Here's your opportunity to learn more about the history and activities
of the Wilcox Avenue Neighborhood Association (WANA) which is
located in my home town ... the Silver City of the Nutmeg / Constitution state.
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The Story of the AssociationIf you visit the northwest section of Meriden, CT, you may accidentally find a street which is lined with Victorian and Shingle Period homes that, except for the sheer size of most of the dwellings, appears to be an average inner city street.
It is a representation of a lot of streets in the "Silver City", whose balcyon started prior to the turn-of-the-century and continued through the Second World War.
Post-war times did not look favorably on Wilcox Avenue as with other inner city streets, and shortly these gracious Victorian Homes started to fall into decay through neglect, absentee landlordism and transient tenants.
Over the course of 40 years, Wilcox Avenue, once a tourist attraction for Sunday drivers, became a street of "white elephants" destined to lose their identity and history to urban blight.
The Beginning of WANADuring the late 1970's and early in the 80's, with soaring home prices city wide, the Avenue became a haven for first time home buyers. Slowly but surely, homes were repaired and a small community of adventurous restorationists and renovators evolved. Realizing that most residents wanted the street to be returned to its original beauty, they joined together to work with city officials and each other to attain their goals.
Volunteering their time and monies, WANA became known as a "self help" group who believes that a little hard work and community creativeness can make a big difference to their environment. They are a democratic group who elects their officers, has bi-monthly meetings, and follows "Roberts Rules of Order".
The Avenue's HistoryOne thing that helped to spur enthusiasm was the street's rich history. The more the asociation learned about the Avenue's past the more they wanted to find-out.
Horace C. Wilcox, for whom the street is named, was an estute businessman who founded the Meriden Britannia Company in 1852. He was Meriden's Fifth Mayor and was active in state and local government. After his death in 1890, his estate was partitioned in building lots and construction of these gracious homes commenced.
In the early years of Wilcox Avenue, the homes were owned and inhabited by noted bankers, business owners, professionals and politicians. With their manicured lawns, tree lined sidewalks and meticulous craftsmanship, they stood out as an example of fine Victorian living.
This was the Association's primary concern and was pursued through a street wide Crime Watch Program and yearly seminars by the local Police Department. Members recently participated in CPR and Fire Extinguishing Training. WANA also was the first association in the city to participate in "Kid Protection Network" Fire Safety Videos are shown to members and their children and the membership has just petitioned the city for a foot patrol officer. Internally, the members have exchanged information to each other so as to have an emergency notification list.
- Correction of Housing, Building and Health Violations
By working with City Officials, the Police Department and our neighbors, absentee landlords and violating owners were encouraged to comply with City codes.
- Monitoring of Motor Vehicle and Traffic Violations
Diligence by the members of WANA and the cooperation of the Meriden Police Department has cut down speeding violations, parking violations and abandoned or non-registered vehicles. The members have petitioned for traffic lights and stop signs to make the neighborhood safer for everyone.
- Sidewalk Replacement Program
Due to incorrect tree choice by our forefathers, the slate walks became uprooted and impassable. With the help of Community Development, WANA lobbied for, and received "CBG" State funding to make repairs.
- Clean Up / Sweep Up Day
Every Spring, the members volunteer their trucks, time and elbow grease to spruce up the neighborhood. Raking, pruning, sweeping and painting fire hydrants and curbs. Removing heavy items to the dump or whatever needs to be done, is taken care of during a community day to spruce up the street. This even prompted the members to start a "tool" library from which any member may borrow the association's tools.
- In Association With ...
WANA works with other neighborhood associations, from local to national levels, in order to learn and share with people who are working towards the same goals that we have set. From the Meriden Council of Neighborhoods, to the State "Safe Neighborhoods" Program, to participating in Neighborhoods, USA in Roanoke, Virginia, WANA gets involved. Just recently the organization received a grant from the State of CT for beautification projects on the street. Our membership also worked with the city of Meriden to create a limited Historical District Zone and regularly participate in Design Review Board hearings concerning the streetscape.
- Happy Birthday Wilcox Avenue
At the 100th birthday party of Wilcox Avenue, an official proclamation was bestowed upon WANA from State Senator Ameila Mustone and Angelo D'Agostino, Mayor of the City of Meriden.
- An Old Fashioned Neighborhood
From Christmas Caroling at Bradley Home for the aged, to a Block Party and Christmas Party, neighbors get to know each other better. They share ideas and watch out for each other's property and welfare.
The members sponsor a yearly tag saleand hold events for the children of the neighborhood such as "Kid's Day" and "Movie Night". This group even got together, printed WANA T-shirts, marched as an association in the Daffodil Parade and WON FIRST PRIZE! Wilcox Avenue has truly turned back the clock to old fashioned neighborly ways.
- Help for the Needy
WANA established a Food and Clothing Drive for Thanksgiving and Christmas Toys for Tots/Gifts for Teens Program. The Association regularly supports the Meriden Soup Kitchen and Riverview Hospital.
- Written by Benjamin Homer (pen name for Benjamin Hozer), while he was residing on Wilcox Avenue. He was later inducted into the "Silver City's" Hall of Fame and was the youngest person ever inducted into ASCAP, the national composer's organization.
"...Let's make no mistake about this:
The American Dream starts with the neighborhoods. If we wish to rebuild our cities, we must first rebuild our neighborhoods. And to do that, we must understand that quality of life is more important than the standard of living.
To sit on the front steps - whether it's a veranda in a small town or a concrete stoop in a big city - and talk to our neighbors is infinitely more important than to huddle on the living-room lounger and watch a make-believe world in not quite living color."
- Harvey Milk,
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modified February 25, 2000