As we've been told by old timers, Ashley Street in Asylum Hill's Sigourney Square Neighborhood, was, in the 1940's and 50's, one of the solid bastions of Hartford's middle class. Homes were neat and well cared for and gardens stood out from front to back. Then, in the late 1960's and early 1970's trouble hit river city. Houses were sold for low values, some were just let go. By 1975, a low point had been reached with abandonment and decay as the sad reflection of tough times. Some neighbors stayed through it all, and, all of a sudden, the local institutions woke up. All was not lost.
Connecticut Mutual, The Hartford, Aetna, Saint Francis and some bankers all got involved with a variety of tactics with a bewildering array of alphabet groups: C.H.I.F., A.H.I. Inc, NHS, SSCA, A.H.O.P., etc... Did it work? At least the slide stopped and many homes were sold to new homeowners and the solid old-timers were encouraged to stay put.
So, years went by with ups and downs. Most of the propped up outfits (with corporate money) went South, leaving neighbors on their own after all the promises.
Finally, the corporate world decided to get involved again, stressing the most important element in the neighborhood: housing and home ownership. N.I.N.A. was born (Northside Neighborhood Institutional Alliance) organized for a step by step, house by house effort. Ashley Street (and adjoining Sargeant, Garden, Huntington and Atwood Streets) Finally, saw steps toward the stability they deserved.
Today, from Garden Street to Sigourney Street, almost all the homes are proudly maintained, and with the "landscape designers contest" held in May, front yards on those blocks have become a tourist attraction.
Hopefully, this success is a model for Hartford, and, when the book is finally written, credit will be given, especially to those who hung in for generations, guiding and encouraging this solid, diverse neighborhood.