In studying prominent, and less so!, individuals from New Hartford’s history, a certain trend quickly appears: New Hartford as a retreat, especially in the summer.
There are several reasons for this. One is strictly social. Many of these people knew each other prior to their introduction to New Hartford. People tend, naturally, to congregate with their friends. So, for example: Cyrus Yale, the reverend of the Town Hill Church, had a brother: Richard Yale. Richard knew, through business, Morris Smith. Morris was the husband of Julie Palmer Smith, author. That friendship led the Smiths to New Hartford; where they bought a house on Town Hill expressly for use as a summer retreat. From there, friendships with other people, including Efrem Zimbalist Sr. and Bernice Gilkyson, helped in those families’ decision to buy property in the area. This sort of social relationship was repeated and reinforced through various networks, not all overlapping, and helped to create that cultural community, the snowball effect.
However, another reason was sheer practicality. New Hartford had traditionally been a major stop on the Hartford-Albany stage route. Originally, when the roads were at their most primitive, it would have been a long day’s travel. However, by the late 1800’s the road improvements had cut the travel time down to a few hours by horse or by stage, perhaps half a day; freight traffic would have continued to be relatively slow, however, as it was dependent on oxen. The advent of the trains in New Hartford in the 1870’s radically changed that. In the late 1800’s New York City, Boston, and Hartford were all readily accessible by train. It took perhaps five hours by the express routes to get from the center of Manhattan to New Hartford. Suddenly, visiting the ‘country’ for the weekend, while working in New York became eminently reasonable.