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Mount Carmel Buzz

July 2, 2007

Broadway at Mt. Carmel

By Joanne Iacobellis

Blue Hills Summer Theater founders -- former Kenwood Avenue residents Stephen Baranski and Karen Williams-Baranski -- are offering a summer workshop for kids 9-13. The three-week project begins July 17 and culminates with a full-scale theater production.

The first week is geared to learning song-and-dance routines, auditioning for roles and participating in set design. The next two weeks are rehearsals and staging of the play. The final product will be performed on the Mount Carmel Congregational Church stage.

The production chosen this year is “Once On This Island,”a musical by Stephan Flaherty, with book and lyrics by Lyn Aherns. It is based on the novel “My Love, My Love,”by Rosa Guy. Set in the French Antilles, the play is a take on the “Little Mermaid” tale. It tells the story of Ti Moune, a peasant girl who falls in love with Daniel, an upper-class boy, whose life she saves after a car crash. “Once On This Island” first opened on Broadway in 1990 and received eight Tony nominations, including best musical.

Karen and Steve have extensive musical-theater experience. Steve is a music teacher at Westport's Bedford Middle School. He has also been the pianist for Broadway's “Phantom of the Opera” and the long running off-Broadway hit “The Fantasticks.” Karen has freelanced in many New York productions and is currently a member of New York's Westside Singers. For more information, call 230.0514.

Joanne Iacobellis is a lifelong Hamden resident whose professional career was in nursing management. She is currently the president of the Kenwood Valley Neighborhood Association and co-president of Concerned Citizens For Hamden Neighborhoods.  She can be reached at JoJo3030@comcast.net.

May 31, 2007

The Spiritual Roots of Kenwood

Courtesy photos

By Joanne Iacobellis

You might say that the Mount Carmel Congregational Church is the cornerstone of the Kenwood neighborhood. Founded in 1757, the church is celebrating its 250th anniversary. I recently spoke with Rev. Doug House, the 57th minister, to learn more about the history.

With the establishment of mills and Bellamy's Tavern, the settlement of Hamden grew. The people petitioned the General Assembly for a church and parish of their own. In October of 1757, the Mount Carmel Ecclesiastical Society was formed. Its boundaries ran from the Cheshire line to the area of town known as Centerville. The society could hold property and raise taxes to cover expenses.

In colonial times, churches were the beginnings of town government. Nathaniel Sherman, younger brother of Roger Sherman, became the first settled minister for the Mount Carmel church. Rev. Sherman built his house, expecting to remain in Hamden for the rest of his life. But after two years, dissatisfied with his pastorship the society voted to remove him. The reverend’s house remained in Hamden until the 1970s when the current owners, the Mortons, sold it. It was dismantled and moved to North Canton, Conn.

The neighborhood bell.

The first church structure was built somewhere in the vicinity of Mount Carmel Cemetery. In 1831, that structure burned, and in 1838 the new church was built at its current location of Whitney and Sherman avenues. It was also built adjacent to the famed sycamore tree. According to legend, the bell for the new church arrived before the steeple was completed. Members of the parish decided to hang the bell in the sycamore. The bell was rung on Sunday calling the parishioners to Sunday service. Hence, the tree became known as the Bell Tree.

A celebration for the church’s 250th began in September 2006 and will culminate in June 10, 2007. Last September's Rally Day kicked it off. Church members dressed in colonial costumes along with a fife and drum corps marched from the original church site (now a veterinarian hospital) to the church grounds for a dedication and picnic. A game master from Old Sturbridge Village taught the kids colonial games. December was highlighted by the Westside Singers Concert, and the children's celebration of a colonial Christmas feast. Celebrations have continued every month. On June 10, a Sycamore tree will be planted and a time capsule buried. The capsule will contain memorabilia from the 250th anniversary as well as items from the church and Sunday school.

The Mount Carmel Congregational Church is a landmark and cornerstone for the Kenwood neighborhood. It is an integral part of Hamden's history from colonial times when Whitney Avenue was just a dirt road, to the 1800s when trains traveled along Whitney to Mount Carmel Station, to the present where 40,000 cars pass daily.

I think Rev. House expressed it most succinctly when he said: "The sycamore tree gives roots to the church and the church gives roots to the community.”

Joanne Iacobellis is a lifelong Hamden resident whose professional career was in nursing management. She is currently the president of the Kenwood Valley Neighborhood Association and co-president of Concerned Citizens For Hamden Neighborhoods.  She can be reached at JoJo3030@comcast.net.

April 27, 2007

How Kenwood Evolved

By Joanne Iacobellis

When I moved into the Kenwood neighborhood some 15 years ago, I heard that it had changed. What was once a very rural area was now undergoing a transformation. So I decided to talk with lifelong resident Ginnie Dowd to gain some insight as to what the neighborhood was like when she moved here.

Mr. Dowd in front of his home located at the intersection of Kenwood and Klarman Drive.

Gin, you see, had been here for almost 50 years. Life was still very quiet in this segment of town. Ginnie’s boys attended the Mount Carmel School located on Whitney and Woodruff. Traffic was light, there were no stop lights and Ginnie’s kids walked to class. The school is now gone, replaced by a senior housing center. A portion of that structure is the Mount Carmel School building.

Kenwood Avenue, as I know it, was originally Sherman Avenue. It crossed over at the area of Old Hill Road and actually ran between the Mount Carmel Congregational Church and the parish house into Whitney Avenue. An old wooden bridge stood over the railroad tracks where the freight train passed on its trek up to Plainville. The last train passed through Hamden in 1982. The relocation of both Sherman and Kenwood avenues then took place. Sherman was extended down to Whitney and the section of the road beyond Sleeping Giant Drive was renamed Kenwood Avenue.

The tract of land on the northwest side of Kenwood remained wooded and undeveloped. It had gentle slopes filled with dogwood trees where deer roamed and kids played. This was railroad land. In 1965, the courts granted the railroad the right to sell to AT&T a segment of its property not used for operations. AT&T needed this land for the development of its underground telecommunication system for the Northeast corridor. Easement exists on all properties developed in this area.

Kenwood Avenue in the 1990s with the new housing.

In 1988, the Kenwood Development Corporation purchased the property and 11 homes were built. My house was one of the 11 The landscape had changed. Gone were the trees and the slopes where kids had played, only to be replaced by a mini subdivision. We all moved in not knowing the history that had preceded us.

Now in 2007, the winds of change are blowing again, but maybe they never stopped. Traffic along Whitney Avenue has increased from the Cheshire line to the Route 40 Connector, due to residential growth and the expansion of Quinnipiac University. We know that Whitney Avenue and Westwoods Road are scheduled to be realigned with expanding lanes at the interchange to allow for turning traffic.

“20/20 Vision - Whitney Avenue” was the theme of a recent Westwoods neighborhood meeting. Larry Denardis, president emeritus of the University of New Haven, served as moderator of a panel that included Town Planner Leslie Creane, Nancy Dudchik of the Hamden Chamber of Commerce, Donald Weinbach, a vice president at Quinnipiac University, and Aris Stalis, a landscape architect and member of the Westwoods Neighborhood Association. The discussion focused on Whitney Avenue in 2020 and what we want it to look like.

The town’s zoning regulations will be revised and groups will meet with town officials to create a vision for the Whitney Avenue corridor. In the coming years, the landscape on Whitney Avenue will change. It is my hope that what is created preserves our history and natural resources and reflects our New England heritage, for this is Hamden -- Land of the Sleeping Giant.

Joanne Iacobellis is a lifelong Hamden resident whose professional career was in nursing management. She is currently the president of the Kenwood Valley Neighborhood Association and co-president of Concerned Citizens For Hamden Neighborhoods.  She can be reached at JoJo3030@comcast.net.

February 26, 2007

All I Want is a Cul De Sac

By Joanne Iacobellis

The Kenwood Avenue area of Mount Carmel is a small neighborhood bound by Whitney, Evergreen and Sherman avenues. It is home to the historic Mount Carmel Congregational Church and Lockwood Farm. When I first moved here some 15 years ago I thought, ”This is a quiet hamlet tucked away from the noise and traffic of Whitney Avenue, yet so close.” Having lived in Hamden most of my life, I did not know that this area existed. I was happy to find a house here.

The shopping strip at the intersection of Sherman and Whitney avenues was home to a luncheonette, baby gift shop and card store. The luncheonette, where neighbors gathered, served breakfast and lunch only. The gift and card shops closed at 5:30 p.m. There was no traffic. Over the years, the tenants in the shopping strip changed. Today there is a Dunkin Donuts, a Krausner’s and a liquor store.

Along with these changes came the traffic.

The current buzz on Kenwood Avenue is hope for a cul de sac near the intersection of Sherman Avenue. With the recent opening of Quinnipiac University’s sports complex and the plan to house 1,800 students on the new York Hill campus, the traffic on Kenwood is bound to increase. The peaceful tranquility I found 15 years ago is disappearing.

Hope for maintaining the integrity of this neighborhood is a cul de sac. The quest for this began in the fall of 2004 when the Kenwood Valley Neighborhood Association was formed. This group met with town officials to explore the possibilities. Ballots were mailed to all residents of the neighborhood to vote on one of two sites for the cul de sac. The majority favored Sherman Avenue. When Mayor Henrici took office, the cul de sac became a reality. Groundbreaking and construction should begin this spring.

As Hamden officials consider 21st century development along the Whitney Avenue corridor, it is important that we consider and protect surrounding neighborhoods. The cul de sac for Kenwood Avenue will do just that.

Joanne Iacobellis is a lifelong Hamden resident whose professional career was in nursing management. She is currently the president of the Kenwood Valley Neighborhood Association and co-president of Concerned Citizens For Hamden Neighborhoods.  She can be reached at JoJo3030@comcast.net.


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