November 19,2019 – New Britain, Connecticut
New Hampshire vs Central Connecticut State
New Britain. The Hardware City. The eighth-most populated city in The Nutmeg State.
New Britain has seen a laundry list of sports stars start their rise to prominence within its borders. From Lamar Odom and Walter Camp to George Springer and Tebucky Jones, New Britain has always been one of Connecticut’s great sports cities.
Located 20 minutes southwest of Hartford, New Britain has found ways to change and adapt since its incorporation.
Known as “The Hardward Capital of the World” during the early 20th century, New Britain was home to the invention of the wire coat hanger in 1869.
More importantly to this blog, New Britain has a claim to be the birthplace of the basketball dribble at the local YMCA, which is where racquetball was said to be created as well.
The city features a long connection to the Polish diaspora. Nearly a fifth of the city’s population claims polish ancestry, second only to a large Puerto Rican population in the diverse city.
Take a ride through Little Poland with me.
Things to Eat
With a large Polish community comes Polish restaurants, and New Britain doesn’t disappoint.
Staropolska is a diner right on Broad Street that serves all the Polish delights.
There was really only one choice for me: pierogis.
Served with a side of pickled cabbage and topped with fried onions, these fried cheese-and-potato dumplings fill you up. My cholesterol was a bit mad, but I didn’t much care.
Beyond the Polish delicacies, there are numerous places to get a good bit in New Britain. However, one stands above the rest and is a local institution: Capitol Lunch.
In business since 1929, Capitol Lunch has a menu that basically boils down to four things: hot dogs, burgers, fries, and onion rings.
The hot dogs are what made the place famous and you gotta get one with everything. Everything means cheese, onions, and a big ladle of Capitol’s homemade meat sauce. It’s one of the least pretentious and best meals you can get in New England.
And a dog costs $2.29. Can’t beat that.
Things to Do
Two of the great landmarks in town are Walnut Hill Park and the New Britain Museum of American Art.
Designed by Frederick W. Olmstead, the same man who designed Central Park, Walnut Hill Park rises above New Britain. Atop the hill sits a striking 90-foot-high column capped by two sculpted eagles that stands as a monument to World War 1.
There are other monuments in the park, including a large stone memorializing the accomplishments of women during the wars of the 20th century.
Tucked at the bottom of the hill is the New Britain Museum of American Art. Opened in 1903, the museum features pieces from Thomas Cole, Georgia O’Keeffe, and New Britain’s own Sol LeWitt.
Located just off of downtown, it’s absolutely worth a stop when you’re in New Britain. For a $15 ticket, and roughly 90-100 minutes to take it all in, it’s a great place to take in quality art at a bargain of a price.
And they allowed me to take pictures so I’m able to bring some of the art to you.
And lastly, take in the raw size and scope of Thomas Hart Benton’s The Arts of Life in America
Central Connecticut State is the largest school in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system. The four-university system encompasses the state-run universities outside of the UConn system.
The oldest publicly-funded university in The Nutmeg State, CCSU has an undergraduate enrollment of roughly 9,500 students and the most popular programs at the school are business and marketing.
Athletically, the Blue Devils are strong in women’s soccer and the football team won the Northeast Conference title in 2017 and 2019.
A few prominent athletic alums from the school include former Dallas Cowboys coach Dave Campo, NFL executive Scott Pioli, and former Boston College football coach Steve Addazio.
The main athletics building is Kaiser Hall which also hosts Detrick Gymnasium, home of the basketball teams. The gym is named for Bill Detrick who coached the Blue Devils to 469 wins over 29 seasons and made six Division II tournaments while at the helm.
The gym sits 2,654 and has been the home of the Blue Devils since 1965.
The Blue Devils played host to the New Hampshire Wildcats in a game located at the seventh level of Kenpom. The Blue Devils entered with a Kenpom ranking of 348 while UNH was 314.
Everything seemed well early for the home team as they were up eight points halfway through the first half. However, the Wildcats flipped it to a five-point lead of their own by halftime and cruised through the final 20 to earn a 77-63 win.
Despite coming against a winless team, the game was deeply important for UNH. It was a road win. Last season the Wildcats didn’t pick up their first road win until February.
New Hampshire’s offense last year was abysmal and has bounced back this season thanks to a strong and experienced sophomore class and a key transfer guard in Sean Sutherlin.
Last year they missed the America East tournament. This year, the Wildcats are going to be a nuisance come conference play.
Time of game: 1:49
Lowest admission price: $8
Top Performer: Jayden Martinez (UNH) – 22 points, 15 rebounds.
The Final Breakdown
What a neat trip this was. My first two stops were in Maine and had almost a dream-like quality to them, especially driving to Fort Kent and the top of America.
New Britain felt more familiar. It reminded me of the mill towns of Northern Massachusetts where I grew up and its strong diaspora communities were on full display everywhere I went.
Connecticut gets a weird reputation in New England as its northeast corner sits in the outer suburbs of Boston while its southwest corner is very much in the sphere of New York City so its identity gets pulled both ways.
But New Britain is very much a city that’s been worn in by the hills and valleys of time. That’s the type of place I prefer over the well-manicured lawns of some of the other college towns I’ll go to in my travels.
Even if you can’t make it to CCSU, definitely stop by in New Britain the next time you’re driving up Route 84. The hot dogs and pierogis are worth it.
Up Next: Fuzzy Bears and Claude Monet