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.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

An Abandoned House and a Campus Worlds Apart

Now this is what we call an abandoned house. This gem of a find is located on the corner of Park Terrace and and Summit Street. It appears that this house is undergoing rehabilitation but it is the location of this abandoned that is truly amazing. Perched atop a small hill, this house must have a great view into Pope Park. Directly across the street is a sign directing motorists to turn onto Summit to get to Trinity College.

Trinity College was recently named the 12th most expensive college in the country with annual tuition at a whopping $53,330. One can't help but imagine the looks on parents faces as they drive up from Westport to drop their college freshman off at this semi-prestigious college and as they pass this beautiful house.

The immediate Hartford area is literally packed with well respected places of higher learning. With Trinity College, St. Joseph's College, the University of Hartford, the UConn Hartford campus, the UConn Graduate Business Learning Center, and the UConn School of Law here, the area certainly doesn't lack for young, bright individuals that will have significant earning power and make significant contributions to their communities during their lives.

Sadly, Hartford has failed to capitalize on this population and retains far too few of those who attend these schools. While much lauded neighbor cities such as New Haven and Boston have helped build themselves by retaining college graduates who will earn and spend in the city, Hartford fails to do so.

Some reasons are clear and transparent. Most glaring is that Hartford simply doesn't have enough jobs. Relocation of offices to surrounding towns such as Bloomfield give less incentive for recent graduates to stay in Hartford. The enduring perceptions of out of control crime and lack of things to do in the area are also contributing factors.

We recently met a Trinity College professor who told us he was shocked by the students almost completely apathetic attitude towards local politics. That fact doesn't shock us at all. Located in an area known for the heroin trade, Trinity College has erected a black iron fence around the campus. Many students of Trinity and other Hartford area schools will have little actual interaction with Hartford save for trips to Allyn Street or concerts at the Comcast Theatre.

These students don't really have any particular reason to be upset at the system as it is working fine for them. They have the ability to attend a fine college at the cost of $53,000 per year. After their four years behind the iron gates of Trinity, many will find jobs through the Trinity Alum network and the vast majority will never live in Hartford again.

There is no doubt that there are legitimate safety concerns on around the campus. For reasons innumerable and debateable the surrounding area has eroded into a dangerous one, even more so for 18-20 year old kids unfamiliar with an urban environment. That said, too often schools in Hartford instill too much fear into students about their surroundings. Though some may find it hard to believe, cities with impeccable media reputations such as Boston and New York also have crime and blight and yet people attend colleges and enjoy the surroundings in those cities.

As with most problems and potential solutions, not one party is fully to blame and not one party alone can fix the problem. Sad City firmly believes that it is in the best interest of Hartford, local businesses and the local colleges and universities to find a way to retain recent graduates and give them reasons to live and contribute to Hartford.


  1. IF you are ever in Hartford Give Dave E. a call, he knows all the cool people

  2. Hartford is such a Sad City. I don't even think Michael Buble would ever play there.

  3. I really like the wood-n-tap. Especially the chicken sliders.

  4. I think one of the biggest problems that Hartford has faced was white flight originating in the 1960's. More and more people are SLOWLY starting to move back to the city, but it's a trickle movement. There are soooo many great places to go, such diverse neighborhoods and wonderful people. Alas most criticisms are made by people who barely get out of their cars, just come in for business and leave as quickly as possible. The CT media doesn't help either. Crime is everywhere. Even in West Hartford, which was realized 2 weeks ago. If people want to improve Hartford, then get out of your car, walk around and solicit some of the local businesses. There is alot to see and do, just be street smart and you will be pleasantly surprised.

  5. I am white and I just bought a house in the city. I agree with Rachel and the premise of Hakaan's post. One thing that I think separates Hartford from other Northeast cities is how the poverty can be so physically close to areas of wealth. The Albany Avenue area is one example, areas around the Capitol building, Hartford Hospital and Trinity College are other examples. The divide is very Night and Day, very little transition, which is really interesting. Most other cities have more of an intermediate area of buffer in housing stock and commercial real estate.



  7. I agree with BWP and Rachel, we need to take back the our city. I have been here since 2003 from the West Coast. I find that too many people want to live on the outskirts of town and relate alot of negative without really coming into Hartford but just to work. The majority of gov't,state and city employees never come to Hartford. And 9 times out 10 will never make a positive reference about the city. I am a landlord in the WestEnd and constantly speak to individuals that are relocating to Hartford for Employment and need an apartment. When they mention that they have a friend that lives in another city what they think I cringe knowing what they will tell them. Most times I never her from them again. This is our city too so lets start by helping to clean it up. It takes more than just one person. I drove by the empty lot of the Butt Ugly today and it put a smile on my face. The start of the journey is the first step. WestEnd Scott
    Living in any city requires street savy

  8. Interesting comments. Fortunately I find myself back in Hartford. I grew up in NYC. Lived in Hartford in the mid 80' and now find myself back here. Great small city. Inexpensive rents and housing, lots to do if you have good connections from the Artist Collective concerts, YMCA on Albany Ave, Downtown Hartford, Real Art ways, Wadsworth Antheneum, concerts in the park. Ironically I was walking up Park street and was impressed by the numerous furniture shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and clothing outlets. Even the crime is confined here. If you are not involved in anything illegal, you have little to fear. I personally witnessed the police clean up my area and in my building we have several single woman living alone. Fortunately I am a community health nurse. I have a job that keeps me out and about on the streets and it allows me to get a good pulse of the city. Ironically even my criticism of the city was resolved when the current mayor Segarra took office. The removal of the Butt ugly building, hiring people to take care of the parks and of all things putting nets on the basketball rims so an old school NYC cat like myself can shoot some hoops in peace. As far as Dr. Roberts comments never had to wear a Kevlar vest and the police do a great job with teenagers and restless driving. Does the city have problems, Yes but the potential is greater than its problems.

    Jah Bless Kwesi

  9. Great post, couldn't agree more. I would hope the Mayor would look into these issues more. I know in the past the Mayor has pondered the idea of bringing Uconn Health Center and possibly putting up dorms for Uconn Greater Hartford into the downtown area but how could you begin to look at those things without seeing whats going on at Trinity. 1 street separates college grads and guys selling meth out of a parked car in a random driveway....so sad

  10. Interesting post Hakaan and discussion (others). I owned a house on York St for 3 years right around the corner from this house and would constantly drive by wondering what the deal was. In fact, there were several houses on both sides of the street that were boarded up, while you saw those gorgeous Perfect Sixes and the rehabbed buildings going up on Park Terrace. York St was the old French neighborhood and my understanding was that it was once a pretty great area. Unfortunately as much as a loved the house, it was a constant struggle cleaning up trash on the street. I had a drug car parked in the back lot for months and a handyman's van stolen.

    The entire area is quote an amalgam of different forces, a great park made quite nice by the hard work of the Friends of Pope Park, a lot of rehabbed buildings in the area, an updated "dollar mall" over at Pope Commons, yet still a great many abandoned or uncared for properties dotting the area. Still, it would not take much to bring the area around Trinity back to its the glory of its heyday. When you see how much rents are going for in Park Towers or the Design Center right across the park, you can only imagine what potential there is for rental investment around the region.

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  12. Wow, the comment above is racist as all hell has no place here. White contribute just as much to the influx of drugs in and out of the city, they just don't get the recognition because it's not as easily associated with them. People are so ignorant sometimes...

  13. Boston - 22.4%
    New York - 24%
    Hartford - 38%

  14. As an international Trinity student, I can see both sides here. This year, we've had several emails about safety breaches, including daylight robbery and one student being held at gunpoint early in the evening. Clearly, this does not leave us feeling at ease to wander about Hartford by ourselves, or even with groups of friends.

    However, I agree that something more constructive needs to be done. There should be more programs integrating the Hartford community with Trinity students, without a doubt. One of the issues is that many of Trinity's students come from privileged, sheltered backgrounds and therefore do not necessarily have good street sense when it comes to more urban backgrounds. Even for those of us who live in major global cities find that our surroundings are off-putting with regards to building a community. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try, though!

  15. I believe the fact that something more beneficial needs to be done. There should be more applications developing the Hartford group with Trinity learners, without a question. One of the problems is that many of Trinity's students

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