La Casa De Puerto Rico
By Sarah Remes
Driving along Main Street in South Green, it is hard to notice the small pale pink stucco building on the busy corner of Main, Wyllys, and Wethersfield Streets. Located across from the small triangle plot of grass and benches that is Barnard Park. La Casa de Puerto Rico, although just steps from Hartford’s major artery streets, blends in with many of the other deteriorating buildings that have begun to appear along Main Street as the trendy “Downtown” business district takes a sharp transition into the Puerto Rican-dominated neighborhood of South Green. The contrast between these two areas is distinct and insultingly obvious as up-and-coming restaurants and bars with enthusiastic signs and recently constructed office buildings make way for dilapidated apartment buildings, empty offices, and ambiguous structures desperately advertising their availability. Interestingly situated at this divide is La Casa de Puerto Rico, a building that houses a small beacon of hope for those trapped behind the curtain of poverty, poor education, and unemployment.
Owned by La Casa Investments Inc and built originally in 1860, this three-story structure, although appearing more as a multi-family home, is registered for use as a general office. Although the Hartford municipal website lists the total value (as of last year) at a depreciated value from only two years prior, from $199,206 to $198,850, the more commercial real estate website Zillow.com has a current estimated of $321,000. Two aged white pillars flank the seven wooden steps leading up to the main entrance adding a small sense of formality to an otherwise very casual building. Its flat tar and gravel roof is in stark contrast with many surrounding structures built with the steep “Saltbox” roofs popular in late 19th century New England architecture . Its stucco façade rises from the stone and brick foundation and boasts long but narrow windows on all three floors with wider windows encompassing the right side of the building (facing Wyllys Street). The left side however, is separated from the adjacent building by a narrow strip of land and has very few windows looking onto the next property.
The inconspicuous building is only 4,567ft2 and has a rectangular floor plan with the first floor extending significantly further back than the square core of the building. Coming off the back door of the first floor is a long ramp leading to the small parking lot with room for not more than 10 cars. The parking lot seems to be shared with the adjacent building, an apartment-style structure with a stone foundation and brick exterior with a strategically placed “for rent” sign on its entrance. The most recent sale date for La Casa de Puerto Rico was in February of 2003 for $225,000  in which the zoning was changed to separate La Casa from its neighboring properties.
Described as a place that “has always served as the fulcrum for Puerto Rican activism from which educational, health, housing, economic development and other successful endeavors have sprung,”  La Casa could not be located in a more convenient location for the community it seeks to empower. The neighborhood of South Green is home to a population of just over 2,500 residents, only around 50% of who have graduated high school and fewer than 10% have received a college education. With a median household income of $20,793, a third of all families in the community are currently living in poverty . From its location on .101 acres of land, La Casa de Puerto Rico helps to advance the social, economic, and political well being of the Puerto Rican community of Hartford. Even though cars race down the street and local residents naively walk past the sparse landscaping, lifeless trees and Prudential Realty sign stuck deep in the front yard, the plaque on the left side of the entrance, as well as the one hanging down from the top of the entrance both proudly declare “La Casa de Puerto Rico” as a vehicle for change from within the Puerto Rican community of Hartford.
 Saltbox Houses in the Historic American Buildings Survey, Introduction: Connecticut, Maine. 5 March, 2009. < http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/175_sal1.html>
 Property Summary – 0048 Main Street HARTFORD. 2 March, 2009. < http://assessor.hartford.gov/Summary.asp?AccountNumber=15152>
 Vizcarrondo, Juan. “La Casa Gala Ball Dedicated To Councilman Ayala.” The Hartford News. 28 October, 1998 < http://www.townusa.com/southsidemedia/1028la.html>
 HartfordInfo.org. “Community Info – South Green.” 5 March, 2009. <http://www.hartfordinfo.org/Snapshots/neighborhood.asp?pNeighborhood=South%20Green&pRegion=Hartford%20Neighborhoods&pIndicator=ALL>