Audrey O’Byrne ’20
Trinity College attempts to involve its’ students with the Hartford community through groups such as the Cities Program, the Community Learning Initiative, and other volunteer opportunities. However, when I asked students about their experiences while living in Hartford, few see Trinity’s connection to the city as something to be embraced.
Hartford is home to a number of famous sites, each holding distinct historic and cultural significance, not only for Connecticut, but for the nation. Some of these sites include the Mark Twain House, where the famed author wrote Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Harriet Beecher Stowe House, home of the prominent abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the Wadsworth Atheneum, which holds pieces by artists such as Caravaggio, Salvador Dalí, Jackson Pollock, and Monet.
If this is the case, why do most Trinity students opt to spend the majority of their time on campus, instead of in Hartford? The reason for this is that there is a noticeable “darkside” to the boroughs of Hartford, of which its citizens and the students are less proud.
From the colonial days of the United States through the mid-twentieth century, Hartford played a significant role as the oldest city in Connecticut, a hub for abolitionist movements and a center for industry and insurance companies. These industries allowed the city and its citizens to flourish. However, in the mid-twentieth century, this inner-city success began to decline.
Cigna, a large insurance company that was orginally based in the Hartford, moved its headquarters to a suburb. Later, shopping malls outside of Hartford began to grow, causing department and family-run stores in the city to suffer and eventually close. Then, during the 1990s, Hartford’s population dropped a shocking 13 percent. This drop had dangerous implications, as the people who left the city were no longer spending money in Hartford. The poorer populations in Hartford could not afford to move elsewhere and were unable to contribute capital to revitalize the local economy.
The problem is cyclical and until those who are still living in Hartford are able to fully support themselves and the local industry, it will not be solved. Equally troubling as the economic issues, is the drug epidemic in Hartford. According to the Hartford Courant, projections estimate that this year in Connecticut there will be more deaths due to accidental overdoses of heroin and other opioids than last year. In addition, violent and non-violent crimes have been on a steady rise for the last decade.
To get a feel of student opinions on Hartford, I asked a variety of Trinity students how they feel about living here. The immediate reaction was, more often than not, negative. Even if nothing has happened to them personally, students referred to the emails sent by Campus Safety as indicative of what it is like to live here – generally unsafe at night. Trinity students stand out from the local citizens, and many students are simply told not to venture into Hartford by friends and family.
I also had my stipulations, as a freshman who does not quite know her way around Hartford yet. However, in my First Year Seminar, France in the Age of Cathedrals and Kings, I recently went on a field trip to the Wadsworth Atheneum. This experience changed my perspective and my feelings toward living in Hartford. In addition to viewing work by the famous artists listed earlier, the trip reminded me of museum visits I had made in other cities, such as New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. In short, I intend to go back to the museum, and explore other the offerings of this historic and dynamic city.
As I am not from Hartford or the surrounding area, I did not know much about the city when I first arrived at Trinity. I approached the museum trip with an open mind and a sense of excitement about what was in store. My hope is that other Trinity students can find a spark to build their own relationships to the city of Hartford.
Audrey O’Byrne ’20