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Newsletter | April 19, 2023

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Trivia question

One of the headlines below concerns last week's re-opening ceremony for the newly renovated Ropkins branch of the Hartford Public Library. But who was Edgar L. Ropkins, the man for whom the branch is named?

See the bottom of the newsletter for the answer.


Hartford City Council addressing city’s racist past and policing – Hartford Courant (subscribers-only article)

Judge ends landmark half-century old Hartford police consent decree; officials vow work is not done - Hartford Courant

Hartford’s Ropkins Library branch reopens with history center – Hartford Courant photo gallery

This week in Connecticut history: the Whalers’ last game in Hartford – News 8 video

April 16: Frederick Douglass Deploys Social Media in Hartford, 1864 - Today in Connecticut History

Park and Arch guides needed! - Facebook page of the Bushnell Park Conservancy

Listen up!

“Grating the Nutmeg,” the podcasting arm of Connecticut Explored magazine, has an important new episode entitled, “How Connecticut Got Zoning.” Dr. Jack Dougherty, director of the Educational Studies Program at Trinity College, explains how Connecticut adopted legislation in the 1920s that allowed communities to establish their own zoning regulations. In rural and suburban towns, those regulations have too often been of the exclusionary kind, with awful consequences for cities like Hartford.


Uncovering Their History: African, African-American, and Native Americans in the Hartford Ancient Burying Ground

Thursday, April 20, 7-8 p.m.

Simsbury Historical Society

800 Hopmeadow Street, Simsbury


Lessons of the Amistad: Through the lens of an African-Centered Woman

Tuesday, April 25, noon to 1pm

Connecticut’s Old State House

800 Main Street


Trivia question answer

1920 ad for Ropkins & Co.'s non-intoxicating Bunny Dry Ale with photo of Edgar Ropkins.

Image credit: Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library.

Edgar L. Ropkins was born in Westoning, England and immigrated to the U.S. as a young man. After living for several years in Brooklyn, N.Y., he came to Hartford and launched the Ropkins Brewery. By 1918, he was able to tell a Hartford Courant reporter that, in addition to manufacturing ale and porter, he had “some six or eight mortgages and also [owned] buildings in which other saloons are located.”

But the occasion for the interview was the federal government’s looming ban manufacturing beer. (Touted at the time as a way to conserve the grain and fuel needed to fight World War I, the ban also served as a precursor to Prohibition, which began in 1920.) Asked what he would do when the beer ban took effect in a few months, Ropkins responded: “I may retire. I can perhaps be comfortable. The saloons will have to find some other line, I suppose.”

Ropkins did retire, though as the advertisement above from the 1920 Geer’s City Directory indicates, he remained active long enough to offer a non-alcoholic beverage as Prohibition took effect. He made news in 1930, when his generosity allowed the English village where he had grown up to build a recreation center for local youth. He lived on Prospect Avenue and maintained a second home in Miami Beach, Florida.

When Ropkins died in 1943, at age 79, his impact on Hartford actually grew, thanks to the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. Though the Foundation had been around since 1925, its gifts to worthy causes in Greater Hartford didn’t take on “large proportions” until a bequest in Ropkins’s will; in fact, the Ropkins fund remained the Foundation’s largest until 1954, according to a Courant article from that year. It was a $63,000 gift from the Ropkins fund that allowed the Hartford Public Library to build a brick, one-floor branch at the corner of Main and Avon streets in 1951.

That building burned down in the rioting that gripped the North End on Labor Day weekend in 1969. But a new branch—still named Ropkins—opened at 1710 Main Street in 1979.

According to the Hartford Public Library website:

"In May 1995, the Ropkins Branch and the SAND Everywhere School library merged. In April 1996, the physical location of the school library was turned into three classrooms. A new 5,600 square foot state-of-the-art facility opened in December 1998 as part of a $17.5 million school/library complex at 1750 Main Street."

The first annex for HPL’s Hartford History Center was included in the next

renovation of Ropkins, with a reopening ceremony held on April 12, 2023.

Photo courtesy of the Hartford History Center at the Hartford Public Library.



  • “Ban on Brewers Hits Real Estate,” Hartford Courant, Sept. 9, 1918, page 12.

  • “Recreation Center Gift Of Ropkins,” Hartford Courant, Oct. 27, 1930, page 11


  • “E.L. Ropkins Dies, Noted Ale Brewer,” Hartford Courant, Sept. 11, 1943, page 4.

  • “New Branch On Way to Completion,” Hartford Courant, July 24, 1950, page 13.

  • “Bounty From Public Giving Credited to Jurist’s Idea,” Hartford Courant, Jan. 17, 1954

More trivia questions at HartfordHistory.net