 9 other households with a total of 42 people, nearly all of whom were born in Italy. A good number of them only spoke Italian, and many had vague occupations like “Laborer” working “odd jobs.”

As with the rest of the neighborhood, this entire scene was demolished between 1958 and 1962 to build Constitution Plaza. Today, there is nothing left from the original photo in the two blocks between here and Main Street in the distance. The site of Mainello’s saloon is now a parking garage, and in the distance modern high-rise buildings line Main Street, with several pedestrian walkways over Talcott Street as well.

Columbus Boulevard, Hartford, Connecticut (2)

Looking north on Front Street (now Columbus Boulevard) from the corner of Temple Street, on April 1, 1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

Front St. north of Temple

Columbus Boulevard in 2016:

Taken just a little further north from an earlier post, there is a lot going on in the first photo. The photo was taken on a Sunday, and the shadows indicate that it was sometime in the morning, so the street is busy, perhaps with people heading to or from church. This neighborhood had a large immigrant population, especially Italians, and many of the boys posing for the photographer in the distance were probably first generation Americans. The buildings in this scene are a mix of architectural styles, with most probably dating back to the mid-19th century, and there are a number of shops in the first floor storefronts, including a grocery store on the far left at the corner of Temple Street, and what appears to be a bar on the far right.

It was once Hartford’s “Little Italy,” but the largely poor neighborhood was hit hard by floods in 1936 and 1938, and over the next couple of decades it continued to decay. Because of its close proximity to downtown, it was eyed for redevelopment, so from 1958 to 1962 the entire neighborhood was demolished to build Constitution Plaza. The project added high-rise buildings to the area, but over the years it has also received widespread criticism for displacing its residents and isolating the plaza from the rest of the city, creating nearly empty streetscapes like the 2016 photo here.

Charles Street, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking north on Charles Street from Kilbourn Street, on March 4, 1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

Charles St. north of Kilbourn

Charles Street in 2016:

The first photo here shows Charles Street as a narrow alley, with what appear to be tenement homes lining both sides of the street. A 1917 city atlas shows that nearly all of the buildings along this street had owners with Italian surnames, so this street was probably home to a number of immigrants. I don’t know if the people in the photo are posing for the camera or eyeing the photographer suspiciously, but they add an interesting human element to the photo, with the well-dressed men smoking pipes on the right side, and the assortment of men and boys on the left side. There are also a few people visible in the distance near the center of the photo, leaning over the railing of a second-floor porch to see the photographer.

The entire neighborhood, including all of Charles Street, was demolished by the early 1960s. To the left is an office building, which is part of Constitution Plaza, and to the right on the embankment just beyond the trees is Interstate 91. Charles Street is still a back alley, although instead of housing poor immigrants it is now a service road running behind the office building on the left.

Columbus Boulevard, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking north on Front Street (now Columbus Boulevard) from near Kilbourn Street, on April 1, 1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

Front St. north of Kilbourn

Columbus Boulevard in 2016:

The first photo shows Front Street just a little further north from the one in this earlier post, which was taken a week later. The view here shows a neighborhood with a wide variety of architecture, from relatively modern four-story commercial blocks to wood-frame houses that probably dated back the the 1700s. The gambrel roofed building just to the left of center was probably one of the oldest, and was likely used as a tenement house by the time the 1906 photo was taken. Several businesses are also identifiable in the first photo, including a grocery store on the left and the Kilburn Cafe on the right, with “cafe” being a euphemism for a bar.

Many of these buildings were likely gone by the 1950s, but any that were left standing were demolished by the early 1960s to build Constitution Plaza, replacing the neighborhood with the hotels, office buildings, and parking garages in the 2016 photo. Part of the design was to build the plaza above street level, and connect the different buildings with pedestrian walkways like the one seen here. The result was a complex that was largely isolated from the city streets, and even though the second photo was taken in the middle of the day on a weekday, the street is completely devoid of any pedestrians, unlike the much more vibrant appearance of the first photo.

State Street, Hartford, Connecticut

Facing west on State Street from Front Street (now Columbus Boulevard) on April 1, 1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

State St. west of Front

State Street in 2016:

Today, this section of State Street is a busy six-lane street that provides access to downtown Hartford from both the Founders Bridge and from Interstate 91, both of which are directly behind the camera. However, when the first photo was taken 110 years earlier, State Street had no bridge or highway connections; instead, it just ended a block away at the railroad tracks along the Connecticut River.

When the first photo was taken, Main Street, which is several blocks in the distance, was the commercial center of the city. It was lined with banks and insurance companies, but the further one moved away from Main Street and down the hill toward the river, the more working-class the neighborhood became. Here, at the corner of Front Street, the grand 1873 post office building can be seen a block away in the center of the photo, but in the foreground is a mix of low-rise buildings, some of which probably date back to the early 19th century. The wood-frame building on the left might even date back to the late 18th century, and in the 1906 view it appears to be a saloon, since it has a Ballantine Brewing Company sign at the corner. On the opposite corner to the right is Thomas Lawler’s liquor store, which is also seen in the previous post.

As mentioned in earlier posts, this entire neighborhood from State Street north to Morgan Street and west to Main Street was demolished in the late 1950s and early 1960s to build Constitution Plaza, but many of the buildings here were probably gone long before then. The old post office building, long controversial because it blocked the view of the Old State House from State Street, was demolished in 1933. Today, the only surviving historic building in this scene is the Old State House, which was built in 1796 and used as the state capitol until the current one was completed in the 1870s. Like the old Massachusetts State House in Boston, it now stands alone as an 18th century landmark amid modern skyscrapers around it.

Columbus Boulevard from State Street, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking north on Front Street, which is now Columbus Boulevard, on April 8, 1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

Front St. north of State

Columbus Boulevard in 2016:

These photos were taken a block east of the ones in the previous post, showing Front Street/Columbus Boulevard, which runs parallel to Market Street. When the first photo was taken, this neighborhood was largely working class. A city atlas from the 1880s shows a number of tradesmen working here, including cobblers, blacksmiths, locksmiths, lumber dealers, carriage shops, and liquor wholesalers. Not much of this had likely changed by the time the first photo was taken, although many of these occupations would gradually decline.

One business that definitely remained in the 1906 photo was the alhocol business, as the large sign for Thomas Lawler indicates on the left side of the photo; he evidently sold ale, lager, and porter for C. Feigenspan Brewing Company. On the other side of the street is a sign for Williams Jamaica Ginger. Marketed as medicine, Jamaica Ginger contained upwards of 70% alcohol, and probably did not cure much else besides sobriety. In later years, during Prohibition, such “medicines” were a popular as a legal way to obtain (somewhat) drinkable alcohol.

Like the scene in the previous post, this entire area was leveled in the late 1950s and early 1960s for an urban renewal project that built Constitution Plaza, which in on the site today. In the process, Front Street was renamed to Columbus Boulevard, and the neighborhood was turned into high-rise office buildings, hotels, and parking garages.