By Cindy Mindell
WEST HARTFORD – Five years ago, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford (JHSGH) embarked on an oral-history project with former residents of the city’s North End neighborhood. The resulting book, “Remembering the Old Neighborhood: Stories from Hartford’s North End,” is a collection of those reminiscences. So many interviewees told stories about downtown Hartford that JHSGH director Estelle Kafer decided to dedicate an exhibition to the subject.
“People kept talking about going downtown to shop at the great stores – Fox’s, Steiger’s – and it sounded like such an exciting time,” says Kafer. Indeed, in its heyday, from the 1930s to the 1960s, downtown Hartford was the “hot” place to go for shopping, dining, and entertainment.
Kafer worked with Brenda Miller of the Hartford History Center, who serves on the JHSGH board, putting together a collection of photos and quotes. One part of the show serves as an introduction to the JHSGH bus tour of Hartford, displayed in the waiting area before tour participants board the bus.
Among the photos are images of streets filled with people young and old, sale days, and back-to-school parades. “The people we interviewed still remember their favorite shops, or buying a new dress or suit,” says Kafer. “Now I get to hear new stories as visitors at the exhibit reminisce with friends and strangers. It was such a special experience for people, young and old, to go downtown and be in that bustle and activity.”
“The Downtown Hartford Experience” runs through March 2013 at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford, 333 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford. Exhibit hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1-4 p.m. Info: www.jhsgh.org / (860) 727-6171