West Hartford’s Elmwood neighborhood has one of the richest histories in the town. Maps from the 1600’s show the Connecticut trail passing through Elmwood. The trail was the main thoroughfare for native and later colonial populations. The pre-colonial history of the area was likely very rich, but early colonization and flooding has obliterated a great deal of archeological evidence.
During the Revolutionary War, Elmwood had a very active branch of the ‘Sons of Liberty’. The neighborhood received its name when 13 elm trees were planted to celebrate the pivotal victory at Saratoga (1777) over British General Burgoyne. The site is honored by a plaque at the corner of South Quaker Lane and New Britain Avenue. Two copper beech trees from the same era sill survive nearby.
Soon after the war, rows of elm trees were planted along New Britain Avenue and Newington Road. The trees flourished for over one hundred and fifty years until they were wiped out by Dutch elm disease in the 1940’s. The good news is that the Elmwood Business Association has begun a drive to plant disease resistant elms in the neighborhood. The elms are returning!
At the top of “four mile hill” (South Main Street) is the Sarah Whitman Hooker House – the oldest house in the town. And, as you may already know, West Hartford’s patron saint, Noah Webster (author of the first American dictionary), was born and lived just over the hill from Elmwood.
Elmwood’s biggest industry was pottery. The Goodwin Pottery Company flourished for many years (it was located by the railroad bridge) and New Park Avenue was home to many international corporations including Royal Typewriter and Heublein. Notable businesses still remain in the area including LeGrande/Wiremold, Abbott Ball and the world headquarters for ‘Uncle Bill’s Sliver Grippers’ (believe me – you need to have a pair of these tweezers in your medicine cabinet).
The area now known as Beachland Park was a ‘model farm’ of the early 1900’s. Produce and dairy products were produced in hygienic conditions – it was the forerunner of what we would now call an organic farm. The former creamery building is still located at the entrance to the park. The dammed pond adjacent to that building once powered a woolen mill and was later used to harvest ice for use in refrigeration.
As with much of the country, there were boom years after the Second World War. Many returning GI’s bought the small ranches and capes that were newly built in Elmwood. Many small, “strip mall type” shops were built along New Britain Avenue and have been re-habbed for the 21st century. The Quaker Green Condominiums are centered around the former Talcott Junior High School (built in 1922) which saw countless West Hartford kids walk through its doors. After the school closed in 1979, it was the headquarters of Coleco, best known for the Cabbage Patch Doll craze of the 1980’s.
Elmwood is extremely attractive because it is an affordable and walkable community. Most of the stores are locally owned and eclectic to say the least! Check out stores like ‘The Chalkboard’ and ‘Jerry’s Artarama‘. Also, Elmwood sports a great selection of restaurants. Tapas, ‘The Corner Pug’ and ‘The Fernwood’ have been popular for years. Newly arrived are Beachland Tavern, Pepe’s Pizza, jake’s Wayback Burgers, Bombay Olive, HB Seafood and Kebob House of Elmwood.
Add to all of this the convenience of West Hartford Center and Westfarms Mall and you can’t help but see that you have everything right here within a five mile radius — parks, recreation, shopping, education and history!
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