This is a view of the house known to the HCW community as 80 Elizabeth Street, the former home of the diCorcia family.
Kathleen McGrory lived here for a while after HCW acquired the house. I moved in about a year after Kathleen moved out, and lived here for just about four of the five years I worked at HCW. I took this photo from the driveway, which was entered from Girard Avenue.
The house was designed by Philip Joseph diCorcia, who lived here with his family until his death in 1980. diCorcia attended Yale with Eero Saarinen and Philip Johnson. Both Johnson and Saarinen reportedly contributed ideas to the design of this very special home.
According to college records I reviewed as part of my HCW facility management duties, diCorcia wanted the house and property to go to HCW if, after his death, his children were not interested in keeping the home. HCW purchased the property from Mario diCorcia, Philip’s son, in the late 1980s.
The house was built in 1951. It had three bedrooms, two were located in the main part of the house and one was located directly behind the garage. I was told the room behind the garage was originally used as an office and design studio. The studio was entered from a door reached by following a narrow asphalt sidewalk along the left side of the garage seen in image 1.
The single door visible to the right of the garage and next to the windows in image 1, led into the main part of the house and opened into the kitchen. That door was used as the main entrance into the home during my years living in the house and throughout the time HCW owned the property. But in reality, that door was the home’s back door. The front door was located on the opposite side of the house – on Elizabeth Street – behind a completely walled-in yard.
Image 2 shows the view from the corner of Girard Avenue and Elizabeth Street during the years when I lived in the house.
The gray fence formed a wall that completely surrounded the front of the home and property. At one time, there was a door in the middle of the fence facing Elizabeth Street. That door opened into the yard where a path led to the home’s front door.
I took this picture standing on the corner of Girard Avenue and Elizabeth Street. My back was facing Girard Avenue. I was looking down Elizabeth Street, toward downtown Hartford.
Image 3 shows what the house looked like from inside the walled-in yard. The dining area was on the extreme left side of the house. The living room was to the right of the dining room. The red front door can be seen in the center of the house. That door led into a foyer. A hallway with floor-to-ceiling windows and doors is located to the right of the front door. That hallway led to the home’s two bedrooms. The pool was in a constant state of disrepair during the years HCW owned this property.
I took the pictures included in image 4 when I lived at 80 Elizabeth Street. The upper image was taken from the dining room and looks into the living room area. The front door – the door leading out to the walled-in yard – is just out of sight, on the right, immediately before the hallway that leads to the home’s two bedrooms.
The lower left image shows the large fireplace and skylight in the living room. A stone floor – which was designed to be heated – was installed in the living room, dining room and foyer areas of the house.
The image on the lower right is a picture of my bedroom, which was located off of the left side of the hallway. The bathroom was located behind the living room fireplace. My bedroom adjoined the bathroom. The artwork hanging on the walls in my bedroom was created by my friend, Irina Nakhova.
The door to the second bedroom – my studio at the time, which also had a fireplace – can be seen at the end of the hallway, on the right side of the upper image.
Image 5 includes some fun pictures of Irina and me inside 80 Elizabeth Street. Irina was living on campus as part of the HCW visiting artist program, a program I launched and managed when I was director of the HCW Art Gallery.
I invited Irina to HCW while she prepared to participate in Dialogue With the Other, an international exhibition and program featuring many of the world’s most influential contemporary women artists. Dialogue With the Other was held in Denmark in 1994.
Irina and I were sitting in the dining area of the house when we took these pictures. We had just had dinner and were playing cards.
The upper left image shows me at the dining table with my back toward the sliding glass doors that led out to the non-working pool. The kitchen and doorway out to the driveway and garage areas were directly across from me.
The lower left image shows Irina with her back toward the living room. The kitchen was to her right. The living room fireplace was behind her left shoulder.
The lower right image shows me with my back toward the living room. The foyer – where the front entrance into the home was located – was right behind me. The front door – that can be seen right behind my left shoulder – led out to the walled-in yard.
I moved out of 80 Elizabeth Street in 1995 to finish my graduate degree at Parsons School of Design and to take on a research project at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
While I’ve lived and worked in some incredible places – both in Europe and the U.S. – since leaving Hartford, I have extremely fond memories of my time living at 80 Elizabeth Street and immense respect for diCorcia as an architect.
This unique and modern house, hidden from view in a neighborhood consisting mainly of stately homes and historic mansions, is truly one of Hartford’s architectural gems.
The University of Hartford sold this property several years after the HCW/ U of H merger.
I’ll write more about 80 Elizabeth Street in future posts. – Russ DeVeau