By Renato Ghio
This past month, Citycenter Danbury hosted an urban walk as part of Jane Jacobs Day. Jane Jacobs was an American-Canadian journalist, author and activist best known for her influence on urban studies. She invited everyone to see how cities actually work through experience, to go out and see what makes a neighborhood thrive or to see what makes a neighborhood struggle. The Jane Jacobs Walk is an international program designed to bring people together to experience and connect with their community.
So it was on a sunny Saturday afternoon that Alicia and I joined Ted Kilmer of Citycenter, along with twenty or so fellow urban enthusiasts to walk our streets. The walk wasn’t designed to be a formal tour, but rather a way of sharing fun tidbits and points of interest, as well as a way for all of us to connect and share thoughts about our downtown. We began at the Citycenter Danbury office with our first stop close-by at the Danbury Music Centre, the original home of the library. The ground floor level was the children’s library and to this day still features custom painted storybook murals on the walls.
We then walked past the Seal of the City of Danbury, along what’s called Banker’s Row, down to the current Danbury Library area, where we made a pit stop at Rymackees café for a quick snack. This hidden gem is a small café situated between the library and the new Innovation Center. We left through the library and were welcomed to the plaza by music emanating from the St. James Episcopal Church carillon. It was the first carillon manufactured in America.
We turned left and walked up West Street, passing a few of the many ethnic clubs calling our city home. We went left again at Deer Hill Avenue, walking past City Hall and looping back towards Main Street on Wooster Street, stopping at the city’s oldest burial grounds, behind the old Danbury Jail. Then we walked through one of my favorite spots in downtown, Elmwood Park, and proceeded to zigzag our way to Portuguese Square with a stop for a quick pick me up at International Bakery. International Bakery is a piece of Europe right here in the Hat City. One side is a market filled with Portuguese delicacies and crafts, and the other side is a bakery filled with breads and pastries. Special tip: They make a nice strong cup of espresso. Once we all savored a few sweets, our walk continued to the Citycenter Green and Ives Street back onto Main Street, ending at the Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut. There, we were treated to an informal talk with local artist Tom Wolff, currently exhibiting his work in the @287 gallery.
This walk was a fun way to observe and connect with our downtown and with each other. It was a great reminder that one of the best ways to experience our downtown is to get out on foot.