Back in 1999, a devastating fire destroyed the old, vacant, former Arrow-Hart & Hegeman Factory along the south side of Hawthorn Street. At the time, it was considered one of the largest fires in Hartford's history, and firefighters from over eight neighboring towns sent crews to help fight the fire. In just about three hours, the fire caused the 465,000 square foot building to collapse, and in its wake it left a pile of debris and a brownfield. Ash and burning embers were blown as far away as South Windsor, and the smoke cloud was high enough and thick enough that it registered as a rainstorm on local weather radar.
This tour will take you back to the fire, talk about the criminal probe that was launched, and consider some of the major effects of the fire that are still visible today. We'll also highlight some of the historic features around the factory site, including the location of Katharine Hepburn's childhood home, the first house Samuel Clemens and his family lived in, and the first home built in this part of Asylum Hill that wasn't a mansion. We'll also talk about point out some of the changes that have helped to revitalize Hawthorn Street in the last two decades, including CTfastrak and NINA's next project at 80 Hawthorn Street. And, of course, we'll point out the luckiest building in Hartford!
The tour will be led by David Corrigan, NINA's program manager, who was one of the many people who turned out to see the fire. The tour will cover two long (four short!) city blocks, so we'll move pretty quickly to make sure we can get there and back in an hour. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and maybe bring an umbrella -- so far, it looks like any rain will be past us by noon, but these days we can't be sure!
We'll meet at the Aetna sign on the corner of Farmington and Sigourney, before crossing the street at the intersection and heading south on Sigourney to Hawthorn.
The tour will head down Hawthorn Street to Forest Street, then double back before concluding back at Aetna's campus.