Previous Site of the Month: July 2012
Marietta Canty House
61 Mahl Avenue, Hartford, CT 06120
Information about Marietta Canty is well publicized and can be found at various sites, including the following:
National Park Service
Women’s History Month
Rather than duplicate the same material here, the decision was made to highlight the accomplishments of Henry Canty, her father. Henry Canty was obviously a great influence upon his daughter and his accomplishments are noteworthy.
In 1930 the house at 61 Mahl Avenue was purchased by Henry and Mary Canty (the parents of Marietta) and occupied by the Canty and Anderson families. The youngest Canty daughter, Emily, was married to Wilfred Anderson. When listed on the Connecticut Freedom Trail, the owners of the house were listed as Wilfred Anderson, Jr., and the estate of Marietta Canty.
In 1930 Henry Canty was employed as a polisher at Hartford's City Hall, a position he held until promoted to assistant janitor in 1936; he was named janitor in 1941. Henry Canty was a prominent member of Hartford's African American community, a devout Christian attending Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion Church with his family and serving on various boards of the church, including the Board of Trustees. He was active in Republican politics, not running for office but working the polls and canvassing black residents on behalf of party candidates. A community advocate, he joined with North End African American youth in the early 1920s in petitioning the Young Men's Christian Association to expand its programs to meet the needs of Hartford's African Americans. Failing to convince the YMCA, the group formed the Independent Social Center and the North End Federated Clubs. After many years of dedicated work, patience, and fund raising, two buildings were acquired on North Main Street and used for administration and recreational activities for African American boys and girls in Hartford.
One of Henry Canty's most noteworthy roles was as a member of the Board of Directors for Camp Bennett in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Camp Bennett was one of only two recreational camps in New England exclusively serving black children. The other was Camp Atwater in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, operated by the Urban League of Springfield. Camp Bennett was located 12 1/2 miles from Hartford in the hills of South Glastonbury abutting Meshomasic State Forest. The land was acquired by the Independent Social Center through the purchase of the J.W. Pray farm for the sum of $5,800.00. The seven-member Board of Directors assumed financial responsibility for program promotion and physical development of the property. Camp Bennett consisted of 157 acres of land with a lake for swimming, fishing, and boating. The lake was surrounded by frees which yielded fruit for the campers and a garden which supplied vegetables. The existing farmhouse was converted to an administration building, the ice house to a dining hall, the barn to an assembly hall, and the wagon sheds to craft buildings. Labor for the conversions was contributed by members of the Independent Social Center. Among new buildings constructed was the Harriet Beecher Stowe Recreation Hall. Funding was raised by the Harriet Beecher Stowe Club (a social organization of African American women) from sources exclusively in the African American community. The building was designed by an African American architect and built by an African American carpenter. A total of 16 buildings at the camp accommodated 200 campers. Camp Bennett remained open from 1934 through the early 1950s, when financial reversals forced its closing.
Although ceasing operations after only two decades, Camp Bennett was a milestone in the history of recreation for minority children in New England. Advocates for it such as Henry Canty were essential to the interim success which the camp did achieve as a pioneer social undertaking. It is therefore not surprising that the influence of Henry Canty's religious and community service, and of his political and social activism, greatly revealed itself in the accomplishments of his daughter, Marietta Canty. Throughout her life, she worked continuously to broaden opportunities and advancement for minorities in the United States.