Hartford, Connecticut: Landmarks ~ History ~ Neighborhoods | Blue Hills
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Blue Hills Avenue, a major north-south thoroughfare, is the oldest road in the neighborhood. It was built as a colonial turnpike to Granby, and, in the mid-19th century, was lined with farm houses.

The neighborhood did not develop as a residential area until a number of factors were in place, including the establishment of the trolley line into the neighborhood and the development of Keney Park at it's eastern border. As with some other neighborhoods in Hartford, Blue Hills experienced tremendous growth in the post-World War I era.

In 1886, the present day campus of the Watkinson School was purchased as a farm by the Watkinson Juvenile Asylum and Farm School, which had been located on Park Street. The school was committed to providing a Christian family life and training in agriculture and work skills for homeless and neglected boys. Now known as Watkinson Hall, the school closed its dairy farm operation and became an education institution in 1946.

In 1943, the Jewish community organized Mount Sinai Hospital, the city's third general hospital. In 1990, the hospital became affiliated with Saint Francis to create a regional health system. It was the first recorded instance of collaboration between a Catholic and Jewish hospital in U.S. history. The two institutions completed the formal merger.

Map of Blue Hills Neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut

The North Branch of the Park River runs through a length of the western part of the neighborhood. A two-mile nature trail straddling the floodplain between the river and Mark Twain Drive has been developed on what was the site of illegal dumping grounds. The project, coordinated by the Eastern Connecticut Resource Conservation and Development Area, encourages teachers, students and residents to learn about the wildlife and habitats found in the Park River watershed.

Situated in the northeast corner of Blue Hills is much of the campus of the University of Hartford, which relocated to its current suburban location from downtown Hartford in the 1950's. The University is an active member of the neighborhood, striving, along with other members of University Park, Inc., towards the betterment of liveability in the area.

In September of 2008, the Mort and Irma Handel Performing Arts Center opened on the corner of Albany Avenue and Westbourne Parkway. The Center is the instructional home for collegiate and Community Division students at The Hartt School of the University of Hartford. It has five dance studios, four theatre rehearsal studios, three vocal studios and two black box theatres as well as faculty offices, a community room, bank and cafe.

In addition, the University of Hartford Magnet School offers programing for pre-K through fifth grade and is one of 18 Capitol Regional Education Council schools in greater Hartford. Part of the Hartford Public School System, the Annie Fisher Magnet School offers an advanced academic program focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for grades K through 8. The school was named for a woman who came to the U.S. as a child in 1888 from Russia to escape the persecution of Jews. She devoted her life to education for immigrant children and those with special needs.

In 1893, Emily Wells Foster had formed the nation’s first nursery for blind children in her home in Hartford. That effort first grew into the Connecticut Institute for the Blind then later, Oak Hill, a facility that provides community-based programming for people with disabilities. Its main campus is located on Holcomb Street.

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