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West Hartford BookWelcome once more! This is the 14th anniversary of The West Hartford Book. Time flies when you’re publishing fun stuff for a proud community.

What makes The West Hartford Book special every year is the exceptional quality of work from our regular contributors that has given us a singular presence among the local media scene. The brilliantly created original portraiture by Hartford’s Lanny Nagler catches incomparable detail, nuances of character and subtle humor in all of his subjects; the Nuggets: witty, easy to digest slices of local life, penned primarily by Judy Henderson, satisfy without stuffing; and the illustrations of peripatetic artist Bill Dougal give places and scenes a touch of levity and a sensitive stroke. Annie Lane gives the books crisp and balanced design, works with every facet of content, every contributor and almost every advertiser, all of this with exceptional artistic talent and an even higher level of interpersonal skill.

And, as we always say, while globalization, googlization, texting, tweeting, wikileaking, instagramming, snapchatting, mega-merging, stock market bounces, hyper-tech, Facebook culture and impersonal chain ownership are the undeniable and unpredictable trends, we remain just the opposite. We’re a trusted, homegrown resource for useful local information produced entirely by local people. We’re tuned-in to the big picture, but we embrace the small one — the one with the special things that still make us proud that West Hartford is home.

Whether you’re feeling pummeled, lost or overwhelmed in the turmoil of the pre-post-recession, post-cable-TV syndrome, you can get to us when you need us. Buzz us on your Blackberry (if you still have it), catch our Mobile Site on your smart phone, click us on your computer, friend us on Facebook – or hug us at home just like you’ve done for a decade.

Whether you’re feeling pummeled, lost or overwhelmed in the turmoil of the pre-post-recession, post-cable-TV syndrome, you can get to us when you need us. Buzz us on your Blackberry (if you still have it), catch our Mobile Site on your smart phone, click us on your computer, friend us on Facebook – or hug us at home just like you’ve done for a decade.

For several decades after WWII, West Hartford developed as Hartford’s most desirable suburban address. Its varied housing options — some lavish, some modest and a lot in between — were the main attraction. The capital city served as the cultural and retail center. West Hartford’s commercial features were limited.

Blue Back Square’s opening in 2008 and its success over the past six years has marked a shift in that perspective. The $150-million-plus development, with condos that have sold for as much as $800,000, trendy chains and a major presence by Hartford Hospital, has added a new dimension to the trendy hum of West Hartford Center. In addition, it draws together the town’s once disparate commercial districts creating a significant regional marketplace.

The Center and the Square continue to be the big story in West Hartford as they no doubt will be for many years ahead as the economic and social consequences of this metamorphosis continue to soak in.

But we surely can’t lose sight of the fact that in West Hartford today, you can still experience Park Road with its old city mixture of family run shops — a dairy bar that goes back to the 50s, an outstanding specialty meat market, a diner that’s flipped “bacon and eggs” for more than four decades, a community playhouse, numerous salons, a few saloons and a bunch of ethnic eateries.

A few blocks away, a creative coalition has pulled together The New Park Avenue Home Design District in a collection of underutilized former industrial buildings. You’ll find furniture, interior design services, high-end doors and windows, shower and bath fixtures and lots more.

Just west you pass through Elmwood Center, a stalwart West Hartford community that ties into Quaker Lane South, New Park Avenue and South Main Street to New Britain Avenue and Westfarms Mall. Tidy single and two-family homes dominate Elmwood, which developed because of its proximity to I-84 and the high-tech industry that came along with it. Elmwood has reaffirmed its town-within-a-town identity with a burst of refurbishment and new development that’s put a smile on the face of its main commercial strip, New Britain Avenue.

And then there’s Westfarms Mall. Though technically most of the mall sits on Farmington soil, it has always been identified with West Hartford. An impressive indoor expanse, completed in 1974, it offers the area’s largest collection of name brand boutiques and top department stores.

In retrospect, much of West Hartford’s development pattern might be seen as a good example of “new urbanism,” smart growth or transitional “urburbanism” – that is, a blend of the urban and suburban lifestyle. Whatever you might call it, it’s the product of a history of good planning decisions that has, for the most part, mixed commercial development unobtrusively with a desirable mix of increasingly diverse residential neighborhoods and discouraged the encroachment of cheesy chains.

The West Hartford Book is a sister book of The Valley Book (Farmington Valley towns), The Glastonbury Book and The Shoreline Book (Branford to Old Lyme). All are mailed free of charge to residents and businesses, realtors, hotels and tourism centers. You can also find them 24/7 at our exceptional Web sites, and Mobile smart phone version that gives you a fast connection to local businesses without slogging through sluggish Internet traffic jams.

Thanks for a decade of interest and support. We’re proud of every one we’ve produced. Hope you are too. See you again in 2017! R.E.P.