Porter Street's Hart Porter
by Jim Hall

In most cities and towns, you'll find streets that were named to honor individuals, and one such street in Manchester is Porter Street -- named after Hart Porter, 1812-1891, who built a house at what is now 465 Porter Street between 1840 and 1845. In an 1855 map, he's listed next to a "silk mill," which may have been a satinet mill. Satinet is a textile composed of cotton, wool, and sometimes other filaments, woven to resemble silk, satin, or wool.

In the time leading up to the Civil War, an out-building at Hart Porter's house served as a stopping place for runaway slaves who were fleeing to northern states or to Canada along the Underground Railroad, known now in Connecticut as the Freedom Trail. Hart Porter's home, along with the Bunce house on Bidwell Street, is registered on the Connecticut Freedom Trail's website. 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, Hart Porter took that chance, at considerable risk to himself, assisting others in their flight to freedom.

Which is why we now have a Porter Street in Manchester. And the school that pre-dates Highland Park School was known as Porter Street School.

Visit the Connecticut Freedom Trail website here: Conecticut Freedom Trail and put "Manchester" in the search box.