Shad Roe Skid Row
Fishfry Street, Hartford
Everyone in Connecticut loves Roast Meat Hill Road in Killingworth. I don’t know what it is about that road, but every time someone asks the algorithm-loving question of “what’s your favorite street name in the state?”, Roast Meat Hill Road always gets tons of mentions.
And Fishfry Street in Hartford does not.
I’m here for some Fishfry love. And some Fishfry Street sign love… it’s a special sign, not just because it’s written in lowercase and a different font, but…
In fact, I brought some fried fish to Hartford’s North Meadows to really do it up right. Some of you familiar with the area probably know that Fishfry Street is not exactly a place you’d want to hang out and party. This short street is home to a methadone clinic, the Hartford Correctional Center (aka jail), and a few junkyards. It boasts a view of Hartford’s Mount Trashmore across I-91.
It’s also split into two by the train tracks. In fact, For a hundred years, it was the only road in Hartford that didn’t rate enough to get a bridge, tunnel, or gate-guarded crossing. (Flower Street downtown joined Fishfry when the Fastrak was built in the 21st century.) As a result, there’s a tiny Fishfry Street that crossing North Main then a longer section that crosses Weston Street. Fishfry Street might be the only street with three dead-ends in Hartford?… in Connecticut?… in America?… in the worrrrrlllld?!
Actually, if you want to get poetic, the large jail could also be considered a dead-end too. FOUR dead-ends!
I explored the wonders of Fishfry after picking up a feast from Dunn’s River Jamaican Restaurant. You can get all sorts of fried fish from here, but I opted for the classic straight up fried whiting fish. One of life’s great joys is hearing a Jamaican woman say “whi-TING,” trust me. As you can guess, Fishfry is a really ugly street. Especially in the fading light of a cold winter’s day. Just a wasteland, really. But why Fishfry? There has to be a story beyond some idiot bringing a clamshell of fried whi-TING fish up here to take a picture, right?
Right. Probably. Maybe. From the Hartford Courant, June 7, 1869, and a blurb titled “Festivities on the North Meadows.” (Just power through the parts you don’t understand like I did.)
There are times when it is pleasant to fall into the clutches of the Hartford police. This statement will not be indorsed by any of the “swell mob” who occasionally come from the larger cities to Hartford under the belief that it will be an easy matter to bamboozle “countrymen;” but every one who was tapped on the shoulder on Saturday afternoon by one of our gentlemanly blue coats and informed that his presence was requested at a certain place in the north meadows will agree to it. Those who accepted the invitation , those who did not “resist the officers,” found, on arriving at the rendezvous, that the newly appointed members of our police force were treating the veterans to a “fish fry” and “clam bake.” The fishers of men had for a short season turned their attention to the cove above the ice houses, and the result was a supply of fish sufficient to feed a multitude. A long table was spread, and soon all were busy preparing for the feast, with appetites sharpened by exercise and the delightful June air. Lieutenant Cowles guarded the chowder kettle from which escaped a flavor of the products of Wethersfield, making it natural to think of those who have been planted there in consequence of Sid’s vigilance. Officers Smith and McCarty put a delightful brown upon the potatoes, and Wright, Thomas and Buckley fried the fish to a turn—while others of the force made themselves useful in other departments of the culinary art, or entertained the invited guests. “Link-ed sweetness” was “long drawn out” from a keg, and lemon juice with the edge taken off helped to moisten thirsty palates. Mayor Chapman, Judges Jones and Merrill, representatives of the press and others were among the invited guests. Several members of the Springfield police force were also present. After all were fed there was a speech by the Mayor, who paid a just tribute to the efficiency of the force. He was followed by Officer Lyman Smith, and afterwards S.F. Jones, Esq. and Judge Merrill were called out and made pleasant speeches. The feast was over before the shower, and all voted the occasion a very pleasant one. There is nothing “scaley” about our police force, notwithstanding their familiarity with the fun, frolic, and feasting of fish-frys.
Is that it? Local cops hosted fish-frys up here after the Civil War? Sure, why not? It’s a better origin story than the Roast Meat Hill “an oxen team got hit by lightning” claptrap.
Let’s hope none of you ever need to visit Fishfry Street, as there are no actual good reasons to do so.