Hartford History Bike Route

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Rose Garden, Elizabeth Park, July 2016

This coming week I will be attending the National Council on Public History’s annual conference, here in Hartford. I am very excited to be attending a national conference right here at home. Having followed the twitter feed, and read the conference-specific blog posts, I decided to write one that I would be looking for, if I were traveling to Hartford for the first time.

Yes, it involves a bicycle.

If you are bringing a bicycle (or have access to one, as well as a helmet, appropriate attire, etc. etc.), or want to walk/run 13.5 miles (🥵), this route will bring you past a number of interesting spots in the city. This is a completely urban route, so you must be comfortable riding on city streets with traffic. There are a couple of painted bike lanes, but no protected bike lanes. Often you will have to share the bike lanes with the city buses (among others 🙄). I do ride these streets, and am comfortable doing so, but like everything in life, there is risk involved; you are responsible for your own actions. I have not accounted for any construction that may be in progress; please re-route yourself if necessary. Attempt to follow the “same road, same rules” adage. Sometimes it’s easier than others. You are allowed to ride when the walk sign is on.

You could also do this by car. If you do, please do not drive through an intersection when the walk light is on.

However you travel the city, I hope you enjoy your visit!

View the map and cuesheet here.

These are the points of interest you will encounter. The distances shown are approximate, and cumulative from the Convention Center:

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Alexander Calder’s Stegasaurus, with the Wadsworth Atheneum and Travelers tower, March 2018.

0.3 miles Stegasaurus by Alexander Calder, adjacent to the Wadsworth Atheneum (the country’s oldest continuously-operating public art museum).

JFK spoke from the portico of UConn’s building across the street.

0.5 miles Next up is the Old State House. Lots of things have happened here over the years.

[Oops…I left the Isham-Terry House out of the route. You could take a left onto Walnut St (at 0.9 miles) then a right onto High St. to go past it. You will return to the route at the intersection with Main St (straight-ish) and Rt. 44, when the route has just gone past the Keney Clock Tower.]

1.2 miles Keney Clock Tower. A tower dedicated to Mr. Keney’s mom.

1.6 miles Old North Cemetery. Frederick Law Olmsted is among those buried here.

The SAND School is across the street from the cemetery. You may notice the
Ropkins Branch of Hartford Public Library is located in the school. During riots
over Labor Day weekend in 1969, the library (then located in another building
right near by) was fire bombed. The Hartford History Center holds one photo
of the library after it burned. Among those in the photo is a priest. When
researching the fire recently, I found out the priest was the branch manager
that year! No one currently working for library had been aware of this.

2.9 miles Circus Fire Memorial behind Wish School. A lifelong Nutmegger, I visited the memorial for the first time last year. The weather is taking its toll on some of
the pieces, but it’s still an incredible experience. So many people attended, or
were supposed to attend, or have a story about the fire. It’s hard to put into
words the impact this event had on the city. Continues to have, really. The trees
indicating the location of the tent helped me put into perspective how the
chaos ensued. The structure was small, and the number of people was not.

6.1 miles Chick Austin House. Only 18 feet deep inside! It’s amazing.

7.7 miles Elizabeth Park contains the country’s oldest municipal rose garden. Most of the park is actually located in West Hartford. Connecticut has 169 separate cities and
towns, and no county government.

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Ana Grace playground, December 14, 2017.

8.5 miles Ana Grace “Love Wins” playground, also in Elizabeth Park. Very relevant to
the repair work theme of the conference.

9.6 miles Mark Twain House and Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. Both are worth visits.

10.5 miles Memorial to Alice Cogswell.

10.8 miles Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch. It’s architect is buried inside! Also, it was dedicated on my birthday, so very cool in many ways.

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About to win the Hartford Marathon! Ok, maybe it was the next day. Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, October 2017.

11.4 miles Butler-McCook House. The house will be open for tours on Saturday. It was home to four generations of one family, and is the only 18th century house remaining on Main St.

11.6 miles Charter Oak Cultural Center is Connecticut’s oldest synagogue building.

11.9 miles Church of the Good Shepherd was commissioned by Elizabeth Colt in memory of her husband and four of their children.

12.7 miles Colt Armory. Formerly the site of gun manufacture; now being turned into a national park.

I know I left places out, none of them intentionally. There is pretty much another entire route I could (and still may) put together focusing on the southern portion of the city. And even though Kevin the Turkey is no longer there to greet you, it is worth going a couple extra miles to visit Old Wethersfield. If it were a few weeks later, I would encourage you to ride to Rocky Hill and take the nation’s oldest continuously operating ferry over to Glastonbury. There you would ride past farms, and visit Nayaug, before continuing up to Main St and past the Old Cider Mill; the nation’s oldest continuously operating cider mill.

One time, while attending a conference in Chicago, I borrowed a bike from a fellow attendee and got in a few miles along the lakeshore. It was a great way to start the day. I also brought my bike to a conference in Burlington, VT a little over a year ago, which was equally fabulous. Depending on your needs, I might be able to help you out. You could also check with BiCi Co.

And if you’re looking for something to read, before, after, or during the conference, check out the news from the Hartford Courant, the nation’s oldest, continuously published newspaper. See a theme here?

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Monumental: Part II

Last week, in Part I, I wrote about finishing a project I began over six years ago. This week you get the rest of the photographs, and an attempt at a wrap-up.

Jacob and Hannah were my great-grandparents, my grandmother’s parents.

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Their kids were Bessie (not pictured, I went down a rabbit hole and discovered she is buried in Queens), Henrietta (not pictured, buried in Providence), Dorothy (not pictured, died in San Diego), Matilda, Evelyn (not pictured, died elsewhere), Jesse (not pictured, died elsewhere), and my grandmother, Mabel:

 

Morris and Polena were my grandfather’s parents.

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Their kids were Marion, Minnie, Nathan, Bessie, Julia, Ida, my grandfather, Philip, and David.

Notice that Bessie and Ida are both Zwillingers. Bessie became a widow in the 20s, and Jacob became a widower in 1931. Subsequently, they got married. But what really cuts down on the relatives at Thanksgiving is that my grandmother and her niece Ruth (the daughter of Mabel’s sister Henrietta) married brothers Philip and David. Hard to tell in this pic, but here are David and Ruth together:

ruth_david_rounded

This project was a combination of doing the research, wondering what else I could find, and exploring the area around me. There are so many news articles, census forms, city directory listings, and Sanford maps I haven’t included here. I was also looking for destination bike rides, and affordable entertainment. Cemeteries are quiet, outdoor museums. They have art, history, low-traffic pathways, and I have yet to see a gift shop.

When I started the project, I remarked on how close by the cemeteries were, and I had never stopped before. As the crow flies, none of these cemeteries is more than 10 miles from me. I’ve driven farther than that for good ice cream. One of the cemeteries was even…wait for it…over the mountain!

For those unfamiliar, we here in Connecticut have an obsession with boundaries. The mountain separating West Hartford and Bloomfield on the east, and Avon on the west, is mostly a mountain in our collective psyche. A former co-worker laughs at the Connecticut River. She grew up near the Mississippi, and considers the Connecticut to be an overgrown stream. But heaven forbid if I’d had to cross it to reach one of the cemeteries (having grown up East of the River, it doesn’t stop me much). I joke that anything that’s a 45 minute drive from Hartford is a day trip; clear your schedule. Longer than that? Pack an overnight bag. Heaven knows what you’ll find when you cross the New York, Massachusetts, or Rhode Island border.

All of this is to say, I still believe the cemeteries are close by. And being able to bike to all of them reinforces how close by, and how much you miss when you’re car-dependent. Walkers may even glimpse more.

There was no prize for finishing this, just the satisfaction of knowing I did it. And in case you’re wondering, I have crossed a state line to visit another set of (grandparents and) great-grandparents. I made it back the same day, too!

 

 

 

Monumental: Part I

Once upon a time, in a galaxy quite nearby, I started a project. It was Fall 2012, and I really anticipated I would wrap it up in fewer than 6 1/4 years. Alas.

If you haven’t read the old post, it contains photos of the graves of my maternal great-grandparents, and a few great-aunts and uncles. At some point, I made a list of the aforementioned, as well as the rest of my maternal ‘greats,’ and decided to bike to all the sites.

Since the initial visits to Zion Hill and F.D. Oates Ave. in Hartford, I have pedaled to The Emmanuel Synagogue’s cemetery in Wethersfield, Beth El’s cemetery in Avon, Veterans Cemetery in Windsor, and finally, today, to Rose Hill in Rocky Hill. A couple of years ago I also threw in a visit to Beth Jacob Cemetery (extra bonus points if you know where that one is before I talk about it below).

Rose Hill proved the most difficult. When I first researched it, I couldn’t find any indication online as to where the specific graves would be. This didn’t really phase me, and one day last year I rode over to see if I could locate them. What I had not taken into consideration, on that fine March day, was there was more snow on the ground at that spot in Rocky Hill than in my yard in West Hartford. Further complicating the matter, all the graves in that cemetery are flat. Pancake flat, and under said snow. I’m willing to visit cemeteries, but I choose to keep my digging metaphorical.

I felt confident today that the ground would be clear. And in my research this morning, I found a new (or new-to-me) Rose Hill website providing the section and plot numbers! It was like finding a clearly marked treasure map. It was a nice, sunny, warm day, and since Sundays are for relaxing, I decided to go on an almost 22 mile ride.

(Turns out 32° was not warm enough, at all, for a ride of this length, and it was hard work defrosting my toes when I got home. A little more than three hours after returning, I’m starting to feel warm again.)

Mission accomplished! There they were, my mom’s aunts/my grandfather’s sisters, Marion, Minnie, and Julia.

 

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Group shot

The family lived for many years on Wayland Street, in the south end of Hartford (landmark: Modern Pastry is on the corner…so hard not to stop for a baked good). I rode by as I made my way home. I believe it had a front porch in its early years [update: it didn’t], but otherwise, still there.

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“The house on Wayland Street”

 

I was also able to ride by the Dwight School, where Minnie was a teacher.

My plan back in 2012 was to put all the photos together, family tree style. Look for that post in the next week to 6 1/4 years 😂. The most amazing part is that I have managed to locate all of the photos I’ve taken. The cobbler’s child goes without shoes, and the archivist’s personal digital files go without metadata…

Regarding Beth Jacob Cemetery…somehow I found out that my great-grandmother/my grandmother’s mother had a brother, who had a few children. These folks are buried in Beth Jacob. If you did a Google Maps search, it most likely came up fruitless. In West Hartford, if you stand in the parking lot of the Shield Street Post Office, and look across the road, there’s a small parcel of land where you will find the forever-stamps of my cousins (I think they’re cousins…) Bernard, Henry, and William Glaubman; their father, Isadore; and his second wife, Rose (his first wife, well, read all about it 😳).

 

Perhaps some day I will go back and take photos with the sunlight at a better angle. In the meantime, I’m very excited to have finally visited all the locations on my list, and to have all the photographs. After more than six years, three smartphones, and two hybrid bikes, I have one more post to go before I put this project to rest.

Bike-n-hike (or, A Really Mediocre Photoessay)

“Enjoy the freedom.” Since I left the CHS, I have found this to be the most popular thing people say to those without full time jobs. However, freedom needs to come with a rather large infusion of cash. So while I really wanted to head to Ikea today, I once again chose to go for a bike ride. Though this did nothing to increase the shelf space in my apartment, it did get me to a state park I’d never been to.

You can’t work for four years in the playroom-turned-ballroom of Curtis Veeder‘s mansion without gaining an appreciation for the guy. And having gone three weeks without my daily fix of Veeder engineering, it seemed like the perfect time to visit his property atop Simsbury Mountain.

Entrance to the trails (click to enlarge)

My plan was to take a slow, leisurely ride to the park, hike the trails, enjoy my sandwich with a view, and eventually head back home. The ride there was in fact slow and leisurely. It seems, though, that the state park donated by the inventor of the cyclometer does not have a bike rack or any decent bicycle parking (I was on my hybrid, which has actually lacked a cyclometer for the past few years). This immediately brought the hiking to a minimum. The road around the property is passable by bike (some of it is closed to cars), so I continued my journey on wheels.

I have to say, I was not impressed. There were no maps available at the entrance, but I knew I could, and did, download one from the DE(E)P‘s website. Thank goodness for smartphones. I still was only marginally sure of where I was, most of the time. I made it to Lake Louise, but decided not to eat my lunch there because while it was pretty, I wanted the view. Especially with a bicycle, the view was a little difficult to attain. There is an easier way and a hard way, and I inadvertently took the hard way. This involved a .3 mile hike on the yellow path. Finally I was there.

View from Cedar Ridge Overlook

So were a couple of 20-somethings, smoking a substance I am too naive to recognize (thin cigars?). Whatever it was, I was regretting passing up the picnic tables down at Lake Louise. I also only got photos from the sides of the ridge, because the two were sitting right in the prime spot.

Another view from Cedar Ridge Overlook

Disappointed and hungry, I found the easier path back down to the road, and ended up eating my sandwich back at the Veeder Rock. On a positive note, I had planned the bike ride rather well, and the journey home was almost entirely downhill. When I got home and re-read my friend Steve’s post about Penwood, I realized I had also managed to miss all the good stuff – building ruins and such. I think I may have to go back someday soon; approaching in vehicle.

Same as the first view from Cedar Ridge, but with the zoom

The Hidden Plot

One woman, one bicycle, and a search for dead relatives.

I am not a genealogist. I used to work with a woman who was fairly intent on finding a connection between herself and everyone else in the building. That is a bit intense. I believe it is good to have some knowledge of family history, but grandparents, great-grandparents, and a layer of cousins or two is good enough for me. However, combine anything with bicycling and exploring Hartford’s history, and I’m game.

Garden Street Synagogue. Jacob Richman was a founding member of the congregation.

Regular readers of this blog (*chuckle*) will recall a post from earlier this summer in which I discussed my great-grandfather, Jacob M. Richman. Recently, a cousin found that post. On Friday evening I had a phone conversation with him, during which he told me about the work he is doing on our family tree. He asked me what I knew about when Jacob came to Hartford, and if we have any idea when he actually came to the country. None of this information is easy to find. When the cousin sent me the link to the information he has gathered, I admit, I was hooked.

The timing was really perfect. I need things to focus on in between sending out job applications. If I had called the cousin when he originally contacted me, I would have had all the resources of the CHS at my disposal. Alas, having waited a couple weeks, I had to sign up for the free two week trial of Ancestry.com. After reviewing much of the information on the tree, I decided it was time I did some exploring.

I have visited my maternal grandparents grave many times; it is quite nearby. Never, though, had I seen the graves of my their parents. Locations in hand, helmet on my head, and camera in my pocket, I set out for the cemeteries.

Hartford’s first cemetery, now known as the Ancient Burial Ground, has always been in the heart of the city. As the years went by, the residents of the city came to the conclusion that living so close to death and disease might not be the best policy, not to mention the cemetery was filling up. For their next burial ground, the residents went north, starting Old North Cemetery. Later, Hartford’s first Victorian era cemetery, Spring Grove, would be put into place a few blocks away.

United Synagogues Cemetery, F. D. Oates Ave., Hartford

The Jewish cemetery where Jacob and Hannah Richman are buried is adjacent to Spring Grove. It is one cemetery, occupied by three Jewish organizations, one of which is now known as the United Synagogues of Greater Hartford.

From what I had found on Ancestry, I knew Jacob’s grave was “X53.” Unlike some cemeteries that label their sections, the only markings visible were on the stones themselves. I had no idea where to start. Looking back, I’m fairly certain I started at Row A. It took a while to get to Row X, but eventually I did. Walking up and down each row, I found a few other cousins as well. There was plenty of room between rows for me to walk with my bike. In most cases, there is so little space between headstones, everyone underground must be pretty cozy.

Jacob and Hannah Richman

Next I rode south to Zion Hill Cemetery. I have passed Zion Hill countless times. I couldn’t get to my graduate courses at Trinity College without going by. Yet, I had never been in there. Part of the reason for this is the surrounding fences and gates do not make it appear very welcoming. I entered through the first open gate I found, only to realize later that there were many open gates, and a main entrance.

Zion Hill was too large to employ the start-at-row-A method. Luckily as I rode around, I was able to find the portion of the cemetery occupied by the Hartford Workmen’s Sick Benevolent Association. Even more

Workmen’s Sick Benevolent Association Cemetery, Zion Hill, Hartford

fortunate was that Morris and Paulina Scharr were in the first row I walked down. Since they were “G32” and “G31,” respectively, I then knew which direction to head to find their daughter and her husband, Bessie Scharr and Jacob Zwillinger.

Even though this morning I had found an obituary for another daughter of Morris and Paulina, Ida Scharr Zwillinger, I had somehow missed the fact that she is buried next to her parents. I was glad her headstone caught my eye as I was heading back out of the cemetery (it seems that Bessie Scharr’s first husband died, and following Ida’s death, Bessie married Jacob Zwillinger; it cuts down on the relatives at Thanksgiving).

Jacob and Bessie Scharr Zwillinger
Ida Scharr Zwillinger and her parents, Morris and Paulina Scharr.

Within two hours I had biked through the city, located the markers for several relatives, and visited two Hartford cemeteries I’d never explored before. It was a great way to spend a crisp, late summer/early fall day. Overall, finding the cemetery plots was fairly easy. Some of the roads were a little sketchy, but being on the bike reinforced to me how close these memorials have been to me. I love living in a place that I know so well, yet there is always someplace new to explore.

I was left with one unanswered question. Why did we give the dead people such a great view on the city?

View of the Hartford skyline from Zion Hill Cemetery.

Crash

[I wrote this a couple months ago for the October Syllable night. It is based on a true story, one that happened in 2011. I tweeted tonight that I hope Santa Claus will send a Mr. Darcy my way. I post this as evidence that I’m not just sitting around wishing and dreaming.]

Will you have a drink with me?
I’m not sure I have ever uttered this question. At least, not to anyone other than the Winnie the Pooh, with elf hat, that Ellie gave me for Christmas senior year of high school. Sometimes I put a blue Michigan hat on Pooh because, well, Alex doesn’t wear an elf hat. Alex. Tall, intelligent, funny, Alex.

“Hey, Alex, will you have a drink with me?”
I’ve practiced it numerous times.

“D @alexinwindycity hey…what’s happening tonight…wanna get a drink?”
How hard would a tweet be? I haven’t even managed that.

We met about a year ago; a little more than that, actually. He is also friends with Ellie and Jack, and was part of our mini-gang cruising Lake Shore Drive on our bicycles. Once a year they close the road to cars and it becomes a sea of cyclists. I know we chatted, somewhere between Randolph and Wacker. But with the 5:30 am start, and my lack of a caffeine drip, the rest of the details are rather fuzzy. Since then, as I’ve continued to meld into the mini-gang, we’ve seen each other quite often. Never just the two of us, always a crowd.

Today Alison and I are enjoying cocktails at the Field Museum. You know, one of those events where they try to convince ‘young professionals’ that museums are cool by providing overpriced drinks after work. Alison and I may be pressing the limit on the ‘young’ portion of the phrase tonight (we think the music is too loud) but we both wanted another glimpse of the shoe exhibit.
We are waiting for the band to take a break so we can have a conversation. Alison traces stains on the caterer’s tablecloth. I’m staring at Sue, the museum’s famous T-rex, debating another trip to the appetizers. I always think Sue will be larger than she is. Alison’s finger has traced its way to her Chardonnay. She takes a quick sip, then announces, “Here comes Alex.”
With my thumb and forefinger I break the rim of the styrofoam plate in front of me, grateful Sue’s unimposing stature has distracted me from another tower of cheese cubes. Alex is here. My hair is a mess. Well, at least I don’t have any competition tonight. Alison and I are the only mini-gang representatives, and she is dating Ross. Often Marni is here, with her perfectly curled lashes and…wait, Alex is here? Didn’t he just tweet a photo of…well, he is certainly back now.
I don’t know that I’ve come out and told anyone I want to date Alex. Would I be laughed at? Encouraged? Never again invited to hang out at the bar? I can’t be hurt keeping it to myself. I’ve been here for three years and have had one date, Sam, another friend of Jack’s. Sam doesn’t bike, and the only thing I could talk about with ease was my recent trip home to Connecticut. He found his whiskey glass more appealing than my description of spinning down Old Mountain Road at over 40 miles per hour. Why did I think dating would be less onerous in Chicago? It hadn’t been any easier moving from Connecticut to Michigan, either.

Will you have a drink with me?
Seven syllables. Yet, in a year and a half, despite having his phone number, email, Twitter handle, probably even snail address, the possibility of a “no” answer paralyzes me. That possibility is real, isn’t it? If he were interested, he would have asked me out by now, right?
I wave and smile as he approaches the table. If anyone knows about my interest in Alex, it’s Alison. She certainly hadn’t announced Sam when he walked over earlier in the evening. Other than alerting me to Alex’s presence, though, Alison does not let on that she knows anything.
The three of us converse about our friends, high and low points of our days at work. As the band begins another set, my thoughts drift back to dinner, a few months ago, with Alison, Ross, Sam, and Alex. Who knows what we talked about. All I remember is Alex and I laughing at all the same things. I no longer recall what was humorous, only the moment I realized that though there were others at the table, it was just two of us sharing a laugh.
After that dinner I started daydreaming. Well, continued daydreaming is probably more accurate. Maybe I could get a group together to visit my grandparents’ cabin in Wisconsin. I imagined fishing, rounds of golf, cocktails on the porch. No, I should keep it simple. A drink, just the two of us.
As the song ends my thoughts return to the present. How can I get to know him better? How can I persuade him to spend time with me? When will I see him again? Suddenly my helmet is strapped on. My feet are clipped into the pedals. The chain is in the big ring and I am ready for the descent. Tonight I will ask him out for a drink. Then my mind switches gears. Maybe we could go to a football game. Does he like football? I don’t, but he went to a university with a good team. Maybe he’d go to the Michigan game with me! They’re playing at Northwestern soon.
I ignore my own advice. I don’t keep things simple. I look across the table and find myself asking, “Would you be interested in going to the Michigan game with me?”
My heart doesn’t even have time for the proverbial pounding. He answers immediately.
“No.”
Outwardly I try to keep something resembling a smile on my face. I play it down. “No problem. I was just curious.”
Alison manages to segue the conversation, to what I do not know. I am busy cleaning up a world record size case of road rash; convincing myself it is football he doesn’t like, not me. I should be proud of myself for making the attempt, facing the twin fears of dating and rejection. Instead I want to offer myself to Sue as a snack.
At least I asked late in the evening. A few more minutes and Alison and I are descending the exterior marble steps. “I had to ask. Otherwise I never would have known.”
“Yeah,” Alison replies.
I take that to mean she understands, that she has been in similar situations. Alison neither berates me nor offers false hope. I’m grateful, as it keeps me from dwelling on the topic, at least until I get home. I open the door and see Pooh grinning at me, Michigan hat and all.
Careening downhill at excessive speed doesn’t phase me. Asking anyone other than a stuffed animal out for a drink: petrifying.

[And no, I do not have routine conversations with a stuffed animal.]