Latinos Sought To Help Preserve Inner-Cities' Architecture


By Linda Tishler Levinson
Joyce Bolaños and Natalie Sweeney
Joyce Bolaños believes that a city’s architecture is what helps make it unique – and its residents need to work hard to preserve it.
That is the source of her passion for working to preserve Hartford’s unique character, she said.
Bolaños is a member of the board of directors of the Hartford Preservation Alliance. While Bolaños said she is the only Latina member of the board, which is working to preserve the Capital City’s architectural history, she feels preservation efforts are important for the Latino community.
Hartford’s housing stock was primarily built for working-class people, she said. Currently, these homes are largely occupied by Latinos and it is important for those residents to know their buildings are historic.
People need to consider historic characteristics, such as front and back porches and the details of the woodwork when they renovate, she said.
And both residents and landlords need to know how important it is to see that buildings are kept in good shape, she added. “Demolition by neglect is something that commonly happens here,” Bolaños said.
“The large population of Latinos lives within the historic districts,” said Natalie Sweeney, president of HPA’s board of directors.
Sweeney said it is important for the community to know that they are part of Hartford’s history.
No one sets out to build historical buildings, Sweeney said, but “it’s historical now.”
“You can’t recapture that … in affordable housing, anyway,” she added. “They need a certain amount of maintenance.”
Sweeney pointed to Hartford’s “Perfect 6” apartment buildings as an example of its unique architecture. These buildings feature 9-foot ceilings, little fireplaces and other architectural details rarely found in affordable rentals of newer construction
“To preserve the quality, it would be great for them to get involved in HPA,” Sweeney said of the Latino community.
Sweeney urged those who want to get involved become involved in their neighborhood revitalization zone or join HPA.
“The mission of [HPA] is to preserve the unique architectural history of Hartford,” said Bolaños. “Each city is unique … a unique historic character.”
HPA does this through advocacy and support for revitalization efforts, Bolaños said. The group offers guidance to property owners to help them keep their buildings’ historic features.
One of HPA’s current focuses is a façade project in the Parkville section of Hartford. Sweeney said the project’s aim is to blend a Latino flavor with the historic nature of the neighborhood. They are working with the property owners, offering technical assistance, such as how to renovate a building while preserving intricate, historical details.
Bolaños, who resides in Enfield, owns Viva Hartford Media, as well as several properties within Hartford’s historic districts. “I’ve always liked preservation,” she said. “I’ve always liked architecture.”
Bolaños grew up in Puerto Rico and said her parents always took her to museums. When she travels, she said it is the architecture that distinguishes each place.
“People in the Latino community come from very historic cities,” Bolaños said, adding that they need to recognize that nature in Hartford and take pride in living in such a place.
The Hartford Preservation Alliance can be reached at 860-570-0331 or by visiting