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A Home To Be Proud Of

Site For Sore Eyes

March 12, 2006

Queen Anne lives again. Since the late 1980s, Mutual Housing Association of Greater Hartford has turned vacant buildings into beautiful, affordable homes whose residents form an association similar to a cooperative. Now, the group has a new home of its own.

Two years ago, when Mutual Housing's directors decided the agency needed more office space, they bought a 5,100-square-foot Queen Anne-style house at 95 Niles St. in the city's Asylum Hill neighborhood. The group, which helped renovate many "perfect sixes" in Frog Hollow, rehabbed this 1890s-era home exquisitely.

The group not only preserved but highlighted many of the home's significant architectural details, including exterior dentil work, a majestic staircase, three fireplaces and several huge windows. They wrapped it all up in a paint job whose tones range from sea green to burgundy.

According to Hartford Preservation Alliance, which gave Mutual Housing an award for the rehab, the house once belonged to Ward Devanny, former director of the Hartford School of Music, (now the Hartford Conservatory), and was converted to offices 30 years ago.

Interestingly, the building is situated sideways, which places the front entrance away from Niles. In this way, it seems nestled alongside Grace Lutheran Church, behind CPTV, and framed by the large curve of Regency Towers Condominiums on Woodland Street. It fits into and enhances the Niles streetscape.

Mutual Housing, with an impressive track record of taking old housing stock and using it to drive community revitalization, now has some great new digs of its own, appropriately on Niles Street. The street is named for Jonathan S. Niles, a 19th-century community activist who, with his own money, built the original Asylum Avenue Baptist Church.

The church was egalitarian by design: member families included prominent merchants and former slaves, worshipping side by side.

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.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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