What's up with Truman Street? The relatively short road in New London was at one time packed with homes and apartments, auto repair garages, restaurants, a school and the regional office of the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Today, there are a couple of convenience stores, a laundry, a church, fewer houses and apartments and more auto repair garages and used car lots.
But it might very well be the hottest street in the city.
Over the years, Truman Street, which is less than a half-mile long from Bank to Jay streets, has been the scene of at least eight fires. There were fatalities in three of them. A total of seven people died.
The most recent, on New Year's Day at 28 Truman St., has been ruled arson. No one was injured in that blaze, but the house was destroyed. It is just a few feet from the now empty lot at 30 Truman, where, in 1996, a 25-year-old man died of smoke inhalation in a fire.
On Feb. 1, 1993, a horrific fire raged through a three-story Greek Revival at 91 Truman. It was so cold, water on the road froze instantly. A firefighter died of a heart attack at the scene. The next day, the bodies of three people were discovered inside the ice-encased house. It was dreadful.
A few months later, after the ice thawed, the building was razed. It was hard to believe such a large building and such a giant tragedy took place in such tiny opening on the city streetscape.
In December 1994, 92 Truman St. caught fire. No was injured, but six families were left homeless after the fire took out the heat and water in the three-story structure. In 2001, a two-family Cape Cod-style house at 861/2 Truman St. was destroyed. Last year, firefighters put out a mattress fire in the former DMV office.
In March 2002, a grandmother and her 6-month-old granddaughter were killed in a fire that ripped through a large wooden house at the corner of Blinman and Truman. That house was later razed.
And going back even further, on Thanksgiving 1977, Dante's, a popular Italian restaurant that served corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day, blew up. The building was shaken off its foundation and two tenants who lived upstairs ran for their lives. The remains of the building at 52 Truman St. were later torn down.
Despite all the destruction, Gloria Hatfield, who has lived on Truman Street for 57 years, says her neighborhood is no more prone to fire than anywhere else in the city. In fact, Hatfield loves her neighborhood and the tenants she has had over the years in the five apartments she rents out.
“You have to remember, we are a very busy street,'' says Hatfield, who worked for years in the New London City Clerk's office.
Hatfield became aware of the fire across the street just before midnight last Tuesday. She could hear the fire engines coming. Five minutes later, flames were shooting into the sky.
Hatfield, who loves her old home with its tall ceilings and big rooms, wouldn't trade it for a more compact and easier-to-care-for condo, even though her family wants her to.
But, she admits, the New Year's Day fire hit close to home.
“It was the saddest thing,'' says Hatfield, who watched from inside as firefighters “worked like the devil” to contain the blaze. “This one, across the street, it was scary.''
Kathleen Edgecomb's column will appear every other Monday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.