With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

ESSAY: A Review of the Old North Cemetery

Like most Americans living in the twenty-first century, we aspire to be great. We aspire to be remembered. We want streets and schools named after us. We want monoliths erected in monument when we die.

And while it is nice to dream of these things, part of reaching middle age means you must come to terms with the fact that you may never achieve that true greatness you dreamed of as a kid. By the time you hit thirty, either you recognize that you're not writing the Great American Novel, you're not going to be the next Justin Bieber and Boston Red Sox are not interested in having you play third base.
Unless you want to be that pathetic guy who continues to live in their mom's basement while they dream of the stars, you accept your situation. You move on with your life and settle for smaller achievements. Perhaps you start a family or you build a successful career. Maybe you go on a nice vacation or you win your office's fantasy football league. But whatever you do, you accept your situation and move on.

But even if you are able to move on, there is a part of you that will always admire and smile upon those who have made it and achieved greatness - both in the past and the present. You recognize how monumental their accomplishments are and you tip your cap to them.

Nathaniel Terry was a pillar of the Hartford community. He was a Connecticut congressman. He served as mayor of Hartford for seven years and didn't even get arrested once. He founded the insurance company now known as The Hartford and he served as the president of the Hartford Bank (which we're sure is somehow part of Bank of America going back about thirty bank acquisitions or so). By most conventional measures, he achieved "greatness." But do you know what his grave site looks like? Not quite greatness remembered.

Hartford is a city with a rich history that stretches back well before the formation of the United States. Many early, distinguished Hartford residents have been honored with buildings and streets named after them. Hartford residents are all familiar with the names Colt, Wadsworth, Bushnell, Goodwin and Trumbull. All of these names can be be found on graves at the Old North Cemetery, located on Main Street.

As you can tell by the pictures, the cemetery is in rough shape. Dense thickets of vegetation ensconce the tombstones. In some places, the grass is so high that grave markers are completely obscured and easily stepped on. Many of the headstones are damaged or destroyed. Litter and broken bottles are everywhere. It really looks like a good place to do drugs.

While one could be appalled by the condition of the Old North Cemetery, at Sad City Hartford we find it funny. Many of the residents of the cemetery were at the height of wealth and greatness in their era, an era when Hartford was one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the Western Hemisphere. When their burial arrangements were made, they were probably considered fitting monuments to great people. But there are few monuments that serve as permanent marks of greatness. Eventually time passes. Your era is forgotten. Grass grows over your grave. Junkie smoke crack rocks while leaning against your headstone.

As famous, dead Hartford resident Mark Twain once wrote, "But such is human life. Here today and gone tomorrow. A dream--a shadow--a ripple on the water--a thing for invisible gods to sport with for a season and then toss idly by--idly by. It is rough."

If Twain were to rise from the dead and visit Hartford today, one can only imagine what he would say. Our guess would be, "Sweet! There's a Taco Bell right by my house."
So what's our point? Our point is that greatness is fleeting and rare. And when someone is worth remembering, they should be remembered. If you have some spare time, stop by the Old North Cemetery and check it out. Spend an hour looking at random names that are the same as some of the streets in our city. Try to figure out what those people actually did that was great.

View Larger Map

No comments:

Post a Comment