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 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!

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

Last week’s photo (at right and in larger size below) was recognized by many of our readers, and has been gone for just about 10 years.

Giovanni Seccareccia started off the comments and knew exactly what this building was: “The old American Legion Hall on the corner of Memorial and Isham Roads. The old Grody Chevrolet dealership can be seen in the background. This is where Blue Back Square stands today. To the left, and out of frame of this photo, would be the Noah Webster Library parking lot.”

Good call! Sure looked familiar!” agreed Tom Martyn.

Liz Gillette had some firsthand memories of this location: “The site of the Labor Day Fair (That was eventually re-imagined as Celebrate West Hartford after it got too rowdy!) And, yes, the practically vertical library parking lot!”

[Editor’s note: I remember trying to navigate the library parking lot with my son as a baby in the stroller and it was very scary!]

Giovanni added his recollections of the parking lot, although a few might just be an exaggeration … “LOL…that parking lot was scary! In some areas it was almost on a 45 degree angle! Whenever I went there at in the evening to study for a high school test, I had to use mountain climbing equipment, ropes, pick-axe, cleats. In the winter I even brought a St. Bernard with me and put a brandy barrel on his collar…I even learned how to yodel! Yodel-lay-HEE-hOoOoOoooooo! See? LOL.”

“The old American Legion Hall. Since I was a new veteran in the early 70’s, my father-in-law suggested we meet for a beer which was around 20 cents back then. I never took him up on the offer, but have enjoyed a pint or two at the new one at Blue Back with friends and fellow veterans. Sadly, the club seems forced to compromise its facility in order to survive in the community,” added Paul Shea.

Many of our readers added their comments on Facebook, including Beverly Sayer Truebig: “The old American Legion building, which was torn down to make way for Blue Back Square. The post is now located in the building across from Whole Foods, on Raymond Rd.”

That used to be the corner of Raymond road and memorial road. The American legion hall. We had a few family parties there over the years,” commented Elizabeth McGloin Browne. She added, “Just realized that’s the view of the memorial road/isham road corner. You can see Grody Chevrolet in the background. My uncle Michael was the service manager there for years.”

MaryBeth Callan Serdechny recalled taking dance lessons at the American Legion in the 70s, while Sarah Rommell Falvey recalled dance classes and something else: “American Legion and upstairs home of Coogan School of Irish Dance for some years while the guys drank downstairs!!”

This image also generated lots of reminiscing among old friends, more memories of the Labor Day Fair and playing pool at the American Legion, and a discussion about the car dealerships that included some stories from former employees.

Sandy DeMarco wrote: “Labor Day Fair grounds! I lived on Burr St., so I hung around until the rides came down, and the crowd thinned out. The new school year began on Wednesday, so you could stay at the fair longer, and sleep on Tuesday. It was so great to see the kids you hadn’t seen all Summer, at the fair. I remember vividly, seeing Scott Donahue, my classmate from Smith School at the fair (he was a dreamboat), as we were about to enter Plant Jr. High on Wednesday, and his voice had changed from a kid’s, to a guy’s. It freaked me out, but such is life, which was lost on me.”

My brother, Doug Briere took me there for a drink on my 21st Bday!” wrote Kim Andrew.

“Teen dances at the Legion! ‘Oh those summer nights…'” commented Lee Foster.

Biff Mellon wrote: “ First time I got the keys to the car-off to the fair. Too many great times at the Legion Hall to count.”

“American Legion Hall on the corner of Raymond Road and Memorial Rd. My dad’s Exchange Club meetings were there. As were my daughter dance recital rehearsals. The parking lot was used for town hall employee parking as I recall. And, Patti, you are right, this parking lot was used for the Labor Day Fair for years and years. Torn down for Blue Back Square,” wrote Lisa Christensen Petersen.

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

This week’s photo (at right and in larger size below as well as at the top of this column) may not generate as many firsthand memories, but there are probably some readers who will recall this scene and others who will be able to figure it out.

Who knows where this photo was taken?

When was this photo taken?

What is in this location now?

If you have memories, please share them 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

Former American Legion Hall at corner of Isham and Memorial. Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

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  • The only rail bridge over a road I know of that looks like this is at the corner of New Park and New Britain Aves. Looking down New Britain Ave. towards Hartford; South St. under there somewhere on the right. There’s a shopping plaza now behind where the gas station is here, with the wonderful A Dong market. Probably August of 1955.

  • The only trestle bridge that comes to mind is over New Britain Ave. The flood of ’55? But where did all that water come from- did Trout Brook reach that far? The brick building on the left looks like Lincoln Dairy, later replaced by a behemoth. Loved their chocolate chip ice cream!

    • Isn’t Piper Brook in that area? Before flood control there was lots of temporary flooding, but this is really deep.

  • My father says it’s the location that everyone correctly recognizes, but that due to the partially submerged panel truck, it’s the aftermath of the Park River flooding that area due to the hurricane of ’38. I’d have guessed the same as everyone else since the location is clear but the only flood photos like that I’ve seen were from the ’55 flood (but in Winchester County).

    • To quote him,
      “The photo must have been taken in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane of 1938. The location is the railroad overpass that runs over New Britain Avenue right where New Park runs into NB Ave. The partially submerged panel truck in the middle of the photo looks to be of about the right vintage. The flooding probably came from the branch of the Park River that runs under New Park.”

  • Looking at the car further behind the truck and to the left, I’m not confident that my father is correct. It doesn’t look like a 1930’s car to me. The clothing in the foreground also doesn’t strike me as 1938 vintage. So I’d cast my vote for the ’55 flood.

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