Our Neighborhood

Today's tidbit --

On May 2, 1903, the Hartford Courant panned Mark Twain's story, "A Double-Barreled Detective Story." The reviewer wrote that "Since the creation of the world, God has kept the scent of the dog for the dogs, and has not given it to man. It strikes us that in this instance God has shown better taste than Mark Twain."

Who's Who in Asylum Hill

Who's Who in Asylum Hill
Henry Green, who lived at 50 Ashley Street, was an early pioneer in the study of X-rays. In fact, he perfected a vacuum tube that focused X-rays and made them the practical diagnostic tool that they are today.

Henry was an immigrant from Birmingham, England by way of Canada, and he settled in Hartford in 1888. He went to work for and eventually took over the Aetna Electric Company, and then as his business in X-ray technology took off he formed a company, Green & Bauer, with John Bauer, a glassblower who also worked for Aetna Electric Company.

Not all of Henry's inventions were practical. At one point he patented a coin-operated X-ray device that would allow users to see inside just about anything. He also conducted numerous demonstrations around town, including several in conjunction with professors at Trinity College, and he may have been a part of the "X-ray parties" that were all the rage at the turn of the 20th century. In fact, Mark Twain is said to have held such a party at his house -- so of course we're looking for any evidence that Henry knew Sam.

Unfortunately, no one fully understood the dangers inherent to X-rays after they were discovered in 1895. Henry's work eventually poisoned him, and he became part of a long list of "martyrs to science," as did his partner John Bauer and another Asylum Hill resident, Burton Baker.

Henry is a great example of the people who make up Asylum Hill -- often unsung, but always making powerful contributions to society. Upon his death in 1914, the American Journal of Roetgenology described Henry as having done "more for the advancement of X-ray tubes than any one man in their manufacture." If you have the chance, pass by Henry's old house at 50 Ashley at some point -- it's part of the Gardens of Ashley self-guided tour -- and remember Henry the next time you have an X-ray at either your next doctor's or your next dentist's appointment.

Sources: Hartford Courant & the American Journal of Roetgenology

Where's Where in Asylum Hill

Where's Where in Asylum Hill
Asylum Hill has the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center and the Mark Twain House, but it also has countless other sites to see, each offering its own unique contribution to Hartford and, in some cases, the country. From houses to churches, Asylum Hill has a remarkable collection of grand architecture and offbeat nooks that you won't believe you've driven by for years without noticing.

Every summer, NINA partners with Aetna and The Hartford to offer weekly walking tours for the employees of these companies as well as the general public. Participants on the Asylum Hill Walking Tours are greeted by a community stakeholder (a resident or someone very active in Asylum Hill) who conveys them to their guide for the week. Every week participants gain new knowledge and insights into Asylum Hill, and we hope you'll participate. The Summer Walking Tour series for 2015 has concluded, but we'll be gearing up soon for 2016.

What's What in Asylum Hill

What's What in Asylum Hill
We found this in a wall at 1 Imlay Street.
The great thing about Asylum Hill is that there are thousands of stories waiting to be told. Like this one: this is a wedding invitation we found at our project at 1 Imlay Street. Turns out the invitation was sent to one of the home's earliest owners, Eliza Brazell, who turns out to be the great grandmother of a woman who works at Aetna -- and who walks past our project every day. She reached out to us, and with her help we learned that the "island home" is King's Island on the Enfield-Suffield line and that the father of the brides, DeWitt Clinton Terry, was a Millerite who bought the island as a place from which to await the end of the world.

We find lots of things as we work in the neighborhood, and we encounter lots of people who have personal memories to share. When we were working on installing the new gas line at our project at 235-237 Sargeant Street, the CNG technician who came out told us that his grandparents had lived on the street and that he could remember buying fruit from the vendor pushing his cart down the street. And we met the grandson of the owner of 199-201 Sargeant Street, who remembered his grandmother feeding people who came to the back door, which led to the kitchen, during the Great Depression. Or there was the great granddaughter of George Zunner, the architect who designed our building at 207-213 Garden Street, who came across us because she was researching her family history online.

If you have a memory or anything else you'd like to share, or if you're looking for more information on your own connection to Asylum Hill, please contact us by e-mail to let us know. We're happy to help -- and we're happy to get help, too!

Asylum Hill Walking Tours

Asylum Hill Walking Tours

The 2020 Summer Walking Tour Series Will Happen -- Just Not Now!

You've probably already guessed by now that we've postponed this year's series.  We're still hoping that we will be able to run tours this summer, but just in case we've started working on self-guided tours and tours you can take from the comfort and social distance of your own computer.  Check back soon for details, and we'll send out an e-blast as things developed.

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Support for these tours is generously provided by

For more information, contact David Corrigan, NINA Program Manager, at 860-244-9390 or by e-mail, or sign up for our new Summer Walking Tour newsletter, which will be distributed weekly throughout the summer.