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, August 3, 2010

Franklin Ave & The South End: A Brief Essay

Not long ago, Franklin Avenue was one of the true gems of Hartford. In the summer, the entire street would be shut down for festivals and amazing restaurants flourished in the city's South End. Today the neighborhood has drastically changed. House break-in's happen on a regular basis. The Hartford Police Department, armed with all of three burglary detectives, have little to no chance of ever solving a burglary.
In fact, if your house is broken into, it will get only a cursory response from the police department. Most of the residents who lived in the neighborhood during its halcyon days have long ago fled to the surrounding suburbs. Thugs race cars up and down crowded residential streets with no regard for the safety of anyone in the area. Too many of the residents are apathetic and refuse to co-operate with the police. Too many show no respect for their neighbors or their neighborhood. Trash litters the streets. I recently lived on an inclined street in the South End where during rainstorms I could sit on my front porch and literally watch the trash sail by floating down the hill in the rainwater. Sunday saw a shooting at 8:06 PM on Franklin Ave that amazingly had no witnesses. It is in this neighborhood that we find one of the most decrepit and saddest of Hartford's abandoned houses. Sitting smack on Franklin Ave is this beauty for all passerby's to see. It is a sad metaphor for the once admirable neighborhood. Yet amongst all the gloom, there is hope for the neighborhood. Many homeowners live in the multi-family homes that populate the neighborhood; they are easy to spot - just drive around and look at the yards. Good restaurants and sandwich shops can are all over the area still. Growing Dominican and Bosnian populations have started local markets offered up products not found in suburban areas. One of the best values in haircuts can be found at MC's Barbershop on Franklin Ave. Right now the inmates have control of the asylum, someone needs to find a way to wrestle it back.


  1. I grew up on Franklin Avenue and I witnessed its poor demise.

    It no longer holds the traditional festivals we always waited in anticipation for as kids. I remember the avenue would be shut down from Barker St. to South St. full of music, games, carnival rides, lights, fried dough, etc. I feel bad for those kids growing up now that are not able to enjoy these gifts. All they have to look forward to are the "festive" lights of yet another police vehicle passing by.

    You say we should take back our neighborhood? How do you propose we do that? I am listening.

  2. My welcome to Hartford was living in the south end or 3 years. I thought I saw it all but when saw a drive by shooting that left 2 dead 1 block over from where I lived that was the final straw. The problem with south end is one of ownership, out if state owners with no commitment to the neighborhood and tenants with no pride or investment. There is a sense of resignation to what IS vs recommitment to what could be. This well could be the finest ethnic dining district in the entire state, but if people are afraid to visit it nothing changes. Suggestions?

    1. Better street lighting.
    2. Better schools /after school programs.
    3. Community engagement / cleanups from k12 - adults
    4. Homebuyer Programs.
    5. Empty lots -> parks initiative (less concrete = place for kids to play other than streets where bad influences are rule)
    6. Community policing/reporting
    7. Police substations with rapid response and community involvement.
    8. A real NRZ that responds to info requests (I spent 3 years trying to reach anyone in south end meeting on community issues, never found them to this day).
    9. Streetscape work extended from Little Italy area into South Green (to better connect downtown to south end).
    10. Curfews on under 18s.

  3. All good ideas, although I don't think a curfew would be enforcable given the lack of police in the area. Some way to boost home ownership is critical. I was at a friends in the South End last night, and I could sit on the porch and pick out which homes had owners living in them just by looking at the condition of the yard.
    An additional proposal would be to get some speed tables in some of the streets that run between Campfield or Maple and Franklin. These streets seem just big enough for idiots to think they are drag strips. I can't tell you how many cars I watch just floor the accelerator on these streets.

  4. Sya what you will about the mafia but when they ran the Southend you didn't have this crap. How about if we arrest these thugs and sentence them to cleaning the graffitti off the walls?

  5. Good poins Hakaan. Completely agree with you on need for speed tables though I almost think folks might floor it right over them just for spite. The question really does come down to how to mobilize the community to action. Anybody with info on what the local NRZ is and how to reach them would be much appreciated.

  6. Who owns that house? Can it be acquired and rehabbed? It is a great house, just neglected. I'd fix it up, but I don't know how to get a hold of it. I noticed somebody is renovating the house on the corner of Franklin & Elliot, I thought the same thing about that place. It certainly is symbolic of the incredible potential that is being squandered in this neighborhood.

  7. Better Apartment: I have a friend who wants to start a petition to get speed tables on his South End St.

    Anonymous: You can look up who owns it at City Hall, you can probably buy it for the price of the tax lien that is almost certainly on the property.

  8. I would love to see speed tables on Bond Street, Elliot Street, Benton Street, Anawamn, and Whitmore. Also a friend mentioned today that in England there are cameras everywhere. I think they need to be placed on all these streets from Anawamn to Bond Street mainly. I know it might cost the city a lot of money but they'll save money on policing these crime scenes. Heard gunshots late last night a street over then heard someone was shot a few times. I moved to the south end in the middle of the Kinds and Solidos war and even that wasn't as bad as it is now.

  9. It's owned by a guy who lives in Newington, who got it in 1994 for $0. Possibly inherited it. That happens sometimes, an aged parent lives there and the place gets out of shape and then they die and their kid inherits it and doesn't have the time or wherewithal to do anything with the place, so it just sits there and rots. Sometimes they don't even realize they own it.

    But if that's the case he wouldn't be paying the taxes. I don't know how to find out if he's current on his property taxes. Anyone know how to find that info out? Maybe I could write him a letter or try to get his phone # to see what his intentions for the place are.

  10. I hear the Southend Merchants Association or some other association is looking to pinpoint who the owners are so they can hold them accountable, as they should.

  11. Its easy to see if they are paying taxes. You need to go to City Hall and look up the property on the computers by address. That will give you the owners name. You can then go into another room at City Hall and then go into the tax lien books (sorted by year) and look up by last name to see if they owe taxes. The city will sell you most tax liens for pennies on the dollar.

  12. I know the owner's name but where do I find tax lien info? What department would that be? Assessor? Tax collector? Clerk?

    How do they sell the tax liens? Do they do outright sale or auction?

  13. Just go right to the same large room where where they keep all the title info. There is a tax lien shelf with binders sorted by year. The City will sell the tax liens at special auctions.

  14. Damn that part of the South End has really been hit very hard over the last few years.

    I went down Franklin Avenue earlier last week for the first time in years. I saw that abandoned building at the corner with Shultas Place was torn down and fenced in now.

    Where is MC's Barbershop on Franklin? I could not find it. Is it under a new name these days?

  15. I grew up on Whitmore Street and now I live on the Wethersfield border, Hartford Side. The 15 years I lived on Whitmore I got to see the decline pretty much first hand. Everything north of South Street has gone down the hole. Hell, I think I was at the last movie showing at the Webster before it was empty for years before opening up again as a concert hall.

    The NRZ is full of the same people at City Hall. People who have kissed the rings of the Democrat Machine, and don't give a damn except for the mantra of 'Fuck you, got mine.' The NRZ is a joke. HART Isn't much better, instead trading on privilege.

    What's needed? Less tenement housing. Get more people owning again. Owning their homes, owning their neighborhoods. Nothing is more empowering than owning your own home. That empowerment reaches deep.

    1. I grew up on Whitmore Street as well, and now live in Newington. I well remember the Webster when it was a real movie theater and the Italian Fest on Franklin Ave every summer. It was a wonderful place. I would love to see it returned to its former glory, and would be happy to help in the process, if it was truly possible. More apartment building owners would have to care about their buildings and the people they choose to rent to, like they did years ago. Maybe owner-occupied multi-family homes are one answer. An attitude change is necessary - conscientious owners would have to be willing to live in the city and actually be part of the neighborhood instead of living in the suburbs, collecting the rent money and letting the buildings go to hell.

  16. I realize this is a rather old blog post, but this area is near and dear to my heart. I'm 31 years old and grew up in the south end, Mclean Street to be exact, until I was 10 years old. I went to Naylor Elementary and could often be found playing at south end park. I remember being in the Columbus Day Parade and when they would close down Franklin Ave for the carnival. I even remember PnG Pizza!!! Who I still maintain had the best grinders in all of the south end. My parents moved to New Hampshire in 1989, I’m not really sure why. They say it was because the neighborhood was getting bad, but I don’t ever recall seeing anything bad, I always thought it was because they didn’t want me going to Buckley and my mom was sick of the city…At any rate, I had the unique experience of moving back Mclean Street when I was 20. My sister who is 17 years older than me, purchased the house from my parents. It was a 3 family (of course) and she allowed me to rent the 3rd floor apartment.

    The estranged country boy returns to the city.

    What a rude awakening that was! Some of the neighborhood kids were still there, older, angrier, and not all that welcoming. New people moved into the neighborhood, louder, angrier, and not all that welcoming. All of the Elderly Italian people I fondly remember walking around had all passed away…..with in 3 months of moving back, I got hustled out of some money from someone promising to ’get me a deal’ on a laptop, and the Puerto Rican family across the street hated my girlfriend and I because “white bitch be lookin at my man” (that girlfriend turned out to be terrible and probably was looking at ‘her man’)

    It was a rough start in reacquainting myself with Hartford CT. Thank god for the FOOD!!!! I swear if it were not for the roast beef and meatball grinders at Franklin Giant I would have not made it past those first 3 months! I ended up staying in the South End for 3 more years until my sister sold the house to move to the woods……..I have stayed in CT but with each move have gotten further and further away from Hartford. As shitty as Hartford is, with all of it’s very serious flaws, It’s what I think of when I think of HOME. It’s a love / hate relationship. WHY CAN’T YOU BE AWAKE AFTER 6PM LIKE NEW HAVEN!!!! CMON! GET WITH THE PROGRAM HARTBEAT!!!! Ahhhh but your food is so good! And I was born in you, I can’t stay mad at you Hartford!

    I live in Norwich now, you want to talk about a Sad City? I’ll show you a SADDER CITY (a more sad city?) it’s called NORWICH. Holy Crap! Connecticut, The Indians and the rest of friggin world forgot about this place! But that’s another rant.

    I will definitely be moving back to central CT, probably not the South End, but like 911, I’ll Never Forget.

  17. How about each of us here that actually still give a hoot about the South End come together and infiltrate the next South End NRZ meeting, propose the kind of changes we know are needed, and start rallying the city toward real change for this district? As many of us here have noted, it is absolutely about stakeholder mentality, of real voices for a community that are clearly articulated to the city.

    According to the One City, One Plan neighborhood reports, the South End was the one NRZ with the least recommendations for improvement. How bout them apples?



    Funny, check out South End as recipient of "Rising Star Community" some time ago...


  18. "What's needed? Less tenement housing. Get more people owning again. Owning their homes, owning their neighborhoods. Nothing is more empowering than owning your own home. That empowerment reaches deep."

    That is absolutely true and needs to be realized

  19. This house is being rehabbed. I messaged the buyer, it's a non-profit started by members of the "Learning Corridor" - Trinity, Institute of Living, et al., to improve housing in the area. They are looking to finish by July-August and offer it for sale through a first-time buyer program.

    I finished the rehab on the property right around the corner on Annawan, someone is redo-ing the "Brother Bones" building on Franklin and Benton.

    There have been a host of new businesses started - Arena Patio Restaurant reopened, Pan Sinai Bakery, SMC communications, Piolin, 10, La Cabana, and another Peruvian restaurant. We have reinvigorated the NRZ.

    The South End has immense potential. The 90s were rough on it, but it has been improving since then. Slowly, of course, these things don't happen overnight.

    Come back to the South End. People are actually doing things
    here other than just badmouthing the place.

    Check out Parilla y Sabores restaurant, I've had some awesome meals there for not a lot of money.

  20. Before the influx of Italians in the late 1890s and ealy 1900s the South End was largely mixed-Anglo middle class and working class descendats of Irish, Scottish, German, and English ancestors. The influx of Italians lead to the introduction of such wonderful things as the mafia, cosa nostra, and other elements of organized crime. The Italians worked hard to push out non-Italian residents. The homes and architecture changed from classic New England into more garish and tacky Italian-style design and tasteless storefronts.

    Now the Italians have been pushed out by the Hispanics. What goes around come around. I have no nostalgia at all for the old "Little Italy" which is now gone. Good riddance!

  21. I think everyone knows the real problems regarding the South End is race related, but most will shy away from talking about..Say what you will about Italian organized crime..but did we see blatant day time random shootings in broad daylight with children at risk of being hit by crossfire? I didnt, but i see and hear it now..Did we see street level crack and heroin dealing right in broad daylight with no regard for the fact that drug dealing is illegal? And what it does to kids that see this? Im sure we can all agree that not one of these law breakers cares one bit about the fact that this is his or her own neighborhood that they are ruining. There is no pride whatsoever for your neighborhood when you dont have to work for anything. Thats right, thats what I said...its too easy to obtain welfare checks and free apartments regularly, therefore alleviating responsibility for having to take care of yourself and your families. Why bother right? I remember literally waiting for my sandwich at Subway on Maple Ave so that the female hispanic employee schooled another female on how to obtain the maximum money from the city by having kids..absolutely disgusting and unacceptable behavior. Did we see this type of behavior with the Italians, French, Polish? Hell no! Even the Polish, Bosnian, Albanians, etc of today are rarely heard of commiting major crimes. Europeans come to this country to work and make a good living..African Americans and hispanics, sad to say, are proud to gobble up whatever the city is willing to give them. And I dont want to hear this "no jobs" crap..If you look for jobs every day and quit smoking blunts so you can pass a drug test, you will find a job..even if its McDonalds, so what. Dont get me wrong, theres good black and hispanics..but look at the statistics. The new healthcare law is killing hard working people with medical ranging from 250 to 550 a month, but with welfare in Hartford its all free, so why bother trying to get a job? Once you get a job they cut you off. The city of Hartford needs to put their foot down and cut everyone off..when youre hungry youll get a job trust me. Now this might raise crime in the city, but its ok because with millions saved from no more welfare and free apartments there will be more money for more police to crack down on crime. Before you know it Hartford slowly becomes a no nonsense city and one that people can be proud to come to. You think building a stadium for millions of dollars is gonna attract people to the city? You think anyone wants to go downtown for a drink? Hell no, do you know how dangerous downtown bars are? Wake up Hartford..understand whats going on and why. This is the real truth from a hard working Italian and lifelong resident of the Southend..and I currently reside in my childhood home that I bought..I've seen it all back then and today..everyone reading this knows I'm right..so bring on the opposing viewpoints..Frank

  22. I worked for Ozzie's Auto Parts in the 70's..Had a small clothing store(Passion Flower Boutique) It was nice there...Brother Bone's tavern ? when the Mafia left all went to hell...Trump..Where were you immagrants GO HOME !!!

  23. You know what the real problem is? The mafia, who's job was to protect this area, left. They let the dirt bag Puerto Ricans take over. Its a damn disgrace. Whatever you want to say about them, the mafia kept this area amazing for a long time. But they've all but disappeared. The spics are the problem. Call me racist but it's the truth. They're trash.