From the West Hartford Archives: Farmington Avenue Near South Main Street

Farmington Avenue looking east from South Main Street. Courtesy of Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

Historian Jeff Murray takes a look into West Hartford’s past to uncover some surprising information, stir up some memories, or reflect on how much life has changed – or hasn’t changed at all. Enjoy this week’s ‘From West Hartford’s Archives’ …  

By Jeff Murray

This photo looks east on Farmington Avenue at the corner of South Main Street in the early 1900s.

These four forgotten houses on the north side of Farmington Avenue between North Main Street and Raymond Road are now the parking lot of Bank of America.

The northeast corner of Farmington Avenue and North Main Street was the site of Elihu Olmsted’s house and post office when he bought the land and built on it in 1832. Olmsted was the second postmaster in West Hartford and was succeeded by Nathan Burr in the 1840s.

Burr moved the post office to the southwest corner and built a two-story, two-room building there, where he maintained the office and a shoemaker’s shop on the second floor. Elihu Olmsted’s widow Elizabeth continued living at the northeast corner into the 1850s. After ownership passed through the Cadwell family, it became the property of Francis Butler, whose daughter Susie married a banker Myron Andrews in 1885. They owned the land extending east from the corner to the Trout Brook Ice Company across from Raymond Road.

Susie Butler Andrews, a descendant of a very old West Hartford family, became undeniably the largest individual owner of land in the Center during the modern era – by the 1920s, she owned the northeast corner; most of the land west of the Center on the north side from the Central Theater to Arlington Road; Dale Road; all of Brace Road; and a significant chunk of land on the south side of Farmington Avenue, east of LaSalle Road. Her decisions consolidated certain tracts of land and subdivided others, paving the way for how exactly the Center developed when houses started being torn down in the 1920s. And almost all of this was land she acquired after 1910, not inherited through family.

The Butler land, however, was at that northeast corner of Farmington and Main, which she held for 30 years since the death of her father in 1899. Susie and Myron built these four houses between 1897 and 1899, owned by the family and rented out. They saw a significant amount of turnover over the years.

Some West Hartford residents who later owned houses in suburban developments in the 1920s and onwards could trace their beginnings to these rentals. The old Olmsted house was moved from the corner to a lot north and the post office building was enlarged, converted into a two-family house, and moved to the rear of their land. In 1925, the land at the corner was sold to the West Hartford Trust Company, which built the current bank at that corner (now Bank of America).

When Susie died in 193o, the development west and north of that corner continued. Her children owned equal shares in the family business, the Andrews Corporation. The four houses pictured here were occupied until at least 1947, but were torn down within a few years for the parking lot of the bank in the 1950s. They have been gone for nearly 70 years, but photographs like this one keep them alive.

Current view of Farmington Avenue looking east from South Main Street. Google Street View

Jeff Murray was born and raised in West Hartford and has been involved with the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society since 2011 when he was a high school student and won the Meyer Prize for his essay on local history. Jeff routinely volunteers as local history researcher uncovering information for numerous museum programs such as the West Hartford House Tour and West Hartford Hauntings. Jeff works as a data analyst at Pratt & Whitney.

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