A Drive through the Town

If one takes a roughly east-west route through New Hartford, one can get a sense of the town’s rich history. As one enters the town on Rte. 44 from Canton, the road passes the Foothills Plaza, home to Marandino’s Grocery; this development is a ubiquitous example of the mid-late twentieth century strip-mall, albeit a small one, while the grocery store, family run for 65 years, stands as testimony to the continuing tradition of small, family businesses.
Entering Pine Meadow Village, the road passes a mix of nearly identical, but well-built, Greek Revival houses, dating back to the mid-1800’s; several ornate houses in both Italianate and Queen Anne styles; and a traditional village green. Pine Meadow village records the rise of the Chapin Company in the mid-1800’s: the plain Greek Revival houses were company houses, built for the workers; while the ornate houses were owned by the Chapin family itself.
Just around the bend lies the modern center of New Hartford. Formerly known as the North Village, the apartment block buildings; and, on the other side of the Farmington River, the few remaining row houses in what had been Lower and Upper Dublin, stand as reminders of the high point of industry in New Hartford. These buildings, more economical, than those of Pine Meadow record the burgeoning population centered around the factories of Greenwoods, D.B. Smith, and Chapin in the late nineteenth century.
Travelling up Town Hill, now Rte. 219., takes one past several old farmhouses. If one goes to the very top one encounters yet another strand of New Hartford history. Several of the large houses on Town Hill, as well as on Holcomb Hill, Highland Ave., and immediately above the town were enlarged or built by summer residents. In the mid to late 1800’s people with sufficient wealth sought escape from the increasingly crowded cities of Hartford, Boston, and New York. Throughout northwestern Connecticut and western Massachusetts old farmhouses or entirely new building were constructed. These summer homes generally were built in the Colonial Revival, Queen Anne, or Shingle Styles with large porches and landscaped grounds. In New Hartford, many of these families were connected with the literary, performing, or fine arts worlds of Hartford and then New York, though at least one professor from Columbia University also made his home here.
Turning west from Town Hill, one quickly encounters the West Hill section of town. Again one passes a few old, 1800’s farmhouses and many mid-to-late twentieth century subdivisions. West Hill, itself, began to be ‘discovered’ in the late nineteenth century, again in connection with the summer homes. After WWII, with the increase in personal income combined with improved roads and cars, it became a major summer destination ringed with small cottages. It also was, and remains, an important summer camp location, with three camps still operating. Today, many of these cottages have been converted to year round use, as changing lifestyles have generally spelled an end to summer-long vacations.
From West Hill one crosses in the town Winchester.

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