Map | History | Asylum Hill | West End | Restaurants | Features

Asylum Hill is a 615-acre centrally located Hartford neighborhood with about 10,500 residents. It rises uphill directly west of downtown Hartford but is mostly flat until it slopes downward at its western edge along the flood plain of the north branch of the Park River. It is a neighborhood with natural and man-made boundaries. Besides the Park River it is bounded on its other three sides by railroad tracks and interstate highway I-84.

In the early 1800’s the area became known as Asylum Hill after the first institution for educating the deaf in the country, the American Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb (now American School for the Deaf), was built there.

By the early 1900’s Asylum Hill had become an established residential area with spacious Victorian style homes. Many prominent Hartford citizens lived in the neighborhood.

Major insurance companies moved to the neighborhood from downtown in the 1920’s and brought major change to Asylum Hill. To make room for corporate headquarters, employee parking and housing, blocks of single family homes were replaced by apartment buildings with small one-bedroom and efficiency apartments.

In time, people’s housing preferences changed. As the market shrunk for one bedroom and efficiency units, the need for family housing increased. The city and neighbors have been working for several years on housing programs to reduce the amount of small apartments in Asylum Hill, replacing it with housing that can accommodate families.

Three major insurance companies, Aetna, The Hartford, Mass Mutual, a regional hospital, St. Francis Hospital Care, and ING have a large presence in Asylum Hill. They employ 20,000 people who travel to and from work through the neighborhood.

Asylum Hill is home to major cultural institutions, mostly located within a few blocks on Farmington Avenue. The Hartford Courant Arts Center on Farmington Avenue provides a home base for three arts groups attracting students and performers from the region. The Arts Center has dance studios for the dance program of the Hartt School of the University of Hartford, rehearsal space for Hartford Symphony and Connecticut Opera. One block away on Asylum Avenue, Hartford Conservatory offers music training programs, especially for young people.

Also on Farmington Avenue is Nook Farm, where homes of Asylum Hill’s most famous residents have been restored and opened as museums. The Mark Twain House and Museum, a national historic landmark, and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center attract one hundred thousand visitors from around the world annually. Across from Nook Farm a carriage house has been recently converted into a black box performance center for Hartford Children’s Theater.

A new addition to the Asylum Hill is Connecticut Public Television. CPTV is renovating an office building for a state-of-the-art headquarters on Asylum Avenue.

Beginning in 1864 with Asylum Hill Congregational Church, religious institutions have been a prominent physical and social presence in the neighborhood for over a century. Churches like St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Trinity Church and Immanuel Congregational have stunning, yet vastly different, architectural features. Other neighborhood churches are Grace Lutheran and Asylum Hill Baptist.

As part of their ministry, most churches offer outreach and social service programs to the neighborhood. The congregations of some Asylum Hill churches are predominantly suburban. Yet the parishioners have immersed themselves in neighborhood projects like tutoring at West Middle School, art programs and the Loaves and Fishes food pantry and jobs program.

One ambitious neighborhood project led by church members and neighborhood residents has resulted in the construction of a Boys and Girls Club to provide supervised recreation for the children of Asylum Hill.

Community residents are active in improvement projects through the Asylum Hill Problem Solving Revitalization Association. Traffic calming, public safety, housing and education are key issues. In 2003 area corporations funded a new organization, Northside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (NINA), to support continued revitalization projects in Asylum Hill.


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