Allyn House, Hartford Connecticut

The Allyn House at the corner of Asylum and Trumbull Streets in Hartford, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:


The Allyn House was built in 1857 by Timothy Allyn, and in its heyday was one of the city’s premier hotels.  In his 1867 Illustrated Guide to the Connecticut Valley, Henry Martyn Burt describes it as “the largest and most elegant” of Hartford’s hotels, and that “no pains have been spared to make this a first class hotel in every respect.”  As built, it could accommodate almost 300 guests, many of whom were likely businessmen involved in Hartford’s insurance industry, as well as politicians working and visiting the state capital.  Around the time that the first photo was taken, it was the Hartford residence of many prominent state politicians; at various times the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Comptroller, Attorney General, and Speaker of the House lived here.

The ground floor of the building had several stores, including the Allyn House Drugstore, which as seen in the first photo offered “Ice Cream Soda,” and another sign advertises that “We Make A Specialty of Fancy Egg Drinks.”  There are two bicycles leaning against the building, and based on the frames one appears to be a men’s bike, and the other a woman’s bike.  Perhaps a young couple stopped at the drugstore to get some ice cream soda on a hot summer day?

The building was demolished in 1960, and today the location is at the southeast corner of the large block around the XL Center.  However, one of its contemporaries survives today; the building at 105-115 Asylum Street is located diagonally across the intersection, and it was built in 1855.  It was also owned by Timothy Allyn, and architecturally bears some resemblance to the former Allyn House.  A present-day photo of it can be seen on the Historic Buildings of Connecticut blog.

Hartford Life Insurance Company, Hartford Connecticut

The Hartford Life Insurance Company building at the corner of Asylum and Ann Uccello Streets, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:


The building in the first photo was once the home of the Hartford Life Insurance Company, and it stood on the northeast corner of Asylum and Ann (today Ann Uccello, named after Hartford’s first female mayor) Streets.  Aside form housing insurance offices, the ground floor also featured a number of storefronts, with the Jas. Duggan & Co. situated at the corner.  The awning advertises what was apparently a house brand medicine of likely dubious quality, called Duggan’s Rheumatic Elixr.  Elsewhere in the windows, other advertisements are visible, including several for Moxie soda, which as mentioned in this post was sold as a product with medicinal benefits.

However, perhaps the most bizarre ad is the large banner just to the left of the corner, which reads “Your Mother gave You Sulphur and Molasses. Give Your Children Sulphur and Molasses Kisses.”  Apparently these ingredients were once commonly taken in the spring and fall as “blood purifiers,” a belief that was probably based in part on sulfur’s laxative effect.  It was, like many other drugs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (and, to an extent, today as well), marketed using all sorts of vague claims about benefiting the liver and kidneys, curing malaria and “blood troubles,” and in general “maintaining bodily vigor and health.”

Today, the site of the building is now part of the large block that makes up the XL Center, formerly the Hartford Civic Center.  The arena opened in 1975, and was home to the NHL Hartford Whalers before the team moved to Raleigh and became the Carolina Hurricanes.  Today, the facility is used by the Hartford Wolf Pack minor league hockey team, and is often used by the University of Connecticut basketball teams for important games.