Published on May 11, 2017 and Updated on June 17, 2017 By Constance Patterson
The photos in this gallery of the Asylum Hill Neighborhood in Hartford, CT were created for members of the Town & County Club in Hartford and photographed by professional photographer, Jim Fuhrmann.
In viewing Jim’s photos of the Asylum Hill neighborhood, I am struck by the beauty of the front doors that still call out to be admired. They are all a testament to the days when one walked from one place to another and gathered intel as one went. Think about it ... walking gives one the time to appreciate the front elevation of a building and what one might expect to find within. As one approaches there is a language of design that makes a statement that we can see, rather than hear.
Grand or modest?
Ornate or simple?
Gaudy or plain?
Big or small?
The doorways that Jim has pictured are like voices from the past. And, if we are lucky, still have a lot to tell us about the time and place from whence they came. The Harriet Beecher Stowe House, The Mark Twain House, The Immanuel Congregational Church... they all still serve the original purpose, and are at one with their interiors, as are many of the others. In this respect we are fortunate that so many of these beautiful front doors remain tied to their original purpose.
However, the photos of these fabulous doors, and the obvious time and thought that went into their original design, gave me pause ... how strange is it that today, no matter how big or grand the house, very few have a front door that is ever used. Instead, we all seem to go in through the servant’s entrance around the side and the back. After all that is where the garage and driveway take us. And in some respects we really are akin to those that served below stairs back in the day. After all... groceries need to be toted into the kitchen... kids need to use the mud room to shed all the hockey sticks and boots, etc... running errands always involves the car and the driveway …
As a rule, we don’t walk to our neighbors houses as we might have done in the past. Now, if we know them at all, we phone, or text. And, seriously, who wants to slog through the snow around to the front of the house, when the garage door leads directly into the house?
Growing up, only children used the side or back door on a regular basis. One shook out the rugs and dust mops out the back door, or took out the trash, or let the dog out into the back yard. But one left the house for the day via the front door, and came home from work the same way. Visitors always came through the front door. One dressed the front door and foyer to give a good impression, and took coats and hats and gloves and scarves to be tucked away out of sight for the duration of the visit.
There was purpose and intent in the design of one’s front door.
The advent of the two car family, and the paved driveway, and the attached garage, changed all that. Now to achieve the same prominence, and give the same meaningful existence to the front door, one needs two driveways ... one for you, and one for your guests. Barring that, one might just as well not have a front door.
I know a lot of people that have never used the front door of their own home, except perhaps when they originally met with a REALTOR® to tour the house. Unless of course they have their mail box by the front door, in which case they need to open it to reach outside for the mail.
So why is it that we still picture houses as complete, only when they are shown with their doorways, as viewed from the street? And, why is it so satisfying to see a doorway.
I think it its because doorways represent a sort of idealized welcome. They allow one to be private, while expressing hospitality. In effect, they are a symbol that is universally understood to be a form of control over the interior space, be it private or public.
They open and close, and give one power over who is allowed to intrude, and, at the same time, they do not exclude anyone personally. They are the public face of a personal space, and as such the old doors from the Asylum Hill neighborhood, reflect that still.
Aren’t we all lucky that these beautiful doorways are still there to give pleasure to those that take the time to go visiting. ■
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