Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Tour of Norwich

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Norwich, CT is a city of about 40,000 people in the south eastern part of the state. It's about 2hrs from Boston and 3hr from New york. It's also my hometown. Unlike the wealthier suburbs close to New york, It's a decidedly middle-class city. With it's not so great parts of town, and it's little bit nicer parts, but mostly in-between. A capitalistic microcosm of the greater rush belt, and the usa as a whole, Norwich's hay day as a wealthy manufacturing center (Guns), and transpiration stop (wealthy new yorkers up the Thames river by steam boat) are long gone. If you had a thermos growing up in the early 80s, you may have had some of the lasts items made in Norwich, in 1988 Thermos production moved to Illinois. Left from those days are Mills, industry, and Victorian mansions. Many of the large mansions, which are short walk from downtown, are now multifamily apartments, in various conditions. "Downtown" has effectively moved twice in Norwich's history, the original center of town is further north and inland, around a simple public square. It was the center of town in era where farming was the most important thing, and the population was much smaller. With the rise of industry and shipping, downtown shifted to along the rivers. Because of the hilliness, and the rivers, the mass of downtown is more than just one straight road like in many smaller towns and cities. Instead, like the rivers, downtown is a confluence of streets, which makes it all more interesting. One block alone is book-ended with flatiron style wrap around buildings. The trolley system which used to bring be people to and from downtown, was dismantled and shut down. In the 50's with new roads and highways, shops and businesses moved west along a road leading out of downtown, to new suburban housing developments and the highway. Effectively, except for a few municipal buildings and hold overs, downtown had moved again. The historic Downtown has never really recovered, and it's current form is a hipster's dream, with thousands upon thousands of store front space, tons of charm and potential, cheap homes and good schools. It's both restored and deteriorating (the two photos above are on opposite sides of one street steps away from each other), empty and newly occupied, up and coming and declining, rich and poor (a handful of those mansions are still single family). For me, since I only visit these days, it's both home, and it's not.

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