If there's been one symbol of the blight, frustration and false hopes that have plagued the North End of Hartford, it's been the beheaded statue of a deer that's stood for years on a stone pedestal at Deerfield and Albany avenues.
The metal statue was one of two at the entrance to Deerfield Avenue. They were toppled in the riots of the 1960s. In the late 1970s, one was returned, minus its head. Neighbors restored it and replaced in its pedestal, only to see it vandalized again a few years later. It's been sitting as is, missing the head and lower legs, for more than 20 years. It spoke volumes about a neighborhood mired in despond.
But it's a new day, and with it will come a new deer.
In 2002, the Christian Activities Council began an ambitious revitalization of Deerfield Avenue, a one-block street that runs north from Albany Avenue toward Keney Park. Deerfield is lined with large, stately Queen Anne-style homes built in the first decade of the last century, many with exquisite detail. But in the first years of this century, four were abandoned and three had been torn down.
The council painstakingly repaired the wrecks and built three new homes in the style of the older ones. As they did this, other owners fixed up their properties. Property values have risen substantially as the street has regained its lost elegance.
But there was one last detail. The council commissioned artist Karen Petersen to sculpt a new deer. Cast in bronze, it will be unveiled Saturday at 1:30 p.m. as part of a celebration of the housing initiative. The celebration itself will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This is one of several initiatives to revive the Upper Albany neighborhood, and one of the most promising. It was the first step in a long-term plan by the council to help bring back the neighborhood with new and rehabilitated affordable housing.
The Christian Activities Council, ably headed by the Rev. Don Steinle, has quietly done a lot of good for a lot of years. The Rev. Steinle and his staff may well have found the secret to reviving Hartford - one street and one symbol at a time.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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