Monthly Archives: June 2011

Impressions from our Summer Institute

Well, we made it through the week! I thoroughly enjoyed spending the week with all of you. One of the gratifying aspects of this project for me is hearing the comments of the institutional reps and speakers about our group. John Teahan’s comments were probably the most poignant and public, where he sincerely marvelled at the commitment, the diversity, the engagement of our team. But others — Sally and Jenn at the OSH, Jack Hale, Brenda Miller at the Hfd History Center, and Matt and Robert of CCSU — have commented to me about these same attributes of teamwork, commitment, and engagement that characterize our team. I am truly honored to work with such a dynamic group. I’m almost wishing we had a Saturday event planned for today (totally kidding — just want to see if Arthur is on the blog yet!).

I thought we could start a thread here that would allow us to post our thoughts on various events of the week while they are fresh in our minds. For example:

  • What aspects of the week were especially meaningful for you and why?
  • How are you beginning to imagine using our experience in your classes?

The Forlorn Soldier

After the talk today and before we were P.T. Barnumed to death, I asked Matt Warshauer if he knew anything about a statue I have always noticed amid the clutter of Brainard Road, just as you come off the 91 exit beyond the traffic light, tucked in the overgrown shrubs near the highway.  He told me the name of it: “The Forlorn Soldier”



Straight from the Source

The Proposed Park

After hearing and reading some conflicting accounts of what Horace Bushnell had in mind for Hartford’s future park, I searched for the editorial which appeared in the Hartford Courant after Bushnell made his proposal to the City Council, as mentioned by our tour guide today.  I found comfort in discovering that perhaps Bushnell’s idea was founded on some noble causes and not just opportunistic business and political reasons.  His proposal may not be my idea of a relaxing day at the park, but it appears that Bushnell might have had his heart in the right place.

I’ve attached a PDF of the editorial which spells out the proposal to the Common Council, which includes the following:

“We want an open ground…a ground as centrally located as possible where it will add an air of culture and ornament to the city…a place where children will play and the poor invalid will go breathe the freshness of nature…where and high and low, rich and poor will exchange looks and make acquaintance through the eyes; an outdoor parlor opened for cultivation and good manners and a right social feeling. It must be a place of life and motion that will make us completely conscious of being one people.”

By the way, it’s amazing what you can find by searching through the Hartford Courant files.  I had some fun with it (I know, get a life).

Spirit of Skepticism

As I’m reading Baldwin’s “Domesticating the Streets,” I’m thinking about the subtle hints at his own ideology, the implied assumption that the (academic) reader of the 21st century shares this ideology, and what all this says about us as 21st century Americans and academics. Here is an example from Chapter 6 “The Children Are Off the Streets,” where Baldwin is describing the “Vacation Schools” spearheaded by Dotha Bushnell Hillyer and her Civic Club members: Continue reading

The Little River

How do you get paralized by building a bridge?  But if only we still had that bridge crossing the Park River into Bushnell park.  From the poem by Wallace Stevens to the history of the pollution and filth of those lower class workers (and horrible immigrants) to the Bushnell and Olmsted landscape architecture – one thing runs through our readings (as it ran through Hartford itself): the “Little/Mill/Hog/Park – after Bushnell’s efforts – River.”  From what I gather, all those illustrious planners and thinkers would certainly be horrified to see what later generations did with that river.  It was just as responsible for Bushnell Park and Pope Park’s dimensions as was the Ct. River for Riverside Park.  All the walkways and strategic plantings of native trees and flowers related to the river.  But just as interesting is the idea that the glorious beautiful things Hartford celebrated and still celebrates were often invented to cover up the stuff no one wanted to see – the poor, the dirty and the undercurrent of those outside the institutions of control.  It’s like Ani Difranco’s song “Fuel” about the slave cemetary discovered beneath Manhattan – where “there’s a fire just waiting for fuel.”    It’s one thing to reconstruct Samuel Colt’s extravagent gardens and do away with his greenhouses and his ponds.  It’s another thing to obliterate Front street and the whore houses on State street and the ethnic culture of the riverside.

Chapman’s Hartford and Mine

I was struck reading Chapman’s book by many things.  First, her geographic progression down Main Street and Asylum Avenue was exciting to read, as I know many of the streets and intersections well.  I felt some vicarious pride toward my city.  On the other hand, I also recognized the privileged lens through which she reminisced.  Continue reading