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Helping Visitors 'Connect The Dots'

Retired Teachers Make It Their Business To Show Off History Of The City

By SUSAN KANIA, Special to the Courant
October 24, 2005

Nilda Espada and Rebecca Delgado-Brito have been friends for more than 30 years, since moving from Puerto Rico to Hartford and beginning careers in the city schools.

Now retired, they've left the classrooms behind, but they're still teaching. They're now telling the stories of the capital city and showing off its historic sites as part of a business they've just started called Sunshine Tours.

Espada, 58, was a teacher at schools including Burns, SAND and Wish Elementary and a vice principal at Kinsella, Hartford Public High, Fox, and McDonough schools. Delgado-Brito, 56, taught history at Quirk Middle School and Bulkeley High School.

The inspiration for their new partnership struck during a visit to the Connecticut Convention Center.

"When I saw it for the first time, it hit me that there's going to be so many people coming to Hartford," Espada said. "But, I thought, `Who's going to connect the dots of Hartford and its history for the visitors?'"

Dressed in rust-colored shirts and chocolate-brown pants, their 60- and 90-minute walking tours begin at the convention center, where they also hand out business fliers and book tours at the information booth. As they begin, walking along Columbus Boulevard, Espada and Delgado-Brito start by discussing Hartford's early "lifeline," the Connecticut River.

They stop at sites such as the Old State House, the Ancient Burying Ground, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and the Butler-McCook House and Garden, while weaving a narrative that touches on Native Americans, Dutch traders, and people such as Thomas Hooker, Samuel Colt, and J.P. Morgan.

A one-hour tour costs $10 a person, while the 90-minute tour is $16. Children from 9 to 14 are half-price; those under 9 are free.

"It's such a positive development that two former Hartford teachers have taken the initiative to start a new tour company," said H. Scott Phelps, president of the Greater Hartford Convention and Visitor's Bureau. "It's great for the convention delegates to get outside for some fresh air, to get a feel for the city and its history. ... Sunshine Tours is tapping into our historic charm."

Dr. Robert L. Painter, minority leader of the city council, said Sunshine Tours is a wonderful example of the new possibilities opening up in Hartford. "They'll send out the message that there's more to Hartford than the Mark Twain House and the Elizabeth Park Rose Garden," Painter said.

Sheboan Rivera, 25, of Wethersfield, a student at Central Connecticut State University, recently took a tour to supplement her early American history class.

"The tour was very informative," Rivera said. "They pointed out many places I've driven past, but never paid attention to, like the Ancient Burying Ground and the brownstone row houses."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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