Porter Street's Hart Porter
by Jim Hall

In nearly all cities and towns, you'll find streets named after individuals who were felt deserving of the honor, based on things they did during their lives.

One such street in Manchester is Porter Street. And today's Highland Park School is in a similar location to the old Porter Street School. Which, unsurprisingly, was named after the street it was located on.

But this, of course, raises the question: Who is Porter Street itself named after?

It turns out that Porter Street is named after a man named Hart Porter. Hart Porter is one of those people that you don't normally hear much about. He was born in 1812; and if his house -- located at what is now 465 Porter Street -- is any indication, he was relatively well off when he built it between 1840 and 1845. Another indication is that he was empanelled on a jury in 1880. He died on October 4, 1891 at the age of 79; and except for his house on "his" street, and the crumbling gravestone shown at the start of this narrative, not much can be found concerning him.

Except for this: In the time leading up to the Civil War, Hart Porter's house (or, more accurately, its out-building) served as a stopping place for runaway slaves who were fleeing to northern states or to Canada along the Underground Railroad. Or, as it's known today, the Freedom Trail.

Hart Porter's home, which is located on the Connecticut Freedom Trail's web site, is the only such place listed for Manchester.

Freedom Trail stopping places like Hart Porter's were kept secret for a reason: It was not only dangerous for the runaway slaves if they were caught, it was also dangerous for those who assisted them. At that time, it was possible for such people to lose their homes for doing so, either in the courts or by other, more direct means (such as having them burned down), if they were to be found out.

Nevertheless, for several years Hart Porter took that chance, at considerable risk to himself, assisting others in their flight for freedom. He was an ordinary man, who did something very extra-ordinary in his life.

Which is why we now have a Porter Street in Manchester.

And why the old Porter Street School had a name which its students -- such as those at left -- could take pride in.

To access the Connecticut Freedom Trail web site, please click: Conecticut Freedom Trail.
To see information on the Hart Porter House and Outbuilding on the CT Freedom Trail web site, please click: Hart Porter House and Outbuilding.