Seeking Asylum


Detail of City of Hartford, color lithograph by John Bachmann, 1864. The Connecticut Historical Society, 1960.93.20. Asylum Avenue and Farmington Avenue are in the foreground, with the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb and the City Reservoir at the left. The railroad station is in the right background.

What nationally famous Connecticut institution was once located near the junction of Farmington Avenue and Asylum Avenue? How many people notice the statue that stands in the little wedge-shaped green park at this busy intersection, and how many people know what it commemorates? In 1817, one of the first schools for the deaf was erected near this site. Known as the Connecticut Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, it pioneered the use of American sign language. Asylum Avenue was then a very new road—the CHS has an 1802 manuscript map showing it as “the road now laid”—and it took its name from this institution. The word “asylum” in those days had none of the negative connotations that it acquired later. It suggested a place of refuge rather than a place of imprisonment. The monument was commissioned from local sculptor Frances Wadsworth in 1950 by the New England Gallaudet Association in commemoration of the asylum’s founder, Thomas Gallaudet. The monument depicts Alice Cogswell, the young girl who was Gallaudet’s first pupil. She is shown clutching a book and being supported by two enormous hands in the shape of the deaf-mute sign for “light.” Today the American School for the Deaf, as it is now known, continues to educate the deaf and hard-of-hearing at its spacious campus in West Hartford.

Dollie McLean: From the West Indies to the Capital City

Born (Dollie) Clarice Helene Simmons in Antigua, West Indies, Dollie McLean was raised in Manhattan, later lived in the Bronx, and graduated from both the University of Hartford and FIT. Mrs. McLean has been an avid participant in the arts throughout her life, having performed off-Broadway as an actress and dancer with various organizations like the Negro Ensemble Company. Continue reading

On the Road with Richard Welling


Two Miles to Collinsville. Drawing by Richard Welling, 1969? The Connecticut Historical Society, Gift of the Richard Welling Family, 2012.284.5585

I’m inclined to think of Richard Welling inassociation with two cities—New York City and Hartford, Connecticut, but in addition to his iconic drawings of New York and Hartford, Welling produced views of many of other buildings and landscapes throughout the Northeast. The Richard Welling Collection at the Connecticut Historical Society includes views of Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, and Maine—and small towns throughout Connecticut. I like to think of Welling as a twentieth-century John Warner Barber. Just as Barber’s drawings show us what Connecticut looked like in the 1830s, Richard Welling’s drawings will show future generations what Connecticut looked like in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Welling’s drawing of the First Church of Christ on Route 44 in Canton Center evokes the feeling of Barber’s earlier views. Other drawings show downtown Collinsville, on its way to becoming a bustling antiques center, following the closing of the Collins Company in 1966. Look for other Connecticut views by Richard Welling on this site in the months to come.


Auction in Collinsville. Drawing by Richard Welling, 1969. The Connecticut Historical Society, Gift of the Richard Welling Family, 2012_284_5565

Open Studio Hartford Comes to CHS

For artist Vicente Garcia, form and scale are crucial elements of his artistic production. On the beautiful fall day when he installed his large outdoor sculptures on the CHS grounds, he also needed strength and dexterity and some really good climbing skills. For those of you strolling past the CHS along Elizabeth Street or Asylum Avenue, you will most likely have noticed the work of Garcia, who is an Associate Professor of Art at Central Connecticut State University. The large metal sculptures have a natural rust finish and add drama to the grounds while still blending into the natural landscape. Continue reading

On the Tarmac with Richard Welling

I am continually amazed at the range of subjects that Richard Welling sketched in his long career. While best known for his drawings of Hartford’s changing skyline through the years, Richard also loved railroads and vessels of all types, as I have blogged about in the past. This of course now brings us to another type of vehicle—aircraft. Continue reading