West Hartford's 'Thursday Throwback'

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

Test your knowledge of West Hartford history with this ‘Thursday Throwback,’ courtesy of the Noah Webster House and West Hartford Historical Society.

By Ronni Newton

It’s Throwback Thursday (#tbt), and time to take a look back into West Hartford’s past to either stir up some memories, reflect on how much things have changed, or both. And if you have no idea, we love the photo captions, too!

My apologies – once again – for skipping last week’s Throwback Thursday column. This time I can’t blame the holidays and will admit that I completely lost track of the day (there has been a lot of news) and suddenly it wasn’t Thursday anymore.

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

There may have been a record number of comments about the most recent throwback photo (at right and in larger size below). I typically try include most of them, but there are far too many (including Facebook there were well over 100) this time!

Liz Gillette posted the first comment directly on the article: “Is this Whitman Elementary, on Raymond Rd., now the police station?”

“This appears to be the original Plant Junior High building, which faces Whiting Lane. It now looks nothing like this and is part of the Plant senior housing building,” commented Jim Brennan.

Giovannni Seccareccia agreed with Jim, and added: “I remember the ‘connector’ building that attached Plant to the school administration building on the far right. (I went to Plant from 1969-1972)” Dianne Rechel thought that Plant had two entrances – one for girls and one for boys – and Giovanni replied: “This was also before they added the second entrance to a stairway which would have been on the left/front of the building. Right next to the faculty lot that was between Plant and Whiting lane Elementary School.”

Biff Mellon also guessed Plant, and said his mother worked there as a para before it closed.

A few who commented on Facebook had guesses other than Plant, including the old Hall High School (current Town Hall), Sedgwick, Whitman (current police station), and Elmwood Elementary School (now Elmwood Community Center).

The correct answer is that this photo is of Plant Junior High School. The photo was taken in 1928. Plant, which opened in 1922 and was West Hartford’s first junior high, must have a cult following because even though it closed in 1979 it has its own Facebook page! The building was converted to the Alfred E. Plant Senior Housing and reopened in 1986. A renovation and expansion was completed in 2012, and the facility is now managed by the West Hartford Housing Authority.

On Facebook the post with this photo of Plant was shared in multiple groups, and set off a walk down memory lane for many people who reconnected with old friends as well as teachers.

Some of the recollections included:

“Dances in the Plant Jr. High gym began with Brown Sugar. Then the boys stayed on one side for dear life.” (Tracy O’Connell)

“It was such a great experience for 2 years. Such a big leap coming from elementary school to Jr. High. And then going to Hall earlier than KP for the 1st 4 year class. I remember the controversy of mixing the “Jr. High with high schoolers. My parents were mortified. I know families who moved just to be in KP or Sedgwick so they wouldn’t be in high school.” (Robert Kulakowski)

“It’s amazing when I think of the herd of kids between Ballard and North Quaker who walked or rode their bikes to Morley, Plant and Hall in those years. No buses, no anxious parents waiting at the corner…such a vastly different time in the universe.” (Don Reder)

People noted memories of grilled cheese sandwiches in the cafeteria, teachers, trips to Camp Jewell, a band trip to Corning, NY with a side trip to Niagara Falls, Mr. Berard (Town Council Minority Leader Denise Berard Hall’s father), the principal’s office, cafeteria workers, and the janitors.

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

This week’s photo (at right and in larger size below) should also bring back plenty of memories.

Who knows where this is?

When was this photo taken?

What is in this location now?

Please share your memories below.

Thank you to the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society for providing us with the images. They are always looking for new images to add to the collection. Visit their website at www.noahwebsterhouse.org for more information about membership and programs.

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Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

Plant Junior High School. 1928. Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

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  • Easy one this week – that’s Bishops Corner, specifically the southwest corner. Based on the cars, I’d guess early 50’s, and currently there is a Qdoba restaurant, a GNC vitamin store, a hair salon, a few others. It really looks largely the same except now there are more things on the roof, HVAC systems or whatever.

  • Bishop’s corner, l think. My parents owned The Music Shop kitty corner across the street from 1959-1970 ish.
    I’m a little confused, because there was a Woolworth’s in our corner. The photo shows where I remember there was a Lord & Taylor’s on the left and S.S. Pierce in the right corner. Downstairs, there was an Italian Restaurant. It was a great, if imperfect, time and place in those years.

  • Bishop’s Corner. From the look of the car images, I’d say planning for a renovation around 1960. I recall the Woolworth’s dept store (it was on two levels, with an escalator with wooden slats on the steps). I can’t see clearly enough from the picture, but on the corner to the left of Woolworth’s was S.S. Pierce (I used to go in there to look at the cans of chocolate-covered ants). The building to the left housed Lord & Taylor.

  • Lord and Taylor had the best Santa. Real red velvet!S.S. Pierce was a wonder – canned asparagus! The bottom floor of Woolworth’s had a lady named Teddy in the small pet department who would let you hold the hamsters!(They smelled like cedar) Debby Reynold’s exercise salon was down in the back. Thompson’s music was inside. Was Harvey and Lewis there then? Are they the oldest business in the block? So much nicer without the antennas on top!

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