Checking on the neighbors

Noah Webster House video grab

Kudos to the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society for its “Armchair Tour of West Hartford History,” a series of video tours created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the tours focus on West Hartford history, many touch on Hartford’s as well. For instance, there’s a visit to the American School for the Deaf–which began on Main Street in Hartford and moved to its present campus on South Main Street in West Hartford in 1921. Of course, there’s also one on Elizabeth Park, which straddles the Hartford-West Hartford line. Jennifer Matos, executive director of the museum, hosts each episode. You’ll find them on the museum’s Facebook page and website.

From the Charter Oak to the last of the red-hot mamas

If you haven’t subscribed to Grating the Nutmeg, a podcast dedicated to Connecticut history, you’ve been missing some great Hartford-related episodes.

Logo for Grating the Nutmeg, a podcast dedicated to Connecticut history.

In the August 19th episode, State Historian Walt Woodward delved into the legend of the Charter Oak. He offered “a new, true, and sometimes amusing look into the history behind this foundational legend.” Mary M. Donohue, assistant publisher of Connecticut Explored, followed on August 30 with the story of Sophie Tucker, the internationally famous entertainer who grew up in Hartford’s East End.

Speaking of entertainment, be sure to listen to the Charter Oak episode all the way to the end. That’s where Woodward channels Hartford poet Lydia Sigourney by giving a dramatic recitation of the elegy she wrote when the tree fell in 1856. It’s, um, unforgettable.

These were the 100th and 101st episodes of the podcast, a project of Woodward’s office and Connecticut Explored, a quarterly magazine concerning state history. Fortunately, you can catch up on all of the episodes in this archive. (And here are some of the Hartford-related ones.)

New trivia question

From 1948 to 1962, the CBS radio network presented a serial drama about a Hartford-based insurance investigator who traveled the country to get to the bottom of suspicious claims, which almost always turned out to center on murder or some other crime. The investigator/title character narrated cases by reading from the expense reports he sent back to Hartford. Thus, at the beginning of each episode, an announcer introduced “the transcribed adventures of the man with the action-packed expense account, America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator …”

What was the name of this show? Click here for the answer.

New app makes it easy to tour historic Connecticut

Congratulations to Connecticut Humanities for its launch of ConnTours, an app that lets you use your mobile device to tour Connecticut historic sites based on theme or municipality.

The app is a work in progress, but the themes so far include the Architectural Wonders Trail, the Leisure Trail, the Literary Trail, the Revolutionary Trail, the War of 1812 Trail, and the Women’s Heritage Trail. Hartford has stops on each of these trails (except, strangely, the Revolutionary Trail.) The municipality section so far has only three towns or cities, but thankfully Hartford is one of them. Overall, the project shows a lot of promise.

The ConnTours app can be downloaded for free from Google Play and Apple’s App Store. You can also use the website version.

Perry to be remembered Wednesday

A memorial service for former Mayor Carrie Saxon Perry will be held at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow, February 5, at the Arts Collective, at 1200 Albany Avenue.

Perry was the first African-American woman to be elected mayor of a major New England city, serving from 1987 to 1993. She died in the emergency room of Waterbury Hospital on Nov. 22, 2018, but the death remained unknown–even to friends and neighbors who knew her well–for nearly a year. Why that happened remains a mystery, according to the Hartford Courant.

The shameful state of the Old South Burial Ground

See below for a slideshow of more photos.

This Veterans Day, I’d like to draw attention to the Revolutionary War veterans buried in the Old South Burial Ground off Maple Avenue, next to the Fox Elementary School. They include Thomas Y. Seymour, who helped the Americans win two game-changing battles near Saratoga, N.Y., in 1777. Seymour, then a lieutenant, led a regiment that included some of the only American cavalry of the war. Afterward, he was given the sensitive task of escorting to Boston the captured leader of the British troops, Gen. John Burgoyne.

Today, you’d never guess that men and women like Seymour are buried in Old South. The place is a shambles–just as it was when I wrote about it for the New York Times in 2000 and when the Hartford Courant followed in 2012. Some very dedicated volunteers have tried repeatedly over the years to get the cemetery’s owner–the City of Hartford–to take better care of it. But you can see which way things have gone in these photos, taken in early September. Even the chain-link fence the city erected as a half-measure to protect the tombstones has been knocked down.

Click on the side arrows to advance or reverse the slides.

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