Now that writers have lost Borders as their place to work outside of the home, area freelancers and novelists may be looking for new venues in which to earn their bread.
Here are a few suggestions. Not all have wifi, but being connected is more distraction than anything a lot of the time.
Elizabeth Park: Any spot in the park is a good one, but try the Heritage Rose Garden for a more secluded, less distracting environment. If you need a break, there are food options at the Pond House; this building also houses clean restrooms. Even on the busiest days in June, you can find a bench. You can bring a blanket and sprawl out on the lawn. Unlike restaurants and cafes, you can pack your own lunch and eat it there, right in the open. They even have a bike rack.
2.Garden at St. Patrick-St. Anthony: This below-street level garden on the corner of Church and Ann is open to the public on weekdays from 11am-3pm. The only imaginable distraction here is if aromas from Agave waft over.
3.Burr Mall: This doubles as a great people-watching/eavesdropping spot. Locating between City Hall and the Wadsworth Atheneum, you get to witness arts patrons and artists, residents looking stressed after paying taxes, community members excited about flag-raising events, busybodies, politicians, and the suits. Right now, there are also loads of construction workers nearby because of the renovations being made to the Wadsworth Atheneum.You can use this spot year-round, and, when City Hall is open, you can duck inside to use the restrooms, which are clean but never seem to have hand soap. They also have a vending machine inside if you get desperate for a snack.
4.La Paloma Sabanera: Food, drink, wifi, and other writers. The down side? Running into every friend and acquaintance ever. They will want to talk. You might be trying to work. Bring headphones. On the other hand, itís a small place and the eavesdropping potential is awesome because of its proximity to the State Capitol/Legislative Office Building.
5.The Kitchen at Billings Forge: This is also a magnet for locals, but for whatever reason, they seem less interested in lots of socializing here. This gets used most as a meeting/work space with food and drink. There are usually parking spots available on weekdays, though Thursdays may be more challenging because of the farmersí market. The tables are larger, which can either mean sprawling out or sharing with three other people.
6.Riverside Park: There is a reason so many photos from the riverbanks end up on Real Hartford. This area is beautiful. On the average day, you will see other people about, but itís generally quiet. On festival/event days, you can food vendors and experience various cultures. There are benches next to the boat launch and scattered along the path connecting Riverside Park to Charter Oak Landing. The only not-so-charming thing about this location is the constant buzzing of the highway, which, if you live in Hartford, you may have already learned how to tune out.
7.University of Hartford campusĖ picnic tables along river: this space may be somewhat restricted. The area is on the residential part of campus, which means that adults who are not students may not be comfortable (or really allowed) here when classes are in session. To get here, use the footbridge that links the academic and residential parts of campus. There are several tables in this grassy, woodsy area. Herons and other birds have been spotted in the river. During summer and winter break, this area is quiet.
8.Cedar Hill Cemetery: Think of it as a park with lots of monuments and more solitude than average. Quiet activities, like photography, reading, and writing, are acceptable here. Really. People sometimes set up easels and paint. There are benches in some areas, but mostly, this is a bring your own blanket/chair venue. Out of respect for the freshly deceased and their families, it seems classier to set up oneís writing station where the older, fancier monuments are located. Itís not uncommon to see deer in the cemetery at certain times of day.
9.Playground in Bushnell Park: The benches and tables are buffered from street noise by greenery. It can be quite quiet for downtown. Then, moments later, you can be surrounded by children, hopped up on sugar and high from riding the carousel. There are plenty of other places to sit in Bushnell Park, but here is where writers can recharge their senses: smell popcorn, hear childrenís laughter and music from the carousel, watch birds and squirrels, witness parents actually paying attention to their children, and feel the strange squish of the playgroundís ďfloor.Ē If this ends up being too distracting, you can set out a blanket under the trees on the other side of the arch.
10.The library: Face it. Borders was just a newer, shinier version of the library. How many people read large chunks of books and magazines at the defunct store, while dropping crumbs into the pages? Or, who sat there for hours and hours, using free wifi without even buying a coffee? Those with an ounce of decency used coffee shop etiquette and helped support the business now and then, because it is not just free wifi. Itís also free heating or air conditioning, depending on the season. Itís the free access to a reasonably clean restroom. And, itís having all manner of reference books on hand, which our home offices might lack. Bordersí demise was due to a number of circumstances, but no doubt, freeloaders helped to push it toward extinction.
The library is designed to serve the public, not to profit from it. You can park it all day, use the wifi, and not buy anything. Thereís usually not anything to purchase at the library, though that may change if the Hartford Public Library finds a vendor for its cafe.
In any case, it looks good when patrons use the library and rent materials. Itís like trying out a book for a few weeks and then returning it, except no money ever changes hands unless you return it past the policy date.
Whatís more, not everything flops when the economy does. Library use has actually increased in recent years, which means itís not quite time to declare the death of these centers of civic activity.
With such demand, there is no shortage of inspiration for writers who might sink into an armchair and watch the diversity of the city walk by them. Even those too wealthy to consider using the library for material rental stop in for community events.
The library branches have less space, so out of courtesy, itís best not to hog a chair all day when others are waiting, but everything else applies.
Are there any places in Hartford that should be on this list, but are not?
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.