Honoring The Legacy Of Anne Brignolo

West Side City Councilman Bob Halstead spent many years working for improvements in the Washington Park area on the East Side. He was often shoulder to shoulder with photographer Anne Brignolo who passed away last week at 94 years of age. He shares this tribute to Anne and her contributions to the neighborhood in this commentary:

I spent many hours in the Brignolo Studio working with Anne Brignolo for more than twenty years, with the Washington Park Association. Meetings, meetings, meetings. Also events, with concerts in the Washington Park Bandstand, neighborhood parties, meetings with Police Chiefs, meetings with mayors, pot-luck dinners in church basements, fundraising benefits at Holy Rosary for the first Habitat project, but most of all, community meetings about crime, the Park, and mostly, abandoned Victorian houses in the Victorian Park neighborhood.

My early years with Anne started with Neighborhood Housing Services on the East Side. Homeownership promotion was the theme. Targeting vacant properties was the strategy. Homesteading was prioritized. Some demolitions and community gardens had their part as well. What was hyped as a Renaissance of urban homesteading and restoration of Victorian homes as the “Back to the City” movement eventually devolved into owner-occupants selling to investors when the go-go ’80s bubble occurred. When the go-go ’80s turned into the no-no ’90s, it spelled disaster with 14 mansions turning burned and vacant with prostitutes and drug dealers the only occupants of Washington Park.

But Wait! Anne and the Association did not give up! Meetings happened with funders and benefactors instead of politicians. Melville Charitable Trust, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Chase Manhattan Bank, Peoples Bank, Connecticut Housing and Finance Authority, Connecticut Historical Commission, Federal Home Loan Bank, Leviticus Foundation, Office of Planning and Economic Development Block Grant program and National Equity Fund. Meetings took place in Anne’s house with professionals: architects, accountants, owners’ representatives, the YMCA Alpha Community Services, property managers, the general contractor and tax-credit consultants who formed a development team to transform Washington Park into what it is today. Anne provided a reliable resident-based presence throughout and held down the fort with accounting and paperwork. She was and had been the soul of Washington Park.

In 2001, the Washington Park Association added to its awards, the National Preservation Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation which it received in Cleveland as the nation’s top renovation project that was also heralded as one of the top affordable housing projects ever seen. Indeed, 14 vacant Victorian Mansions were transformed into 38 family-sized units of affordable housing, a tribute of what can be done with Low Income Housing and Historic Tax Credits when combined with a patchwork of other funding. These units remain occupied and in great shape 13 years later!

So it is with heavy heart that today I mourn the passing of Anne Brignolo-Hourcle.

It is also with a heavy heart that I mourn the passing of the Washington Park Association. It was allowed to dissolve and has been inactive for about ten years or more. What a shame!

The day before I heard of the passing of Anne, I stumbled across a property management company going in and out of Anne’s old studio. I inquired as to the property’s status and was told it had been foreclosed on by Bank of America.

Another to add to the growing list of vacant foreclosures, sitting for years, NOW, including: the George Longstaff House at 178 Arctic Street, the Lucinda Ward House at 68 Park Street and a lot of others that look vacant including the Octagon House.

While the Finch Administration sends out Birthday Cards to senior citizens with a photo of the Washington Park Bandstand on the cover and installs a new rose garden in Washington Park, the progress made by people like Anne Brignolo-Hourcle is eroding away.

My advice to the Finch Administration: get some professionals in your City offices to start working on this new foreclosure crisis!

My advice to those hoarding the legal documents to the Washington Park Association: stop hoarding the documents and dispense with inactivity! Let’s get going again! Let’s do it for Anne.

Robert Halstead

Past President, Washington Park Association 1980-1986 and 1993-2000

Bridgeport City Councilman District 132



  1. Bob Halstead, that is not only a beautiful tribute, but also shows the time and effort you yourself put into the revitalization of Washington Park. I always lament on how New Haven’s Wooster Square is thriving and Bridgeport’s Washington Park has an amazing inventory of spectacular Victorian homes. This area should receive special financing from banks and the city to attract young professionals. If Bridgeport had spent time years ago cultivating the arts, Washington Park would be thriving today. You might see a lot of rainbow flags but let’s face it, gays notoriously gentrify an area, especially areas like Washington Park, followed by the yuppies and small restaurants and boutiques. So many missed opportunities by having so many of the wrong people at the wrong time doing nothing, imagining opportunity was gonna come knocking. I think Bob Halstead and Anne Brignolo Hourcle did more for the City in their spare time than any of Mayor Finch’s appointments in the planning and development departments earning big paychecks. There is a whole city, not just a downtown and a Steelepointe. Special attention also to Black Rock and North End is necessary as gateways to the City. Bob Halstead, thank you for your contribution to the City and your beautiful eulogy for Anne.


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