Hartford, Connecticut: Landmarks~History~Neighborhoods | Neighborhoods: Upper Albany.
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Albany Avenue, which dissects the neighborhood, is one of the oldest roads in the state, having been laid out in 1678 as The Talcott Mountain Turnpike which eventually extended from Providence to Albany, New York. For much of its time, there was a fee to travel the turnpike, and taverns were strategically located as overnight accommodations for the pedlars and others who moved along the route at the rate of less than ten miles per hour. From colonial days until the end of the 19th century, Upper Albany was primarily farmland. Throughout most of the 19th century, James Goodwin, a railroad and insurance magnate, owned much of the property along Albany Avenue (more)

In the 1850s–70s, the Hartford Trotting Park was located on the south side of Albany Avenue near the Granby Turnpike (now Blue Hills Avenue). Milford Street cuts through where the park once stood. Horse racing was the primary activity, with purses of up to $1,000 at stake. Fairs and other activites also took place at the park— including base ball games. The Charter Oak played Yale in a celebrated game on the 4th of July, 1866; the Middletown Mansfields played there during 1872, and owners of The Hartford Base Ball Club considered making the park their home field, but opted for a ball ground on Wyllys Street.

The neighborhood built-up quickly once trolley lines were installed Well-established Protestant families were the first to move into the neighborhood, followed by upwardly mobile Irish and Jewish families. In 1927, Hartford's oldest and largest Conservative congregation, Emmanuel, completed a synagogue on Greenfield street. A year later, Agudas Achim, an Orthodox congregation first organized in 1887 by a group of Rumanian Jews, dedicated their synagogue nearby.

Street Map of Upper Albany Neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut

One business established in 1794 and still in operation today is the Smith-Worthington Saddlery Company. Founder Normand Smith established the business and manufactured saddles, especially “ladies side saddles of the latest fashion,” trunks and bridlework. Located on Homestead Avenue, they offer a showroom open to the public.

The character of Albany Avenue changed rapidly after World War I. It became largely commercial, with some older homes torn down to make way for businesses, and retail store fronts added to other residences. By 1920, most of the property owners in the area were Irish or Jewish because of the close-knit communities that had developed. Part of the attraction to the neighborhood was the proximity to Keney Park. The southernmost entrance is located on on Greenfield Street.

Hartford's oldest surviving school building is the Northwest School Built in 1891 as an addition to another school, and with other subsequent additions enlarging the facility, the school functioned until 1978. All but the current building were demolished. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

After World War II, the number of African-Americans in the neighborhood increased while other groups declined. Today, the neighborhood is composed of predominantly African-American, Puerto Rican and West Caribbean residents. One of the poorest neighborhoods in Hartford, it has a strong presence of community groups that are working towards revitalization through economic development

One driving force is the Artists Collective, founded by NEA Jazz Master Awardee Jackie McLean and his wife, Dollie. Since their start in 1970, classes in the performing arts, with an emphasis on the African Diaspora, have been provided to at-risk youth.

In 2008, the University of Hartford opened the Mort & Irma Handel Performing Arts Center, a 55,000 sq ft facility that is home for collegiate and community instruction in the performing arts. The facility also contains The Backstage Cafe, open to the public and serving light fare and specialty coffee drinks.

A portion of the neighborhood is included in the Upper Albany Historic District as the structures and styles represent the economic growth of the area in the early 20th century and much of the architecture of that time remains today.

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