HEADLINES

What Is That Thing: The Keney Memorial Tower

The Hartford skyline is full of mysteries, often in the form tall buildings you glimpse as you speed (or crawl) by on I-84. You wonder what they are, and then you drive past and forget them, until a few weeks later when you pass the same way and start wondering anew.

One of those mysteries, for me, was the Keney Memorial Tower. At first I didn't even know that was its name; I thought perhaps it was part of a church. But the 130-foot structure in the small park where Albany Avenue meets Main and Ely Streets is, in fact, Hartford's only free-standing tower.

The clock tower and surrounding park, enclosed by an ornate black fence, was built in the 19th century by Walter and Henry Keney to honor their mother, Rebecca Turner Keney. The brothers' grocery store, and the Keney family home, once stood on the site.

The tower itself was built in 1898, years after the Keney brothers had died; Henry left the money and plans for its donation to the city in his will. It was, according to Connecticut historian Wilson H. Faude, "the first memorial in America erected to honor a woman simply because she was someone's mother."

Today, the park tends to be fairly empty, though there are benches near the tower. When I last passed by, someone had added a bit of spray-painted color to the tower's base, about which I felt less outraged than perhaps I should have.

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