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What’s in a (Street) Name?

By Andy Hart

January 19, 2012

Hartford’s earliest settlers didn’t put much imagination into naming the streets of their growing community.

On a map depicting Hartford in 1640, we find such prosaic street names as “Cow Pasture to Ox Pasture,” “Palisado to Centinel Hill” “To the Great Swamp” and “Little River to North Meadow.”

While these roads have long since disappeared, others major thoroughfares named after their destinations have survived, such as Wethersfield, Blue Hills, Albany and Windsor Avenues.

But Granby Street doesn’t go to Granby and Groton Street doesn’t go to Groton, so where did those names come from? And where did all the names for Hartford’s other 600 streets come from?

In reference to Granby and Groton Streets, many city streets are named after Connecticut towns. Apparent­ly, somewhere along the line, someone came up with the idea that since Washington D.C. had avenues named after states, Connecticut’s capital should have streets named after state towns.

This is especially prevalent in the Blue Hills neighborhood, where you have Burlington, Sharon, Corn­wall, Hebron, Plainfield, Canter­bury Ridgefield, Manc­hester and Branford Streets, along with Granby Street.

It also crops up in the North End (Rockville and Mansfield Streets), South Green (Groton, Stonington and Norwich Streets) and the Southwest (Bristol, Stafford, Goshen and Nepaug Streets).

A more common way to name streets, however, was after a developer or large property holder in the area. An 1876 map of Hartford shows large tracts of land owned by people such as Albert Seymour, R.S. Lawrence, Marshall Jewell, Jonathan S. Niles, Henry Terry and Francis Gillette.

Other streets were named after people to honor their contributions to the city, such as Franklin Avenue (after William Franklin, a high-ranking Civil War general who also supervised the building of the Connecticut State Capitol) and, more recently, Boce Barlow Way (after Connecticut’s first African-American state senator) and Ann Uccello Street (after Hartford’s first woman mayor) formerly just Ann Street. In addition, there’s Linda Olsen Drive and Luis Ayala Way in the new Dutch Point housing complex. Other Hartford notables, have been honored with street signs, such as Ella Cromwell Way and Vinnie Russo Way, but these are not the official names of the street.

For history buffs, the most interesting streets are those named after landmarks, either natural or man-made, because many of these landmarks have since disappeared or moved.

• Asylum Avenue was named after the Asylum for the Education of Deaf and Dumb Persons, which stood near the road’s intersection with Broad Street.

• Campfield Avenue was named for the camp field where Connec­ticut’s soldiers drilled for the Civil War.

• Summit Street stands at the summit of Rocky Ridge (and Hillside Avenue run along the side).

• Brookview Street runs along the Park River.

• Crescent Street forms a crescent shape as it curves around from Broad Street to New Britain Avenue.

Reprinted with permission of the The Hartford News.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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