Seventy years ago, the typewriter industry supplied most of the sounds emanating from Hartford's Parkville neighborhood.
Workers punched in at the five-acre Royal Typewriter Factory on New Park. On nearby Capitol, the Underwood Typewriter Manufacturing Company clicked and clacked. Streets swelled with residents, who lived, shopped, dined, drank and frolicked, until typewriters went electric — and left the city.
These days, you might hear a new type of noise — music — coming from Parkville Sounds, a full-service recording studio and rehearsal space in the basement of 1477 Park St., a brick building that houses business and apartments and is directly across the street from Hog River Brewing Co.
Parkville Sounds opened in April, offering studio time, music lessons (mostly taught by Hartt School students), a place for bands to practice, equipment rentals, and video filming and editing.
"We're developing a scene," says owner Steve Cusano. "We're developing our own mini-Nashville, in a way."
Cusano, a drummer from New Haven who graduated from Hartt in 2015, lived in a third-floor apartment in Hartford's West End, until it got annoying.
"As a drummer, I could never play when I needed to," Cusano says. "I could never get bands in to rehearse. I just thought that I needed to be in a spot where I can play, make music, make noise whenever I wanted, and have people over to come play."
Cusano found space — lots of it — in Parkville. Rent is cheap. Any time, day or night, his two touring bands (he's a founding member of Broca's Area, a neo-soul/jazz/funk quartet, and the Americana-leaning rock band Wise Old Moon) can plug in and rip it up.
Connor Millican, Cusano's Wise Old Moon bandmate, films and edits the Parkville Sessions, a YouTube video series featuring local and national musicians. Mitch Moriber, who books shows at Hartford's Arch Street Tavern, and Telefunken Elektroakustik, a South Windsor microphone company, lend technical support.
The first few videos were used as marketing tools, offered free to bands in exchange for some good PR.
"We have reached out to bands in the past that we want to work with, typically bigger bands who have been on the road and are established," Cusano says. There's a flat rate for bands looking to create marketing materials.
So far, Cusano and Millican captured unique performances by Rob Griffith (Bronze Radio Return) and Andy Sorensen (Atlas Gray), drummer Michelangelo Carubba (Turkuaz), Northampton, Mass. singer-songwriter Jake Klar, folk-rock duo Muddy Ruckus, and Portland, Maine's Chris Ross and the North. There's more on the way.
"They get to do something and create something that maybe a lot of their fans or people have not really seen them do," Cusano says. "That's the beautiful thing."
In the studio, Cusano gives drum lessons to 20 private students.
"As musicians, we're all professional jugglers: stand on one foot, throw up three things and balance them," he says. "I'm constantly trying to figure out different outlets and avenues within music to just be a part of it."
When I visited, Cusano name-checked Hartford Denim Company, Hartford Flavor Company, Hog River Brewing Co., the Dirt Salon and other local businesses.
"The area itself, Parkville, it's just so vibrant," Cusano says. "There's a lot of young blood and a lot of creative people doing things outside of music."
Cusano lives in a loft-style apartment two floors up (he was the second person to move into the building). To get to work, he simply jumps on the elevator. Recently, Parkville Sounds doubled in size, moving into a larger, still-cozy space, adorned with antiques and street signs (purchased at Hartford Denim Company).
Since moving in, Cusano says 10 other people, and two businesses, have followed.
"It feels great," Cusano says. "It's super-rewarding. People are tapping into it. It's cool to hear that this is what Hartford needed, in a way."
Cusano's Parkville experiences have also proven a theory he maintained all along: Hartford is an ideal city for young, working musicians.
"Hartford is right between Boston and New York. It's cheaper than both of those places, and it's more accessible. You can get to any place, any scene. Four hours gets you to Burlington, Vt. Tapping into all these different scenes … you can connect with them from here."
PARKVILLE SOUNDS is at 1477 Park St. in Hartford. Visit parkvillesounds.com for more information about services, availability and rates.