Jake McPhail ’24
After I was accepted into Trinity College, I was absolutely elated; this is the school where I knew I wanted to go. The gothic campus rich in history called me to start my undergraduate education. Everyone I informed of the news was just excited for me as I was, but following their “congratulations” was a common warning: “Do not leave campus.” This was not because everything I needed was on-campus or that the surrounding community wasn’t fun, but the warnings were because off-campus was deemed “dangerous”.
I heeded their advice. I stayed on campus in my Trinity bubble with the occasional trip to Parkville Market or Blue Back Square, and this is the experience most Trinity students have—scared away from the very city they live in.
However, the negative things we often hear about Hartford are a gross mischaracterization of an unfairly maligned city. This is not to say that Hartford doesn’t have its problems though; like many post-industrial cities in the northeast, it is grappling with the complete transformation of its economy. All this to say that feeding into the narrative that Hartford is virtually uninhabitable and that it is unsafe to leave campus only worsens your time at Trinity and creates tension between the people that live here and “the rich kids on the hill.”
I wish that I could say everyone at Trinity is victim to this narrative, but much of the student body actively revels in the anguish of the city around it, attracting a host of problems. Whether it be the snark comments about Hartfordites or the use of the pejorative marker, “Hartford local,” remarks on the city are seldom positive. Given that Hartford is a majority-minority city, its negative reputation is deeply imbued with racism and prejudice. When students use phrases and words like “Hartford local” or “ghetto,” they often just mean “black.” Feeding into this undeserved rhetoric is not only harmful but racist.
It took me too long to recognize this, but I am glad I did; I have been an advocate of this capital city ever since. Beyond the problems of making unfair critiques of the city, it is actually an amazing city to live and thrive in. Some of the best food, architecture, and museums in the entire state and region are in Hartford.
One of my favorite hidden gems of Hartford is Mozzicato DePasquale Pastry Shop & Cafe on Franklin Avenue, a short distance from campus. It is one of the most authentic Italian bakeries and cafes I have been to, and they are open until midnight on weekends! Picture this: it has been a long day of having fun with your friends, and you want to treat yourself to a late-night pastry and a spiked coffee, and an old Italian lady comes shuffling out from behind the counter to give you everything you could want and more.
Another one of my favorite places near campus is Aurora’s Restaurant and Bakery on Capitol Avenue. With $1 pan dulces, among a myriad of other mouth-watering pastries, huevos rancheros to die for, and a super-friendly staff, there is nothing not to love.
Right next to Aurora’s is Capital Ice Cream, a black-owned ice cream and cake shop with some of the best ice cream you’ll ever have. Decorated with colorful faux ice cream and outdoor seating, there is never a wrong time for this tasty treat.
You can also venture downtown to the Wadsworth Atheneum, the oldest public art museum in the United States, with an extremely impressive collection. It is important to remember that in the late 19th and early 20th century, Hartford was the richest city in the country, and the bones of that wealth lie about the city for you to enjoy. Also downtown is Pratt Street, which is closed to cars and lined with shops, restaurants, and bakeries from end-to-end.
Hartford is jam-packed full of fun and enlightening things to do, so you might as well enjoy it because you live here.