February 7, 2010


To mention Berlin, for better or worse, is to allude to the worn down, slightly tawdry aesthetic of its eponymous Turnpike. West Hartford, so famous for uppity striving, connotes so much as to be more of a sentence than a simple town name. Even the unexceptional East Hartford bespeaks a certain sort of solid, working-class place. But Newington, in my experience at least, never comes up. When I go to the Target on New Britain Avenue I pass in and out of Newington in the span of about 100 feet, and it doesn’t make much of an impression.

I don’t know if this anonymity in the popular imagination is unfair – maybe Newington really is the least notable town in our state. But I can say that I had an awfully nice bike ride there yesterday, and I saw at least one thing that seemed very unusual to me:

I headed down Newington Avenue off New Britain Ave. in West Hartford. In Newington, Newington Ave. becomes Willard, and just before Willard goes over a small bridge, there is a left with a DEAD END sign. That leads to an abandoned factory and office park, and behind it I rode onto the right of way beside the railroad tracks.

For about a mile, I crunched south over snow and ice unevenly laid upon loose gravel and leaves, which made for a marvelous ride from an auditory perspective. Then the path beside the tracks narrowed and another path split off at a southwesterly angle, so I followed it. It was more frosted gravel, just wide enough for a car, and there were tracks indicating a car or some sort of large vehicle had been there since the last snowfall, along with one person, one dog, and a rabbit. To the west of the path were the back sides of warehouses, mechanic shops, old factories, and the odd apartment building. To the east were woods and the railroad tracks, heading due south and getting progressively farther away. It was cold and quiet and very very nice.

And then this: When I was at the point where the tracks had angled away for long enough to drop out of sight, the path presented a branch to the east, which led, twenty feet on, to a large clearing, maybe a quarter mile across. But it wasn’t just a clearing – it was a racetrack. There was a wide dirt loop about a tenth of a mile around with some scrubby brush in the middle and a rather significant jump at one point, and off to the side was a smaller loop with a very steep jump. There was also a wide open area in front of the two loops with some earthen ramps built here and there, and off to the side a sturdy-looking fire pit lined with three-foot large concrete pavers.

I don’t know if this track is for BMX bikes or ATVs – it was covered in snow and there weren’t any recent tracks – but it is rather impressive, both for its size and for its location: you really can’t see it from anywhere, and it must have required bulldozers to build. Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures, my camera having conveniently run out of batteries and my phone camera being ill-suited for the recording of sprawling vistas. I guess I’ll have to go back.

Farther south I came across an abandoned factory that was better suited to cell phone photography:

National Welding and Manufacturing Co., Newington

National Welding and Manufacturing Co., Newington


These are the song titles off the self-released demo album, Fear of Tomorrow, by a group called Guerra. Notably, this graffiti is dated 2002, while the album dropped in 2003. Could it be that the actual members of Guerra, perhaps lacking scrap paper in their studio, gathered in this remote location to plan their groundbreaking first record? Internet says they are from New Britain, SO THE THRILLING ANSWER IS YES!!! Luckily, between this spraypaint session and the time when the discs got pressed, somebody hit the spellcheck and cleared up the “Lombotomy” issue. (I actually kind of like it, though – it reminds me of Lambada: “Lombotomy – The Forbidden Operation.”)

National Welding and Manufacturing Co., Newington

National Welding and Manufacturing Co., Newington

National Welding and Manufacturing Co., Newington

While I was poking around in this room, I heard a door somewhere else in the sprawling factory open and someone walk in with the decisive tread of a person who feels entitled to be in the place where he is. This decisiveness, combined with the presence of the pitchfork shown above, made me think that this unseen person might be less than welcoming of visitors, so I made a hasty exit and continued south on my bike. Now that I’ve learned that this place was once frequented by the band Guerra, I’m glad I did. As their publicity shot clearly shows, a pitchfork may be the least frightening of the tools the routinely employ:


One Response to “Newington”

  1. fatbo said

    poor woody.

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