The Shoeleather History Project

Stories from Hartford's Grassroots

Hartford Shoeleather Walking Tours


Email now to be notified about the date for the next walk:

The Shoeleather History Project conducts walking tours of Hartford’s “history from below,”  the ordinary people who are the real makers of history.

As Howard Zinn said: ” History is not inevitably useful. It can bind us or free us.”

The first route covers the Front Street neighborhood and the Old State House Square on Central Row.  It includes Emma Goldman, James Connolly, Big Bill Haywood, John Brown, union organizer Rebecca Weiner, suffragist Josephine Bennett, Augustus Washington, Mary Townsend Seymour, artist Alton Tobey, Emmeline Pankhurst, and much more.


UConn students on the tour, reading from first-hand accounts of local history.

The second tour  (Charter Oak Avenue to Huyshope Ave.) introduces Hartford’s boy genius and the golden boy, the Solidarity priest and the radical rabbi, the doctor who was a Puerto Rican revolutionary and the doctor who created the first WMD, struggles of women factory workers, tenants, the unemployed and homeless, Mark Twain, baseball and more.

Taking on historic personalities

HartBeat interns taking on historic Hartford personalities.

The third tour is Union Place, site of the historic train station, the birthplace of the city’s counter culture, the garment workers strike of 1919, gypsies, tramps and thieves, and much more. This walk (under an hour) ends up with beer and pizza at the Federal Cafe.

Lego international team (!) on the tour.

Lego international team (!) on the tour

Urban semester students ready for the tour

Teaching and learning along the route.

District 1199 Union Training Fund students use the tour for summer school writing prompts.


Hartford middle school students training to be tour guides at the Ancient Burying Ground.

“If there’s a self-guided option available, I usually take it because I need to move at my own pace. Steve Thornton’s walking tours are an exception. He’s engaging, conversational, and though he’s knowledgeable, his stories are not delivered on autopilot. Go to his website and get on his email list to learn about upcoming tour dates.”


Fourth Tour: Justice & Faith, celebrating the 200th anniversary of Hartford’s First Black Church.  With: Ann Plato, Rev. Hosea Easton, Rebecca Primus, James Mars, Selah Africanus, the Martyr and the War Criminal, and much more.

15 comments on “Hartford Shoeleather Walking Tours

  1. Pingback: Real Hartford » Top Ten Non-Twain Things to Do in Hartford

  2. Goldberg
    March 10, 2015

    When’s the next one? Please let me know.

  3. Lynn Donaldson
    May 31, 2015

    Please tell me about the next tour.

  4. Bill and Mary Lee
    June 1, 2015

    Where and how can we find out about future tours?

  5. Tom Brns
    June 1, 2015

    Read about your tours in Courant. Would love to take one. Please send details. Thanks

  6. Steve Thornton
    June 3, 2015

    I’ll keep you on the list and contact you when the next one is scheduled! –Steve Thornton

  7. Kenny Foscue
    December 2, 2015

    Hey Steve – great web site, including article on John Brown! Do you do tours in the cold winter time? We still have not gotten together for lunch –
    Kenny Foscue

    • Steve Thornton
      December 31, 2015

      Hey Kenny– Happy New Year! Let’s have lunch. Give me a ring for a time that’s good for you. –Steve

  8. Pingback: Meet Your City: Outdoors Walking Tours – Real Hartford

  9. Pingback: Meet Your City: History 101 – Real Hartford

    February 22, 2018

    Hi Steve,

    Please add me to your mailing list for the next tour.

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