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Parkville, USA: A Brief History

By Andy Hart

September 29, 2011

Although Parkville is one of Hartford's smaller neighborhoods, it holds the unique distinction of once actually considering declaring independence from the city. The idea never got very far, for which the city should certainly feel grateful since Parkville is one of its most distinctive vibrant neighborhoods.

Centered on Park Street and stretching from the railroad overpass just west of Pope Park to the West Hartford town line, Parkville was once home to several major factories, including the Pope Manufacturing Company, Underwood Typewriter, Royal Typewriter, the Gray Pay Telephone Company and Hartford Rubber works. The highly skilled jobs that these factories provided attracted successive waves of immigrants. Irish, German, French-Canadian and Italian immigrants all came and - for the most part - went, but one of the later waves, the Portuguese, have stayed and remain a very visible part of the neighborhood. Portuguese bakeries, restaurants and other businesses are a familiar sight in Parkville.

Although most of Parkville's factories closed down in the second half of the last century, immigrants have continued to surge into Parkville. In addition to Portuguese, the neighborhood has significant populations of Puerto Ricans, Brazilians, Dominicans, Peruvians, Vietnamese, Mexicans as well as smaller populations of several other immigrant groups.

Commercially, Parkville still contains Portuguese restaurants, bakeries and shops as well as several Brazilians and Vietnamese restaurants and shops. While Brazilians live throughout the Greater Hartford area, Parkville has become the center of this immigrant community, due in part to the fact that they speak the same language as the Portuguese immigrants who once dominated the neighborhood.

In recognition of Parkville's enormous ethnic diversity, the exterior walls of Parkville Community School are decorated with flags of all the nations of the world.

Post-Industrial Parkville

When Parkville's factories were booming, most of the employees lived near-by and walked to work. Today, Parkville remains one of the region's few "walking neighborhoods" where one can work, worship, shop and relax without hopping in a car. Although the recent closu8re of the neighborhood's local pharmacy was a blow to th8is way of life, it still retains its own grocery store, library, dry cleaner, art gallery, theater and other amenities.

While some factories were torn down, such as Pope Manufacturing, and others burned down, such as Royal Typewriter, which once occupied an entire block, others have been put to new use. Hartford Rubber Works is now home to a restaurant and a nationally recognized interior design center. The Arbor Street factory that once housed the Underwood Computing Machine Company (an affiliate of Underwood Typewriter, is now home to Real Art Ways (RAW), a nationally recognized art gallery and performance venue. The building also houses several artistic businesses, including photography studios and graphic design shops.

Reprinted with permission of the The Hartford News.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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