A series of entries designed to capture the ongoing adventures of NINA! See how we came to be where we are today, and follow along as we enter the new century of social media!
Not even a pandemic can stop us! Today we closed on the sale of 117 Sigourney Street, and the new owner and her family will now call one of the units their new home. They are longstanding Hartford residents, and we're glad they chose to buy their first home here. In case you’re wondering, real estate transactions are exempt from remote working restrictions, but we did nonetheless take every precaution and practiced social distancing throughout the closing process. It was unlike any closing we’ve participated in before – and we’re hoping we won’t have to have another closing like it again.
Kim Kann, Senior Director, Public Relations and Corporate Communications at ConnectiCare, dropped by 115 Sigourney Street today to present NINA with a grant through Connecticut's Neighborhood Assistance Act program. ConnectiCare has supported NINA for last three years, and we were thrilled today to be able to give Kim a look at what ConnectiCare's contribution helps to support.
NAA grants support energy-efficient features at affordable housing projects, in particular at historic rehabilitations, where the cost of installing energy-efficient features can be very expensive. ConnectiCare's generosity helps NINA to keep our homes affordable to buy and affordable to live in, and that helps to revitalize Asylum Hill.
Pictured here are Susan Winkler, Executive Director of the Connecticut Insurance and Financial Cluster and NINA Board Member; Kim Kann; and Ken Johnson, NINA Executive Director.
We are very grateful to ConnectiCare and to Kim for their continued support for our work!
Plus a shot of the whole lot from the intersection at South Marshall Street. This photo captures Asylum Hill history, with 140 Hawthorn Street in the background, 86 Hawthorn in the center, and the old foundation of Marshall Gardens in the foreground.
NINA was thrilled to attend today Connecticut Natural Gas's annual Neighborhood Assistance Act Grant Recipient Ceremony at the Energize CT Center in North Haven. CNG has been a big supporter of NINA's work over the last decade, contributing both to our projects and to our operations, and we are very grateful for their generosity.
Connecticut's NAA program is a terrific one -- it allows non-profits like NINA to apply for funding to support energy-efficient features in affordable housing projects while giving the corporation's that contribute through the program a deduction in their state income tax liability. For NINA and CNG, it's a great pairing, as we apply the funds CNG contributes toward the cost of energy-efficient boilers powered by natural gas and double-paned, low-E windows that help to keep heating costs down.
Pictured here is NINA's program manager with Eileen Lopez-Cordone, AVANGRID Community & Economic Development Specialist, and Al Carbone, Manager of Government and Community Relations. CNG is a subsidiary of AVANGRID.
We’re trying to figure out if this is the first time we had volunteers from two different places. We think it is, and we think we’ll do it again! Rich Grobe and Tony Mein supervised today.
Kyle Bergquist posted a piece on his blog today about 115 Sigourney Street and our work in Asylum Hill. Kyle and his wife Amy are Hartford real estate agents (they not only sell homes in Hartford but live in Hartford, too!), and they have been terrific supporters of NINA's work over the years. For Hartford Heritage Homes, they pitched in by helping us out with a market analysis on the project that we submitted to our funders for this project. This analysis persuaded the funders that our homes would sell, and that in turn led to our ability to get this project underway!
Hartford and NINA are very fortunate to have partners like the Bergquists who are committed to the revitalization of Hartford.
We really lucked out this year! This was our third group from The Hartford as part of Day of Caring. The Hartford is committed to community service, and it gives its employees the opportunity to volunteer for Day of Caring as fits their schedule. This has been a tremendous boon for NINA over the years, as every volunteer helps us to keep our homes affordable for their future owners.
We are very fortunate that The Hartford is one of our member institutions! As has happened for the previous several years, we got a second group of volunteers for the Day of Caring. This group included Andy Daly, president of our Board of Directors, and his boss, David Robinson, who is General Counsel at The Hartford.
We had our annual group of Trinity College freshmen volunteering today at all of our project sites. These two students were at 115 & 117 Sigourney, while the rest were down on Hawthorn -- and yes, I was too lazy to go down and get a group shot.
I did learn something today: this group volunteered as part of Bantam Beginnings, the official name for the freshman orientation program. They've been volunteering with us for at least eight years, and I never knew it was called Bantam Beginnings!
Chris Montross and Brenda Pabon stopped by the project site today for some photos to salute Aetna’s contribution to the new homes at 86 and 88 Hawthorn Street. Aetna has contributed directly to the project through funding and volunteers, but even more critically Aetna donated the land on which these two town homes – as well as the two yet to come at 80 and 82 – occupy. Aetna has been instrumental in the transformation of the Nook Farm section of Asylum Hill, supporting the work of our peers on South Marshall Street and Laurel Street as well as taking the lead role as a major supporter of our project at 1 Imlay Street. And of course, Aetna is one of NINA’s member institutions, and Aetna supports our operations annually and has done so since helping to create NINA in 2003.
Pictured here are Chris and Brenda with Ken Johnson, standing in the bay window of 86 Hawthorn and holding architectural renderings of all four town homes that will eventually occupy this site.
A group from The Hartford came down to 86 Hawthorn today to pitch in with the framing. The group included Andy Daly and Rachel Pattison, both members of NINA’s board of directors. It was a blistering hot day, but they worked hard, stayed hydrated, and had a good time.
The old ServCorps gang got back together for a day of framing at 86 Hawthorn.
Edward Peltier and Jean Linderman from the American School for the Deaf came down today to take people on a tour of the former campus of their school – which, of course, is currently The Hartford. They led an informative tour that showed people where the school’s various buildings had been, and they explained the connections the neighborhood still has to the school: Asylum Avenue, Cogswell Street, and the statue of Alice Cogswell in Gallaudet Triangle.
Among the things we learned today: students from the school once lobbied Hartford to change the name of Asylum Avenue to something else.
Ed and Jean will be back next year, so if you missed the tour today make sure you don’t miss out in 2020!
A peek into the future living area on the third floor.
Carl of Farmington Valley Wall Concepts painting the gable.
Back in 1947, some developers started work on Marshall Gardens, a complex comprising 10 buildings that were planned to be affordable housing for veterans returning from World War II. At the same time, the Connecticut Highway Commission, precursor to the Connecticut Department of Transportation, was planning for the East-West Expressway through Hartford. The expressway, better known now as Interstate 84, had three different paths through the center of the city, but the Highway Commission wasn’t in any hurry.
Until, that is, they found out about Marshall Gardens. he developers had gotten as far as framing their new buildings when the Highway Commission condemned the three southernmost buildings and seized the land on which they sat through eminent domain. They demolished the frames, and they backfilled the foundations. As it turned out, the expressway would go a bit to the south of this property, and the property eventually became parking for the factory across the street (which burned down in 1994) before it passed to Aetna.
Today, that property is 80-86 Hawthorn Street. Pictured above are the concrete slabs we found when we excavated for the foundation at 86-88 Hawthorn – they comprised the old foundation of one of the condemned Marshall Gardens buildings. In the background, the brick building is the southernmost building of Marshall Gardens that remains.
In case you’re wondering, yes, the Department of Transportation will affect Hawthorn Street again, once it figures out what it will do to the I-84 Viaduct. Everything old is new again.
Jonathan Clark took us around the Sigourney Square District and showed us some of the neighborhood that used to be and how it became the neighborhood you now see. Jonathan is the one in the cap pointing.
Anneke Velthuizen volunteered at 115 & 117 Sigourney Street today. Anneke, who works at Aetna, pitched in with Keith Powell and David Cunningham to get a lot of work done today, which helps us to keep our homes affordable for their future owners.
Interested in volunteering? We advertise volunteer opportunities through our member institutions, but if you don’t work for one of them you can contact us directly to inquire about what we might need.
Or maybe Trinity Episcopal Church is taking a cue from us? In any case, we’re not so alone anymore.
Another floor, another strip of wallpaper. Same period, though.
Trinity Episcopal Church has officially kicked off its capital campaign to restore its historic structure, a project close to NINA’s heart. These shots are from the sanctuary: the organ and the coolest radiator system ever.
I inadvertently came across some information about this tree – it may sit atop the actual Asylum Hill! It turns out that an oak tree had been at this spot for a very long time, and the oak marked the summit of Asylum Hill. Then about 110 years ago that oak died and had to be removed. A new tree was then planted, and although I haven’t confirmed it yet, I’m pretty sure it was this very tree.
There are two wrinkles to this tale. The first is that while this may mark the summit of the hill, it’s probably not the highest point any longer. When Garden Street was paved and widened, workers removed the dirt from the summit and moved it to what would become the walls of the reservoir, which is now The Hartford’s visitor parking lot – and which is now a higher point than the summit. The second is how high above the sidewalk the tree is. The workers were careful not to disturb the original oak tree, which meant they left its root ball intact. That mound of mulch between the sidewalk and the base of the tree, then, marks the location of the oak’s root ball.
How cool is that?
The future footprint of the town homes is easier to see now.
Been meaning to post a photos of the wallpaper we found behind the more modern wallboard for awhile now.
The new hardwood floors are going in. The wood inlay, which is in between the parlor and the kitchen and in between the dining room and the side parlor, marks the original front of the house. We thought it would be a nice feature to mark the divide between the original 1880s house and the 1890s addition, and we think the wood inlay looks really good.
Also, take a look at the poster covering the front door. That’s the last connection to the old non-profit that had its office here, and we’ll be breaking that connection soon.
The Partnership for Strong Communities mentioned NINA's work on affordable housing in Asylum Hill in a nice piece on diversifying Hartford's affordable housing stock on its web site today. Not to sound ungrateful, but they did get the address of the Zunner Building wrong! It's at 207 Garden Street, and it does include a three-bedroom along with several one-bedroom apartments, all of which are affordable and in a fantastic location. The addresses that the piece did list, 87 and 89 Atwood Street, are still NINA projects, though. They are the side-by-side, three-story townhomes that we located behind the historic facade of a Perfect Six.
The other address listed, 4-40 Vine Street, is a fantastic set of buildings beautifully restored by our peer CDC, Sheldon Oak Central.
It's always fun to pull down the modern walls in a historic building, because you just never know what you'll find. At 117 Sigourney Street, we found a bucket above the ceiling. Best guess is that it was a worker who left it there, from when the building was built or for some repair work done after that.
The Friends of Sigourney Square Park hosted the Fifth Annual Caroling in the Park tonight. The event was sponsored by the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association and NINA, with support from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford and Youth Challenge. Santa arrived on a sleigh provided by the Hartford Fire Department, and he heard Christmas wishes from kids (and adults!) and helped to lead the singing. The Glory Chapel Choir provided cover for anyone too nervous to sing, and afterwards we all went to Glory Chapel for hot chocolate at Glory Chapel, just a block away on May Street.
Pictured in the slide show are members of the Glory Chapel Choir, Santa Claus, Luwannia Martin, Val Carrier, David Corrigan, and David MacDonald.
Photos by Bernie Michel.
A group of volunteers from The Hartford's IT section came in today to help out on 117 Sigourney Street. They helped out with removing nails and hauling in the new windows, which arrived this morning.
Over at 117 Sigourney, we've started on new egresses as well as closing up old ones. Along the south side of the building, we've removed the doors that led to the fire escape, and this work is then a prelude to removing the fire escape altogether. Around at the back of the building, we're adding a new egress: this new back door will lead to a new, interior staircase that will have access to each of the three units. We think this will make for a much more attractive, safe, and sustainable building. The old iron fire escape is not particularly safe, and it can get very slippery. The new staircase, which opens up directly onto the parking lot, will be protected against inclement weather and will probably now become the main point of entry for the future residents. Who would want to take their groceries all the way around the front of the building?
That's Matt Pearce looking back at us from the basement. He's building the new staircase for us.
We're moving along at 115 Sigourney Street: the insulation is going in, and we've constructed the new staircase to the second floor. This will open up the foyer into a two-story cathedral ceiling, and we think it will have the dramatic effect that this house deserves. Also, there's still one reminder left from the office that used to be on the first flor: the old desk! It's been moved out of its original location in what will be the kitchen into what will be the dining room, and it's proving quite handy for our contractors.
We had a group in from The Hartford today, and they did some particularly dirty work! Inside they pulled nails, part of the interior demolition process, and outside they hauled stuff from the basement to the dumpster. It isn't always glamorous, but every volunteer contributes directly to the future affordability of our homes!
A group from Aetna came in today to pull nails. This still counts as interior demolition, and it allows us to hang new walls and ceilings cleanly.
And not just any volunteers: these were our good friends from The Hartford's Office of Corporate Social Responsibility! We work with this team throughout the year to revitalize Asylum Hill on projects that range from our homeownership development to our annual summer walking tours (a Hartford Happening) to helping to organize other groups of volunteers from The Hartford to come out and work on our sites. We really appreciate them coming out today to volunteer with us!
We had a very large grouip of volunteers from The Hartford come out today for their annual Day of Caring. We expected most of the group, but we also picked up a couple of people from a nearby volunteer site after they finished their project earlier than anticipated. This was a great turnout, and we got a ton of stuff done today!
The defense from Trinity College's men's hockey team came out today as part of Trinity's annual Do It Day. It was all demolition, and all of it was stuff thrown out windows (into a waiting dumpster, of course!). How much fun was that?
We're moving along steadily at 115 Sigourney -- the new floor plan is beginning to emerge, especially on the second floor. Shots here include a look at the future kitchen, future dining room, future north and south parlors, and a last look (probably) at the past staircase to the second floor. Some fun items to note, both in the north parlor, include the pockets we uncovered where there were once French doors and the brick interior wall, which once upon a time would have been the front exterior wall of the house. The doorway there could well have been the location of the original front door of the house!
Upstairs, we've done a lot of framing.
Okay, so not exactly. "Closed" or "Transferred Title" would be more accurate, but neither has the dramatic impact of ... "Sold!" Today, we happily saw 52 Huntington Street off to Asylum Hill's newest homeowner, Chion Wolf. We wish her and her partner Emily well in their new abode!
These plants just sprang up. We liked them, plus there’s an old 4-H ethos that you never, ever kill a plant, so we’ll leave its fate up to the new homeowners. However, when we took a look at the seed pods, we sort of kind of wondered if that was the best idea …
Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, the better movie reference is probably The Thing from Another World with James Arness. The alien in that one was clearly a plant. I've never been so certain about what the "pod people" were in Body Snatchers, although Wikipedia assures my memory is good, they were alien plant spores.
The consultants working with ConnDOT came back today with their robotic boring device, and they tested deep below the surface to see if there were any signs of an Algonquin village here. As noted before, it wasn't likely they'd turn up anything -- our site is very close to the Park River bed -- and the consultants expected that anything that could have been there 400 years ago was more than likely washed away during the seasonal riparine flooding. Indeed, the preliminary results were that our site held no archaeological value.
Of course, we're fully expecting to find signs of much later human activity, from around 1947 or so, when we start digging for the foundations of our new town homes.
We really were thrilled when Lime Bike rolled out in Hartford, and we’ve been equally thrilled to see so many of them about Asylum Hill, clearly indicated how useful they’ve been to people. But today we encountered this one dumped in the Veeder Place lobby – presumably, someone rode it here and then didn’t want someone else to ride off with it, but still.
Standing on the second floor, looking up.
Team Rubicon came by today to start the interior demolition for us. They went to work on the second floor, and they did an amazing amount of work! That dumpster was empty this morning ….
The event was organized by Vic Civitello, a carpenter who works with us regularly who is also a military veteran. Team Rubicon is a veteran service organization that uses disaster response to help reintegrate veterans back into civilian life – 117 Sigourney isn’t exactly a disaster, but Team Rubicon was looking to do some work in Hartford and our project seemed a good fit for them.
The volunteers came from all around the country, and they stayed across the street at Trinity Episcopal Church, to whom we’re very grateful for pitching in.
We’ve added a new interior staircase into the basement at 115 Sigourney Street. This was mostly for our convenience right now, but we expect it will be super convenient for the future homeowner. While we were at it, we also framed out the new half bath that will go here. For your visual reference, this is looking into the northwest corner of the house, where the office kitchen used to be.
As part of ConnDOT’s effort to prepare for a possible project to fix or replace the Interstate 84 Viaduct through Hartford, ConnDOT has been assembling a federally required Environmental Impact Study. This study includes a cultural impact component; not surprisingly, that component covers the very real possibility of losing historic structures near the viaduct, but it also covers the possible existence of archaeological sites. And who knew, but 80 Hawthorn has been determined to have a very slight potential to be an archaeological site!
It turns out that 80 Hawthorn sits within the historical flood plain of the Park River, and as such it was fertile agricultural land that was used by the Suckiaug before either Thomas Hooker or Jacob van Curler laid claim to land along the Park. The Suckiag used the flood plain seasonally: following the spring floods, they would farm the land, and then they would move to higher ground following the growing season.
In all likelihood, any artifacts left behind would have been washed away by the seasonal floods, but it’s very important that we investigate the possibility thoroughly. To that end, ConnDOT’s archaeological consultants came out today to assess the site and to determine the best points at which to drill test bores deep into the soil beneath the old parking lot.
The consultants will be back in a week or so to drill the test bores. We’re really looking forward to the results!
The final touches: a view of the newly finished study, and a view of the newly installed front walk. In case you're wondering, no grass: the homeowner plans a small urban farm (or a large home garden) that will include crops in the front yard as well as the back.
It's not really all that dramatic, but it is one of the last things we need to install before we can declare "House!"
This was very cool to come across today. We believe Lime Bikes is a terrific program, and we take this bike here at 207 Garden Street as a positive sign that the program is working as intended.
This view looks eastward from the dining area into the kitchen. You can see where everything will go now: the unpainted areas represent where cabinets and appliances will go. And you can now see what the hardwood floors look like, as they've been stained according to the homeowner's request.
We were down at SINA today, and while we were there we dropped by their latest project on Wolcott Street. This two-family is part of a multi-property project on Wolcott Street that includes both new construction and historic restorations.
For more information on SINA, check them out here.
Full disclosure: the blogger here is a proud resident of Frog Hollow.
As we’re starting to get toward the end of the line on 52 Huntington Street, we’ve started preparing to enshrine 52 Huntington Street both here on our web site on its dedicated project page and also there on presentations and reports we’ll make for current and future funders. This is always a fun process as we go through the photos, see how the project progressed, and assemble the best of them here and there.
Our houses on Huntington Street, however, don’t really have great before shots, since “before” they were just a vacant lot. Before that, though, they were a very large building of condominiums, and what do you know, we found a picture of that! If you look closely, you can match up the driveway in this picture with the current driveway for 52 Huntington Street – that’s the best landmark, because we used the existing curb cut for our driveway.
But that tree with the yellow leaves is much, much more interesting – it marks the northern boundary of what is now 54 Huntington Street, and if you go back and look at some of the photos of 54 Huntington we’ve put online, not only is the tree still there, but so is the right angle in the tree!
As for the condos, there was a fire, which led to the condition of the buidling seen in this photo, and then the building was demolished by the City. After that, it was bought by a local non-profit, Broad-Park Development Corporation, which planned to develop it but ultimately sold it to the Asylum Hill Congregational Church. AHCC then donated it to NINA, but we've already covered that!
We poked up on a Saturday to get you an update on how the painting is going. The homeowner has selected more interior colors, and we've also started to construct the front porch. And, we included a view of the seldom seen rear of the house!
In bloom and gorgeous! It completely obscures that beautiful house we built at 33 Sargeant, but it goes without saying that we were totally right to work hard to protect this magnolia while we were building the house. Totally worth it!
We were down at 80 Hawthorn today, snapping some photos to serve as before shots to go with some of our newest architectural renderings for the site. We decided to post them because of the view of 140 Hawthorn Street, that marvelous brick mansion in the background. That house, which is officially called the John and Isabella Beecher Hooker House, is the inspiration for our proposed designed for the town homes that we will build here, but it’s also a little more than that.
Way back when, Sam Olivia Clemens moved to Hartford, but they arrived before their famous house (i.e., the Mark Twain House) was finished. The Clemenses needed a place to stay, and the Hookers (yes, you read that right) offered their house as temporary quarters for Sam and Livy. Thus, 140 Hawthorn Street became the “first” Mark Twain House in Hartford!
It’s hard to picture it now, but once upon a time the Hooker House (yes, you’ve still read that right) commanded the heights and held an impressive view of the Park River and the whole Nook Farm section of Asylum Hill. Isabella, by the way, was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s sister, and John Hooker was a descendant of Thomas Hooker, who intrepidly led a band of settlers into Hartford back in 1636.
An updated look at 52 Huntington, 52 Huntington, and 181 Collins Street.
Our new homeowner has made her first selections on interior paint colors, and we started applying paint at the very top of the house, in the stairwell up on the third floor.
The woodwork has been installed in the south gable. Next up is the west gable. And sure, I'll admit it, there's actually two gables to go, but the one on the north side is impossible to photograph!
We took the sign down from in front of 115 Sigourney Street, and we gave it a new home outside our office in Veeder Place.
It’s the last thing we needed to address: the multiple file cabinets full of files on clients of the non-profit entity that occupied 115 Sigourney Street last. We still haven’t quite figured out the circumstances of their departure from 115 Sigourney Street except to conclude it was abrupt, because they left a lot of stuff behind. Most of it we could give to our non-profit and community-based partners in the neighborhood, but these files? They were health files, full of personally identifiable information and fully subject to HIPAA.
Naturally, the files needed to be shredded. Even more literally naturally, the files had spent a lot of time in the basement, where they’d become moldy. So what were we to do? This is where one of our friends stepped in to help – Aetna, well-versed in the ins and outs of HIPAA, said that they had a very large shredder, and they’d be more than happy to take care of these files for us.
We loaded up the files into the back of our car today – they were many and numerous! – and I reckoned that some group of volunteers would then sit at this very large shredder and feed the files, one by one, into it. We were thrilled to have the files dealt with, but wow this was going to be the most suckiest volunteer gig ever!
A very large shredder at Aetna, however, is really quite large: as big as a room! The files went into it – boxes and all!
It's on the market! It's a bit brazen to put it on the market so early, but we've already been getting lots of inquiries about it, we thought we'd try it out early to see how it performs. The MLS listing went live yesterday, and here's the official description we put out on the listing:
New single-family home marries Victorian charm and modern comforts. Designed to match the architectural and historic character of Hartford's Asylum Hill neighborhood, this home is energy- efficient with green features, off-street parking, and bay windows with a southern exposure. Close to downtown, walking distance to the major institutions of the neighborhood, and conveniently located near major transportation routes. 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bath, master bedroom suite with walk-in closet, spacious kitchen with granite counters, first floor study/family room that could be used as bedroom, and unfinished bonus space on the third floor. Owner-occupancy restrictions apply - please contact for more information. Please note: house currently under construction. Opportunity to get in now on Asylum Hill's next modern Victorian!
By the way, the picture here is our "artist's rendering" of the final house, but we didn't put it out on MLS. There, we included photos of where the house actually is as well as the floor plans for the first and second floors. We just thought it would be fun to put the artist's rendering here!
It's a nice sunny day, and it seemed a good day to show off how 52 Huntington Street fits with its neighbors. The gable matches what we did at 52 Huntington Street, and both match the gable at the rear of 181 Collins Street, which is at the corner of Huntington and Collins Streets. The house at 181 Collins Street has been there since the 19th century (supposedly designed by George Keller -- we're working on figuring that out for sure!), and we think the effect of the gables implies that both 54 and 52 Huntington Street have been there at least as long as 181 Collins. You be the judge, though: what do you think?
It's definitely a house now! The roof is on, complete with copper flashing, the windows are in, and the siding is being applied.
A nice shot of the award, taken in NINA's conference room.
Tonight, the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association held its 20th anniverary gala atop The Hartford's Office Tower. AHNA recognized NINA's contribution to the revitalization of Asylum Hill with a "Neighbor with a Heart" award, and the photo is Ken Johnson receiving that award. That’s Jackie McKinney of AHNA standing to his right.
It's a terrible photo. Really. Your intrepid blogger was desperately ill that evening, and he stuck out the ceremony only long enough to get this photo. He'll work on getting better photos now.
We had a small group of volunteers come down from The Hartford today to help us install sheetrock on the first floor at 52 Huntington Street. The group was organized by Andrew Daly, who also serves as the president of NINA's board of directors, and it included Kelechi Ndu and Sarah Needham. They were joined by Chris Young, a former colleague who now works at the Travelers. They hung sheetrock in the foyer closet, the study closet, and the half bath. Andy, Sarah, and Chris have all worked for us before, but this was Kel's first time volunteering on a NINA site.
I think this is the first time we’ve had snow on the ground for Caroling in the Park, which was a very nice touch. We started per usual at the “North Pole” (aka Veeder Place), where Santa climbed into his “sled” (a fire truck from the Sigourney Street Station) before heading over to Glory Chapel for hot chocolate. Still not sure what to make of the elves on stilts. Entertainment was provided by Hartford Proud Drum and Drill Corps.
Today we bid farewell to 94 Ashley Street, as we closed on the sale, and transferred title, to the new homeowner. Next stop: 52 Huntington Street!
The view of the new house looking down Huntington Street.
Okay, so we don't really call it "capping" the first floor, but it's the same process we undertook with the basement. Here, the first floor walls are in place, and the beams that will support the second floor have been installed. Next step: putting on the actual floor, and then we'll frame the second floor.
We had a good group from The Hartford today. Led by Andy Daly, who is Assistant General Counsel, Lead Counsel Contracting Center of Excellence and President of NINA's Board of Directors, 16 employees from The Hartford (plus one from Travelers) raised all of the walls on the first floor of the house.
The Hartford's employees volunteer with us year-round, but this volunteer work was special as it was done for the Day of Caring, The Hartford's annual day of service in commemoration of 9/11. NINA is proud to be one of the many sites in Hartford at which The Hartford's employees volunteer for this very important event.
The Hartford is also a member institution of NINA's -- along with Aetna, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, and Webster Bank, The Hartford founded NINA in 2003 to address blight in the Asylum Hill neighborhood of Hartford.
With the help of a group of volunteers from The Hartford, we raised the first wall of 52 Huntington Street this morning. For us, this is the equivalent of laying the cornerstone: it indicates that our new home is fully underway!
At the right side of the photos are Valerio Giadone, architect for this project, and Ken Johnson, NINA's executive director.
As we get ready for volunteers to help us with the framing for 52 Huntington, we worked today to cap the foundation. This involves the installation of what is effectively the first floor, and it's a process that will be repeated after we frame the first floor, which in its turn is the foundation for the second floor. The volunteers are on their way in three days, and we'll be ready for them!
We've poured the foundation at 52 Huntington Street -- next step is to cap it, so that we can start building the house.
Our friends at ConnDOT escorted this week’s group around some of the spots that will be substantially impacted by the planned changes to Interstate 84.
Being mid-August, we thought that a walk inside would be a good idea! Today it was Aetna. We started at the geographical center of Hartford (so says Aetna, but they installed a medallion to prove it), and then we toured the building. The highlight was a look at the vault: what a huge massive door!
Today we got a peek inside Asylum Hill Congregational Church, which provided some insights into the building’s history in the neighborhood. We also got an close-up look at the Angel of the Boar’s Head Festival, which was prepared by Anne Cubberly.
A nice turnout for a second day in a row! This year, Mary Falvey took the group into Trinity Episcopal Church on Sigourney Street as part of her Gospels in Stone tour of the major churches of Asylum Hill. We were joined there by Don Hamer, Rector at Trinity Episcopal, who provided additional details about the memorial garden and the sanctuary. Afterwards, we snick into the Cathedral of Saint Joseph, so participants got two churches for the price of one tour – which is free, by the way!
A smaller group than usual, but those who came got a detailed history of Bushnell Park from Don Poland.
Stan Guzek has volunteered to take photos of our houses for us! These are photos from his first effort.
Stan has been around Hartford for awhile, and he's a historic preservation buff. When he offered to take photos for us, we were very happy to take him up on it! Stan has a great eye, and his photos will be very helpful to us as we get ready to put 94 Ashley on the market.
Jonathan Clark took us on a walk through the old Town Farm and past the former site of the Alms House.
Today, Mike Stockman worked his last day as construction manager for NINA as he officially embarked on retirement. Mike has worked for NINA for nearly a decade, and he has been a jack-of-all-trades as he's managed our construction schedules, overseen volunteers, worked on the houses himself, and completed, as he always called them, his "honey-do" lists that ensured that every house was ready for our new homeowners.
This goes under the heading of things we noticed in the neighborhood – we saw this new sign up as we were out and about today, and we stopped for a photo.
Incidentally, we only feel slightly out of touch – apparently HCLF re-dedicated the building back in October!
Tonight we were part of a tour for Christopher Swift, CEO of The Hartford, and Mary Swift, his wife. They were joined on their tour by Kathleen Bromage, Chief Markeing and Communications Officer for The Hartford. This tour was arranged by Diane Cantello, Vice President, Corporate Sustainability at The Hartford, and it was organized by Morgan Ferrarotti, Director of Strategic Community Investments at The Hartford. We worked with them to connect the Swifts with Katie Kokias, one of the residential tenants at 207 Garden Street, and she very graciously took us through her apartment. We also worked with Steve Borla and Naveed Sobhan of the Hartford Community Loan Fund to host the Swifts for dinner. Together, we were able to give the Swifts a real inside look at 207 Garden Street and everything that had gone into its rehabilitation.
The Swifts’ visit 207 Garden was the last stop on the tour that Diane and Morgan put together, and we all enjoyed the chance to sit, enjoy dinner from Kent Pizza just downstairs, and to talk about our work as well as the broader effort to revitalize Hartford and Asylum Hill. The Hartford has been a tremendous partner with us since we were founded – in fact, they founded us! – and we appreciate how strongly The Hartord continues to invest in NINA as we near 15 years of working together in Asylum Hill.
Naturally we celebrated the moment with a joint photograph! Pictured from left to right are Kathleen Bromage, Morgan Ferrarotti, David Corrigan, Christopher Swift, Mary Swift, Diane Cantello, Naveed Sohan, and Steve Borla. We’re in HCLF’s conference room, which overlooks Garden Street.
We had another group of Trinity students out today to help with the owrk at 94 Ashley Street. Here they are after all the hard work -- they seemed to have had a good time!
In a stop over at 207 Garden Street today, we learned that the Hartford Community Loan Fund has changed the name of the building! The building, which we had named in honor of George Zunner, its architect, is now the Jacobson Building, in honor of Elinor P. Jacobson, more widely known as Elly Jacobson.
According to HCLF, Jacobson was president of their board of directors when she began to push the organization to find a new, more central location for its cramped offices in the South End, which had been HCLF’s primary focus prior to expanding its services citywide. Jacobson, who passed away in 2009, held a variety of positions around Hartford, including Director of Community Services at Trinity College, and she was also active in Hartford politics and on other non-profit boards, in particular the Hartford Artists Collective.
HCLF has installed this portrait of Jacobson in their lobby.
Our latest new construction now belongs to new homeowners! A young couple will now move into the house, and we are very pleased to welcome them to their new home and to the neighborhood.
A group of students participating in Trinity College's January Experience of Living, Learning, and Outreach (JELLO) volunteered today at 115 and 117 Sigourney Street. Work included cleaning up the site, inside and out, and making the whole place look presentable.
We were very saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Stu Beckett today. Stu was a dedicated member of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church, and in that capacity he was instrumental in the foundation of ServCorps, the building ministry that worked to re-build homes in disaster-stricken areas around the country. ServCorps, of course, was a long-time partner with NINA, and although we met Stu through ServCorps we quickly came to know him in his own right. Stu lent his carpentry skills to our projects, and his involvement can be seen on many of the porches of our homes. We still have a batch of trim that he ordered for us in our storage area, and we will think fondly of him as we install it at 94-96 Ashley Street.
It's never fun to take down a mature tree, especially one as old and grand as the tree in front of 94-96 Ashley Street, but in this case we had no choice. We'd been advised that the tree was unhealthy, possibly dying, but as it turned out it had actually become a danger. When we started to remove it, we discovered that the tree was entirely hollow: the whole of the interior of the tree had rotted away, and it was only a matter of time before it came down. We're guessing the tree was planted in front of the house after it was built, which would have put it at close to 120 years old. We'll never know for sure, though, since the majority of the tree rings were gone.
Just liked the picture, plus it gave me the opportunity to say "cathedral's apse."
The open house is tomorrow. The mums are a nice touch.
The house was ready for its close-up, so here it is, all done and on the market.
A group of Trinity College freshmen volunteered with us today as part of their freshman orientation program. We assigned them just what 18-year-olds love to do: demolition! The red Xs, incidentally, mean that “it’s got to go.”
Don Poland did us a huge solid and led the tour again this week. He took our group around the Nook Farm section of Asylum Hill, which is about as far as we’ve gone on one of our tours. He highlighted the major residents of Nook Farm (including someone named Sam and another someone named Harriet, but I didn’t quite follow him here) as well as the changes that have occurred here in the last 50 to 75 years.
Don, by the way, is the one holding his head on.
A few words on the sunflower plaque:
It was created and executed by local artist Jackie McKinney, who is a longtime Asylum Hill resident.
It’s based on the plaque next door at 181 Collins Street, further uniting the two houses in common design elements.
We believe, read air quotes here, believe that the sunflower was a particularly favorite motif of local architect George Keller, which lends credence to our theory that he designed 181 Collins Street.
And you’d almost think we picked the colors for the house to match the plaque!
Don Poland took this week’s group around Bushnell Park, highlighting the park’s history and how it relates to the surrounding architecture and environment.
Intrepid Mike McGarry came out and decorated the front yard of 54 Huntington Street for Hartford Blooms.
This week, representatives from DOT led us on a tour of planned and proposed changes to the Interstate 84 Viaduct. The viaduct, which is the elevated portion of the highway as it runs through Hartford, forms the southern border of Asylum Hill, and it’s one of the most important access points for both The Hartford and for Aetna. This tour was arranged to answer any questions people might have about just how miserable their commute may come when the work gets started.
We just dig buildings in twilight.
A couple of days ago, Morgan Ferrarotti of The Hartford got in touch with us. For awhile now, The Hartford has had a model kitchen on display in its main lobby, but the exhibit is now coming to an end. Morgan wanted to know: could NINA use a new kitchen?
It's not the sort of offer we get everyday, but Ken Johnson and MIke Stockman went over to have a look and take some measurements. It's actually lovely -- it's a "butcher block" with everything it, from cabinets to the stove to electric outlet to, yes, the kitchen sink. It was designed to keep everything low and within reach, which reminded us of the kitchen we installed over at 1 Imlay, but really this one was made with seniors in mind. And it bears the AARP seal of approval, AARP being a co-sponsor of this model kitchen exhibit with The Hartford.
Just plain dumb luck, but it looks like the kitchen on the second floor at 94 Ashley Street is big enough for this kitchen. The stars may really have aligned for us on this one!
Here's a better look at it. Many thanks to the Hartford United Methodist Church!
We made the local news this evening, but we’re not bothering with the link to it because the local news media preferred to ask Governor Malloy something about state politics or some other such nonsense, blah blah blah. They should have asked him about the building! Which is why he was there in the first place. Or perhaps the local news media didn’t forgive us for that podium snafu after all ….
We did have one small snafu: the podium was initially placed in a less than ideal location for the news media. Fortunately, Governor Malloy drafted Mayor Bronin and Representative Ritter into action, and we had the problem solved quickly!
The podium, by the way, was provided by the Hartford United Methodist Church.
Lynda Godkin, NINA’s Board Chair, served as emcee for the ceremony. Speakers included:
Dannel Malloy, Governor, State of Connecticut
Luke Bronin, Mayor, City of Hartford
Matt Ritter, State Representative, 1st District, Connecticut General Assembly
David Robinson, General Counsel, The Hartford
Tom Dorsey, Manager, Government Affairs, Eversource Energy
Andrea Pereira, Executive Director LISC
Ken Johnson, Executive Director, NINA
Jack Ellovich, President, HCLF Board of Directors
Guests of honor included NINA’s Board of Directors:
After the speeches, Yvonne Matthews, Chair of the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association, joined in for the ribbon cutting.
NINA and its partners held a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony at the Zunner Building today. The ceremony marked the formal conclusion of work on the building, which was NINA's biggest project (5 years, $2.5 million) to date.
The Zunner Building is an important anchor for the Asylum Hill neighborhood, and it also represents a capstone for NINA’s work on Ashley and Garden Streets. NINA started work here 13 years ago, when it moved the Victorian Lady two doors down from the Zunner Building, and NINA also worked on 8 Ashley Street and 221 Garden Street, which both abut the Zunner Building.
We are tremendously grateful to all of our partners on this project!
Major funding for this project was provided by the State of Connecticut through its Housing Tax Credit Contribution Program, its Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program, and its Urban Action Grant Program; the City of Hartford through its Façade Improvement Program and its Anti-Blight Tax Deferral Program; The Hartford, which contributes to NINA directly and also contributed to this project through the State of Connecticut’s Neighborhood Assistance Act program; Eversource Energy, which close to $1 million to this project through the State’s tax credit programs; and LISC, which provided construction financing for this project.
Nothing really noteworthy, but since we showed you this same car filled with paper lanterns, it seemed only fair to the car to show it full of chairs.
Literally. They're in the house.
The new woodwork is now in place in the side gable, and as you can see we’re starting to look at different paint colors for the house. Also, there’s a view of 181 Collins Street and 54 Huntington Street that we haven’t shown before, looking from the corner of Collins and Huntington rather than back up the street from 54.
Matt and Jeff have wrapped up work on the woodwork in the front gable.
Passing by as I walked back to the office from 54 Huntington. It's at 102 Huntington Street.
And we're not the only ones happy about it.
It's nice having this house right across the street from our office.
The exterior is almost finished, and the interior is taking shape as walls go up and counters and cabinets go in. Interior views include
Apartment 1A kitchen
New staircase on Ashley Street side
Apartment 2B kitchen
Apartment 2B foyer
Christmas in Apartment 2C
3rd floor office
It’s officially a holiday tradition in Sigourney Square Park! Also, we are extremely grateful that Santa is back this year. Last year’s imposter was the worst. Truly, truly the worst. Got to admit, though, really not sure what to make of elves on stilts.
Photos by Bernie Michel.
Our neighbor Jonathan Clark has installed new security lights on the front of his house. These lights, which are motion activated, are designed to draw attention to some of the illegal activity that goes on across the street from him at an apartment building next to a vacant lot. It’s never fun to note that there are problems in the neighborhood, but Jonathan is an excellent example of a civically minded resident who is actively engaged in raising the quality of life in Asylum Hill. He’s partnered with HPD’s Community Service Officer for Asylum Hill, and we’re confident that the issues he’s confronting will not withstand his and HPD’s scrutiny.
And there pretty bright lights, too!
We're down to the porch rail and the exterior paint at this point. Also, we like the view of The Hartford in the background -- The Hartford has supported this house with funds and volunteers, and it shows that they are quite literally our neighbor on this project.
It's long been a part of NINA's strategy that a restored facade can make a world of difference on the neighborhood. Instead of driving by a gloomy, dour, rundown building, people coming into Hartford now see this beauty. It dramatically improves the perception of the neighborhood, and it's why we always work from the outside in.
It's gloomy in Asylum Hill, but 54 Huntington Street is helping to brighten up. First, new copper flashing was put into place on the roof, and even in the low light it really stands out. And then our paint swatch grew, so now we have a really good sense of what these colors will look like.
We're thinking, um, no, not so much.
At the AHNA monthly meeting this evening, Georges Annan-Kingsley presented a painting to the neighborhood. This painting was commissioned by The Hartford, and it will be translated into a much larger format and hung on the Collins Street side of The Hartford's new parking garage. Georges, an immigrant from Cote d'Ivoire, is an internationally known artist, and he has been very active in Asylum Hill.
Best way to choose paint colors: paint a swatch!
NINA is very pleased to announce that we received a $10,000 grant from the People's United Community Foundation to support our initiative to expand affordable homeownership opportunities in Asylum Hill for low- to moderate-income families. The support provided by the People's United Community Foundation also furthers the Foundation's goal to increase homeownership opportunities in Hartford.
People's United Community Foundation has been a tremendous partner with NINA for over five years, and its funding has contributed to the creation of over 20 owner-occupied homes in Asylum Hill. This year, their grant will help NINA to complete its work on 54 Huntington Street.
Tammy Torres of People's United Community Foundation came by today for a ceremonial presentation of the check to Ken Johnson, our executive director. They are pictured here standing on the front porch of 54 Huntington Street.
Many thanks to our friends at People's United Community Foundation!
As we've been reading up on the history of Asylum Hill, we've come across several important people, some of whom will be known to a larger audience but most of whom will not. Today, we decided to take a ride up to Spring Grove Cemetery, in Hartford's North End, to see if we could find some of them:
Hartford truly has a rich and amazing history that matches its richly diverse and amazing present. We'll be running our summer walking tours again in 2016, and you should definitely consider coming out on one or all of them! And we're also going to start looking for ways to promote some more of this history we're learning. As we said above: stay tuned!
So we were over at 207 Garden Street taking more pictures of the new brick facade, when we noticed this giant broccoli attempting to devour a nearby house -- okay, so maybe we're a little loopey at the moment, but seriously: doesn't that tree look like a giant head of broccoli?
The facade for the newly enclosed portion of the building is nearing completion. We think it's going to look quite smart as people pull into the parking lot and come to live or do business here.
Okay, probably this time I’m just showing off that we have roses blooming and you don’t.
With apologies for the out-of-focus photos: it's Monday night, it's the first Monday of the month, so it must be a meeting of the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association at the Asylum Hill Congregational Church. There in the background you can see their latest exhibit (the last one was quilts), and it displays before and after photos of restored historic properties in the neighborhood. Six of them are NINA homes, although being completely fair one of them is not a historic restoration.
AHCC has been a tremendous supporter of our work specifically and of the neighborhood's revitalization more generally. Asylum Hill is very lucky to have a partner like AHCC!
It's October, and here's a gorgeous rose bloom outside Veeder Place's front door. Even as we're closer to winter than to spring, we still enjoy reminders of what's to come.
A stroll through 207 Garden Street, showing some of the progress we've made on:
And then views of the newly paved parking lot. The building is really coming together now!
Our partner on our project at 54 Huntington Street, the Asylum Hill Congregational Church, held a ceremony following its Sunday morning service to consecrate the new house here. Approximately 100 parishioners and neighbors came up for the ceremony and explored the interior of the house.
Our partners on this project, Asylum Hill Congregational Church, plans to hold a consecration ceremony for 54 Huntington Street on Sunday. We put out some fall flowers today to add a splash of "home" to the house, and as you can see around the house, we've also graded the land as we prepare to install the landscaping and pavement.
Jeff Giddings at work on the front porch. Around the corner, on the north side of the house, there's a space where we will install a sunflower plaque, which is now finished and over at the house. The plaque, prepared by local artist Jackie McKinney, takes a sunflower plaque on the west side of 181 Collins Street as its inspiration. Rumor has it that the sunflower was a particular favorite of George Keller, whence our theory that 181 Collins is a Keller house.
The elevator corridors on the 2nd and 3rd floors have taken shape, and now we're adding brick to the facade.
All of our stuff is in our new office on the third floor, but we still have some improvements to make before we can truly settle in.
It's the little things in life, really. We have settled on a new space for our offices up on the third floor of Veeder Place, and we bought this new cart to facilitate our move upstairs.
The demolition of the Fraser Place Garage proceeds apace, and already we can catch a glimpse of what the new view will be once the parking garage is gone.
Work started today on the parking lot for 207 Garden Street. We think this will be a big benefit for the building, which has lacked off-street parking since it was first constructed in 1926.
Well, it looks like we're going to have to move our office! The landlords have told us that OPP wants our space, so we're currently looking at other office space in Veeder Place as our possible new office. As we looked, we realized that we've never really shown you what our current (soon to be former?) offices look like, so here's a peek inside NINA.
It's a big space -- but up until only recently we've always had a co-tenant in here with us. Previous co-tenants included the Connecticut AIDS Resource Coalition, Central AHEC, and, most recently, Platform to Employment.
More siding on the exterior, plus granite countertops in the kitchen, hardwood floor on the 1st floor, light fixtures, interior paint, tile in the 2nd floor bathorom, and a new boiler and tankless water heater in the basement. The bathroom floor tile, by the way, came from 1 Imlay Street: it was the first tile ordered by the homeowners there, and when they proved not to like it as much they donated it to us for use here.
The Hartford hosted a concert today at Liam McGee Memorial Park. This park, which is the campus of the old Connecticut Mutual Insurance Company, serves as a park, an exercise trail, and a space for contemplation for employees of The Hartford. The Hartford dedicated this park in honor of Liam McGee on May 15.
This week's tour was a journey! Frank Hagaman led us on a tour of the street he used to live on, really off of: Capitol Avenue. Frank highlighted all of the new development along Capitol Avenue and how important a vibrant commercial district can be, even one as small as the one on Capitol Ave.
Painting of the exterior at 195 Sargeant Street is underway. NINA worked with the homeowner here to provide paint and a new color palette as part of our work finishing up on 199 Sargeant Street, our project right next door to 195. The house will now have a more traditionally Victorian color palette, and we enjoyed working with the homeowner to make this happen.
It's good to have friends with high places! These shots are from the 24th floor of The Hartford's office tower, and they offer a fun perspective on our work at 54 Huntington Street as well as how it fits into the neighborhood. Also included is a terrific view looking west, taking in the whole of the campus of Saint Francis Hospital.
Wrecking equipment has been moved into place across the street from 207 Garden Street, and the demolition of the parking garage on Fraser Place is imminent.
These photos are looking down from the third floor. The stairs at the bottom of the well are the stairs coming in from the outside. The landings, which mark the halfway point between floors, remain in place.
A group of volunteers from The Hartford came out today to plant new trees in Asylum Hill for Arbor Day. We helped to line up some homes looking for trees for this event, and one of the interested homeowners was at 156 Sargeant Street. They were looking to establish a natural buffer between their property and Sigourney Street, and they were very happy to receive their new trees. Trees were provided by Knox Parks, and additional trees went in all along Sargeant Street.
The new staircase at 54 Huntington, looking fabulous!
Progress at 54 Huntington: an exterior shot showing the beginnings of the front porch; a look into the kitchen; a look up the staircase (not for the fainthearted!); the front bedroom, with light fixtures ready to be installed; the rear bedroom; and the third floor bonus space.
Work underway on 207 Garden:
New subfloor in the 207 commercial space
Peeks at the second and third floors
The new hallway from the apartments to the elevator shaping up
The new entrance and lobby to the apartments and offices
And, of course, a look up the elevator shaft!
We're getting ready to restore the staircases at 207 Garden Street, so we headed over today to capture the original staircases for posterity and for the contractor who will do the restoration work on the stairs. A lot of the treads and risers will have to be replaced, but we will be meticulous in our effort to ensure it will retain the same look and feel as the original.
While we were there, we strolled through the gutted second and third floors and snapped a couple of photos there, too. The big hole in the floor in two of the pictures is going to be new access to the basement in the 207 commercial unit.
Also, we included two extreme close-ups of the curved risers on one of the staircases from behind. These shots give a rare glimpse into carpentry from almost 100 years ago.
It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Liam McGee, who had been CEO of The Hartford from October 1, 2009 through July 1, 2014. Mr. McGee arrived at The Hartford during a transitional period in that company's history, but as he worked to transform the company he continued -- and deepened -- The Hartford's commitment to Asylum Hill. On November 16, 2010, just over a year after he took over at The Hartford, he pledged $7 million to the neighborhood, including funding to acquire and demolish the Capitol West Building on Myrtle Street.
It's a sad day today at NINA, as we had to say good-bye to the gingerbread version of 1 Imlay Street. We knew this day would come, but we were compelled to reach it today because of signs of deterioration in the confectionary as well as signs of curious mice having visited overnight.
It departs via NINA's current project, 54 Huntington Street. We'll miss it, but it will live on forever in bloggy digital heaven!
Thanks to Ray Marcotte at The Hartford, we were afforded an opportunity to take some photos of 207 Garden Street from a unique vantage point: the top of The Hartford's Fraser Place parking garage. It's also a view that won't exist much longer, as The Hartford is right now completing environmental remediation on the structure as a prelude to demolishing it.
The most unique house in Asylum Hill is now the latest owner-occupied home in Asylum Hill! A family of 5 will start moving in now, and we are thrilled to welcome them to the neighborhood.
Work on the new elevator at 207 Garden Street progresses steadily. This represents a substantial addition to the buildilng, not just by making it much more accessible to future occupants but also in terms of sheer volume. The blue tarp seen in these pictures hides the former "gangway" access to the fire escape, while the clear plastic protects the new elevator shaft. The cinder block addition is the future new entrance to the apartments on the first and second floor and the offices on the third -- eventually, we will cover the cinder blocks in yellow brick to match the building's facade on Garden Street.
This is an enormous undertaking! It is also one we couldn't have taken without funding from the State of Connecticut Department of Economic & Community Development and the support of Representative Matt Ritter.
How much for fun is this? The gingerbread version of 1 Imlay Street now resides at NINA's offices, and so we are able to present now a much, much closer look at this masterpiece of the culinary arts. The team that put this together did an extraordinary job, and we're pretty sure it was robbed of its deserved victory at the auction!
First of all, it’s official: last year’s Caroling in the Park was the first annual Caroling in the Park! We had another good event with another good turnout this year, and we had loads of fun. I will confess, though, that I still don’t get the whole elf on stilts thing. Also, this year’s Santa (me) was the worst Santa ever! He promises (swears!) he’ll never do this again.
Mike Marshall at Aetna informed us today that the gingerbread version of 1 Imlay Street came in second place at Aetna’s charity auction, with a bid of $250. The $250 will go to Hartford Habitat for Humanity as a charitable donation. Just one more example of how much non-profit peers and our corporate partners can accomplish together!
One of our members, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, is giving us property for Christmas! 115 Sigourney Street and 117 Sigourney Street have long been part of the City of Hartford's Lead Abatement Program. A non-profit that managed the program had its offices on the first floor of 115, and then the second floor of 115 and all of the units in 117 were temporary living quarters for Hartford families whose apartments required lead remediation, since that work can be so toxic that no one without EPA-approved gear should be around it. The City recently decided to go in a different direction for its lead abatement program, so the non-profit closed up shop, and Saint Francis Hospital, the owner of the buildings, was left wondering what to do with them. Naturally, they thought immediately of us!
We don't know much about the buildings yet, but as we start to plan for their restoration we will quickly learn a lot. We didn't want to keep you from your first view of them, though! They are so early in our pipeline, we haven't even been inside yet.
How cool is this? Our executive director came across this today, 1 Imlay Street rendered in gingerbread by a group of Aetna employees. Their project is part of a charity auction that will be held to raise money for local Hartford non-profits.
Aetna employees have been walking by our work at 1 Imlay for quite some time now, and we're very pleased that our work has inspired them.
One of the people who stopped by for the open house today was Karen Pannone, architect with Clohessy Harris & Kaiser. After our bosses came to their agreement on the height the windows should be, Karen was dispatched to meet me and to take the measurements for the third floor windows. So, while I may have been the measure, it was really Karen who set the standard!
Photo by Bernie Michel.
We didn’t hold an open house for 1 Imlay because we were under contract long before we finished the house, so today, in partnership with the new owners, we opened the house to our friends and neighbors from Asylum Hill.
About 75-80 people attended, and most of them, including two descendants of the original homeowner, were Aetna employees. This was a great opportunity for us to show off the house and talk about our future plans for the Nook Farm section of Asylum Hill.
Aetna’s support and contributions to this project have been invaluable, and we are extremely grateful that Aetna continues to be such an active partner with us in the revitalization of Asylum Hill.
Since we were hosts, we weren't able to take any photos, but Bernie Michel was able to swing by and snap some pics as we were setting up for the shindig.
A group of volunteers from The Hartford came down today to help out with hanging drywall at 54 Huntington Street. They were members of Andy Daly's team, and Andy is a member of the NINA Board of Directors.
Today we bid farewell to our house at 1 Imlay Street -- it now belongs to two principals within the Hartford Public School system. This was a great project, and we are very proud of how it turned out, especially because we were able to take it almost all the way back to how it would have looked in 1875. We hope the new homeowners will have as much fun living here as we had rehabbing it!
Inside NINA's offices, which are on the north side of Veeder Place, the autumn sun still found a way to brighten our day.
In case you've ever wondered whether any single person could have an oddball effect on anything, here's the proof of it!
Way back when, when we were working with the architects to design the restoration of 1 Imlay Street, a disagreement over how high the windows on the third floor should be. One side argued for very tall, while the other side lobbied for much, much shorter. A compromise was agreed to: NINA's program, an average person of average height, would be able to look out the window without having to bend down. Thus, a new unit of measurement was born! Whatever you want to call it, the windows at 1 Imlay are now one unit of it.
What makes this truly an oddball effect is that the program manager is notorious for never standing up straight ...
A view of 54 Huntington Street ready for the exterior finish to go on, top to bottom.
We were lucky enough at tonight's AHNA meeting to have a view of the quilts on display at AHCC.
A beautiful autumn day in Asylum Hill. Perfect day to take some artsy shots of shadows cast by trusses!
Working with the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association and the Friends of Sigourney Square Park, we staged a modern version of "Illumination Night," a late 19th century tradition in Sigourney Square Park that involved paper lanterns strung about the park and on surrounding houses. Back then, they got to use candles in their lanterns, while we made do with florescent flashlights and tin foil.
With the help of some very speedy volunteers, we got our lanterns assembled today. We'll have more volunteers tomorrow who will help us string them up in the park.
For future reference as well as for a look behind the scenes -- based on our test run and our rehearsal, we decided that we first needed a bigger and brighter light and second that the addition of some aluminum foil inside the lantern would brighten the interior of the lantern and prevent the light from dispersing out of it. It's a long shot, but this show will go on!
Framing for the third floor -- or "second and a half" floor, or the attic -- is underway, and with it the gables are plainly visible. These were designed to follow the gables at 181 Collins Street (which we still say was designed by George Keller, but that's for another day), and we think we've succeeded. Photos here include shots of the exterior, shots from the top floor, and shots from the interior, where the rooms are framed and the floor plan can now be followed.
The kitchen has started to go in at 1 Imlay Street, and along with it we are working on some of the other finishing touches, primarily flooring. The tile has been installed in the bathrooms, the hardword floors are being sanded, and the new main staircase is ready for its new stain.
Today we held a "wall raising" event to honor our partners and to kick off construction of the house. The wall raisers included, from left to right in the photos:
Matt Laney, Senior Minister, Asylum Hill Congregational Church
Donna Manocchio, Associate Minister, Asylum Hill Congregational Church
Bill Russell, Asylum Hill Congregational Church
Valerio Giadone, Project Architect
Dulcie Giadone, Chair, Housing Committee, Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association
Jennifer Cassidy, Chair, Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association
Tony Mein, Chair, Education Committee, Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association
Ted Carroll, Moderator, Asylum Hill Congregational Church & Executive Director, Leadership Greater Hartford
Diane Cantello, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, The Hartford
Andrew Daly, Assistant Vice President and Counsel, The Hartford & Member, NINA Board of Directors
Robert Yass, Vice President, Government Affairs, The Hartford & Member, NINA Board of Directors
Ken Johnson, Executive Director, NINA
They were ably guided in this endeavor by Mike Stockman and Jeff Giddings, who can be seen at different points in the foreground and the side of the action, respectively.
Following the ceremony, a group of volunteers from The Hartford pitched in to frame the first floor of the house, and by the end of the day we had the beginnings of something resembling a home!
The carpenters have capped the foundation at 54 Huntington, which is to say that the house now has a first floor. There are even steps onto the cap, which are where the front door will be, eventually, and the hole in the cap is where the stairs into the basement will go. Tomorrow we will have a special "wall raising" ceremony, which will mark a milestone in our construction schedule and honor our partners on this project.
Oh, my, but our prospects don't look good! Tonight we had some friends and neighbors place our lanterns on their porches, which was a simulation of what they would've done on the first Illumination Night. Unfortunately, we're not using candles like they would have (or maybe that's fortunate!), and the environmentally friendly LEDs we're using just aren't producing the lumens we were hoping for. Ah, well, we're in for the event now, no matter what!
The bilco doors are in, which means the foundation is now complete. From here, we can start work on the house to come! Further signs that we're getting ready: there's an actual power meter in place now (and again, probably not that exciting, but how often do you see a meter set to 0?) and our storage container is on site, too.
Okay, so maybe a photo of where a temporary power meter will go isn't all that exciting, but this occasion marks the official unveiling of our street number: 54! The views from the basement won't exist for much longer because, of course, we're about to put a cap on the foundation.
Frank Hagaman of the Hartford Preservation Alliance led an enormous group down Farmington Avenue, the street on which he lives, today. Frank extolled the virtues of city living while also discussing the future of economic development along the all-important Farmington Avenue Business Corridor.
Our paving contractor started work on the front and back walks at 1 Imlay Street today. The design and materials were selected in consulation with the future homeowners.
Jeff Giddings and Matt Pearce began work this morning by having a look at the newly set foundation, and then this afternoon they were installing the first beam that will support the house above. Also included one artsy shot (because we must!) that is of the forms into which the concrete was poured, now prepped for transport to their next job.
We started pouring the foundation today -- views include the crew at work as well as shots overlooking today's completed work from the southwest corner (future front of the house), the east (future rear of the house), and west (future front of the house).
Mary Falvey of the Hartford Preservation Alliance led a group around the four major churches on the Hill today. Mary focused on how the churches' architecture spoke to their congregants as well as to passersby, and then she took the group into the Cathedral of Saint Joseph. The other churches on the tour were Asylum Hill Congregational Church, Asylum Avenue Baptist Church, and Trinity Episcopal Church.
We now have a proper hole at 54 Huntington Street. Next step will be to pour the foundation.
Views from outside of the hole are looking west toward Huntington Street, from what will be the rear of the house. Views from inside the hole are looking east toward the rear of the house and north up at 182 Collins Street, which was the inspiration for the design of our new house.
It's not much, but it's a start! The earth-moving equipment is on site, and the first shovelfulls of earth have been removed. We're looking forward to getting started on our second new construction project, our first since completing 33 Sargeant Street back in 2011.
Today, Larry Gallmeier led our intrepid group of neighborhood explorers on a walk through Aetna. A highlight of the tour was the vault: a massive concrete structure with an even more massive, multi-ton door! Word is (unconfirmed) that the vault was the first thing built in the building back in 1930, and then the rest of the building was built around it.
Speaking were: Ken Johnson, Executive Director of NINA (with Bill Russell, AHCC); yasha Escalera, Director, Housing & Property Management Division, Hartford Department of Development Services; Donna Manocchio, Assistant Pastor, AHCC; Rich Grobe, ServCorps; and Matt Laney, Senior Pastor, AHCC. And that’s Rhonda Mitchell, communications director at AHCC, trying to escape the shot.
Our latest project, the construction of a new home at a vacant lot at 54 Huntington Street, officially got underway today as we broke the ground and consecrated it to its new use with our partners on this project. The land here had been owned by the Asylum Hill Congregational Church, which bought it a few years back from Broad-Park Development Corporation, and AHCC generously donated the land, along with funding for construction, to NINA. Our other partners and funders on this project are The Hartford, the City of Hartford, and ServCorps, and of course ServCorps will be working on this project, too, as they have been on all of NINA's recent projects.
With shovels, from left to right, are: Ken Johnson, NINA; Andrew Daly, The Hartford and NINA Board; Matt Laney, AHCC, Tony Mein, AHNA; Donna Manocchio, AHCC; Yasha Escalera, City of Hartford; Bill Russell, AHCC; and Jennifer Cassidy, AHNA.
We had a good crowd for our tour inside the Courant and Fox 61 today. After a brief introduction, the group split into two, with half going up to the television studio and the other half going down to the printing press.
Well, not really. It's the first Fresh Express of the 2014 summer season, and the Happy Giant Carrot greeted people as they arrived at the Farmers Market at Billings Forge. HGC highlighted the importance of good nutrition as well as the difficulties inherent in finding fresh produce in Hartford. The Farmers Market at Billings Forge, now a mainstay of the Frog Hollow neighborhood, offers fresh produce from local and regional farmers every Thursday through October from 11 AM until 2 PM on the Billings Forge Green (just north of the Firebox Restaurant), and the Farmers Market doubles SNAP benefits, so that each SNAP dollar spent at the Farmers Market counts as two.
And yes, that was Larry the Stag there in the background, just in case HGC went crazy or something.
A string quartet from the Hartford Symphony Orchestra helped to kick off our 2014 Summer Walking Tour in style at The Hartford's HartBeat Park. About 200 people enjoyed the event, strolling around the park, eating lunch, and listening to the music. Next week the tours begin with an inside look at the Hartford Courant and the studios of Fox61.
Pictured above is (left to right) Diane Cantello, Bernie Michel, Larry, and Morgan Sones.
This is when it gets fun, when we start to move it toward the market and comparing it to how far its come.
Looks pretty good, actually.
Work is underway at West Middle Community School Selective demolition will be followed by new construction, and in 2 years or so the students will return to a fully upgraded educational facility. In the meantime, their method for preventing unwanted demolition impressed us so much, we are thinking of adopting it as policy.
It’s too bad that the banner is kerfuffle, but again, this is a pretty remarkable shot. Maybe because the house faces east? It’s just dawning on me (ha! It is the dawn, and 1 Imlay is the east) that every other house NINA has ever worked on orients north to south. Now how about that?
We just learned that our friends at Trinity College's January Experience of Living, Learning, and Outreach (JELLO) won the prestigious 2014 Connecticut Higher Education Community Service Awards. JELLO was honored for the demonstrated commitment to community service, the example that they set, and the inspiration that they are to others, all while pursuing excellence in higher education.
The finishing touch on the restoration of the exterior of 1 Imlay Street. Many thanks to Jeff Giddings!
We were very saddened to learn recently of the passing of Bob Knowles, one of our most steadfast volunteers. Bob worked with us for the last several years, bringing his skills and his work ethic -- as well as his sense of humor -- to our work sites.
The Friends of Sigourney Square Park organized Caroling the Park – a celebration of the park and the neighborhood and, of course, Christmas! Santa came out, as did a stilt-walking elf. Much credit goes to Luwannia Johnson-Martin, the chair of the Friends, whose dynamism motivated all of us and got us into the festive spirit.
We hope this will be retroactively considered the first annual Caroling in the Park!
On top of being in poor condition, the liquor store presented a nuisance that both Aetna and the neighborhood were happy to be rid of. Mike led the charge, and Aetna contributed the cost and oversight of the demolition.
Mike is head of real estate management at Aetna, and he’s been a great friend of NINA since the very beginning.
Mike’s smile, by the way, was visible from space. An NSA satellite picked it up on its regular daily pass over Hartford.
This shot illustrates just how close 42 Hawthorn Street is to 1 Imlay Street. The wrecking crew is really quite good at this.
Today is the big day: the former Capitol Liquors will be demolished! Here are the wrecking devices in place, a front-loader with a claw and a dumpster. It is hard to believe that this is all it will take, but I’m assured that it will be.
I don’t know if we’ve talked about whether this building is, in fact, historic, and if so what kind of historic preservationists are we if we’re pleased to see this building go? Well, the building is kind of historic, but it is also testimony to how stupid decisions made by previous owners can make some buildings unsustainable.
Here’s what we know about 42 Hawthorn Street. It sits on land that was originally part of 1 Imlay Street. Some time after the original owner of 1 Imlay moved on, a subsequent owner had the brilliant idea to build a family-owned and operated store on the side yard. By this point, the house next door to 1 Imlay Street, which had been built by the original owner of 1 Imlay, had already been demolished.
The store’s builder left 1 Imlay to her son, and he had the even more brilliant idea (not) to subdivide the property so that the house and the store could be treated and sold separately. That pretty much spelled the doom for both properties, since separate owners working at cross-purposes were bound to let the buildings slide into disrepair. You saw previously how bad 1 Imlay had been – we couldn’t go into 42 Hawthorn, as it was deemed unsafe.
So, however many years later, we are pleased to see this building go – and its demolition restores 1 Imlay to its original use and footprint, as a single-family home with a beautiful side yard.
The wall board arrived this morning, and as you can see we took out the window in the second story hallway in order to accommodate the delivery. My days of sunlight playing through the framing are just about over!
And I’ll confess, it really was a coincidence that I was here with my camera as the wall board was being delivered. Really I was here to see the demolition of Capitol Liquor. Stay tuned …
Views from (and of!) the future parking lot, which gives a good look at where the elevator will go. The single-story section to the left is the pizzeria and the former liquor store, and the three-story section to the right is bedrooms on the first and second floors and office space on the third. The area in between will be the elevator, and a new section of the building will be built to accommodate it as well as a new entrance lobby on the first floor.
On the three-story section, you can see the remains of the old rickety fire escape, and if you look closely, up on the third floor next to the opening you can see the ladder that provided access to the roof. That will be the main entrance to the new office space – the opening, not the ladder!
We were pleased to support one of our peers today by leading a part of their tour around Hartford for a group of corporate employees from CIGNA. Katy Bannister from LGH sent us this photo, which is a view of the tour I don't often see, since I'm the one giving it. This is us going through 199 Sargeant Street.
Jeff Giddings is hard at work here on the front porch, which is coming along very nicely, but he and the other carpenters have also been making steady progress on the other historic elements that we are restoring to the house. The brackets, crowns, and new windows are now being painted.
The boarded-up window on the south side of the house is the future location of a stained-glass window.
I won’t lie, I like the way the sun comes through the framing, especially on the second floor. Most of these photos are from the second floor bedrooms, but there’s also one looking into the kitchen and one looking up the main staircase. I also made it up to the third floor.
No, I wasn’t stalling before getting back to the office. It was on the way back.
We’re still puzzling over these very different houses. As we’ve mentioned previously, we know 51 Ashley was part of an set of 6 houses with alternating designs built by Frederick Mahl in the 1890s, but we don’t have any information on who built 55 Ashley or when, exactly. It does mark the switch to wood from brick on the south side of the street, and in that regard it corresponds to 50 and 54 Ashley across the street, but 55 is still quite different from even those houses. We’re still looking into it, but near as we can tell 55 Ashley is unique on the street, in the neighborhood, and maybe even in the city.
And, yes, I did go inside both houses! See the next posts.
Who knew irises bloomed in November? This gorgeous example was planted during Vest Pocket Gardens last year, and it’s good to see it thriving.
They let me out of the office today, and I took full advantage of the opportunity to visit our ongoing projects. First stop was 207 Garden Street, where they’ve been framing away. They’ve gotten enough done that the wallboard started to arrive today.
Other shots include a peek down the future elevator shaft (which hasn’t been started yet, but it will go in where the rickety fire escape used to be), the old “gangway” (which was really more of a gang plank), and of course a shot looking up into the skylight. Still not sure why I like it so much, but I’m very glad it will be preserved.
Credit to the USPS for utilizing this old mailbox as a planter for some mums. Our Vest Pocket Gardens incorporated some found objects (i.e., trash that wasn’t quite trash yet) in with the plantings, but this suggests that we might use derelict objects as planters, especially if those objects don’t seem to be going anywhere fast. Certainly something to think about as we contemplate what comes next for gardening in the neighborhood.
This is up at the main post office on Weston Street.
NINA appeared tonight on NBC Connecticut. Debra Bogstie covered the installation of the new banners at Sigourney Square Park. Her story included interviews with Luwannia Martin, who is chair of the Friends of Sigourney Square Park, and several residents in the park. She also noted NINA's project at 156-158 Sargeant Street, which sits across from the northeaster corner of the park. The link to her story won't last forever, but please take a look to see if it's still live!
Andy Hart came round to take some photos of us posing with the new banners at Sigourney Square Park, and I snuck a photo in, too! From left to right are: Luwannia Martin, Chair, Friends of Sigourney Square Park Diane Cantello, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, The Hartford Mike Zaleski, Executive Director, Hartford BID Ken Johnson, Executive Director, NINA. It's very exciting to have the banners up -- and this was a great partnership that made it happen! Next step: reminding Hartford who Lydia Sigourney was! By the way, compare the sky in this photo with the sky in the photos from the interviews with Debra Bogstie -- heck of a difference 3 hours can make in New England.
Debra Bogstie interviewed Luwannia Martin of the Friends of Sigourney Square Park and Morgan Sones from The Hartford about Sigourney Square Park and our efforts to beautify and to improve the park. Luwannia was attacked by a bee, Morgan didn't make the cut, and I couldn't keep my sunglasses out of the frame, but we had a great time all the way around!
Dan the Banner Man installed the new banners around Sigourney Square Park today! They show off a silhouette of Lydia Sigourney (not that anyone knows who she is anymore, but we'll change that soon enough!), the Sweet Songstress of Hartford for whom the park and the street were named. The colors keep to the Victorian palette, and they match the changing leaves pretty darn well, too.
Newly installed at Sigourney Square Park: a Big Belly! Big Belly trash receptacles are the latest in public garbage collection. They double as trash compactors, which means they can go longer without having to be emptied, and they are solar powered, which means they can run without any external power connections. They are entirely self-contained. Better still, they can call the Department of Public Works when they need to be emptied or if they are in need of other service. How cool is that?
There has been hope that they could be rolled out all over Hartford, but they are a bit big for placement on just any sidewalk. They fit really well in the park, though, and we hope that they will be a boon for our anti-litter campaign in the park.
Oh, in case you're wondering, there's one Big Belly for garbage and one for recycling. Very green!
Autumn in Asylum Hill, working its way down from top to bottom. Trees are at the corner of Huntington and Sargeant.
Confession: I thought about saying "Fall in Asylum Hill," but somehow that just didn't suit this photo.
We celebrated 10 years of work in Asylum Hill tonight with a small party at the Town & County Club. Here’s Lynda Godkin speaking to attendees about NINA – it’s not a great photo, the lighting was terrible, and we were having too much fun to worry too much about photos. We self-published a book to commemorate the moment, and we’ll see what we can do about making a digital version of it available.
For the record, our actual 10th anniversary isn’t until December, but Lynda, along with Susan Winkler, was hard at work founding NINA from their offices at The Hartford in October 2013.
Just love the way brick looks in good, strong sunlight! Repairs are underway to the mortar, and we’re also starting to remove the door on the side that should be – and will be again! – a window. As with the shingles next door at 55 Ashley, we’re saving as much of the original wood on the porch here as we can, but for now we have to restore the porch to structural soundness.
We’ve managed to save a lot of the original clapboard and shakes, but we did have to replace some of both. Also, if we haven’t pointed it out before, notice the decorative wood work in the back porch eave. It’s a pretty good match for the decorative rail on the front porch.