Hartford was built by R. Edwin Magnus. See the article about Randolph Edwin Magnus and Lilian Magnus for its early history.
In 1907 Hartford, together with its specially made and bought furniture, was offered for auction. The ‘artistic modern residence’ at 244 Glebe Rd was finally purchased by the Levy family who had moved in by 1910: Henry ‘Harry’ Phillip ‘of independent means’, his brother Joseph Angel, a wholesale jeweller, Joseph’s wife Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’, and Basil Angel, in adult life a partner in his father’s jewellery business. Harry (1860-1925) and Joseph were born in Hobart, two of ten children of Mary née Moses and Phillip Levy. Their father, a merchant who recovered from his 1845 insolvency, was Treasurer and President of Hobart’s Jewish Synagogue; the circumcision ceremony and celebratory breakfast of his youngest child Joseph, born 14 December 1866, was reported in the local Press. In 1874 the Levy family moved to Melbourne where the patriarch died in 1880 and where Joseph was educated at King’s College.
In September 1892 Joseph married Elizabeth Cohen at Clytie, her parents’ home in Darlinghurst Rd, a month before its contents were put up for auction. The second youngest daughter of Annie and Abraham Cohen, Lizzie was born at Young where her father owned the Albion hotel. In 1889 Abraham went to Sydney but fell victim to the economic depression of the 1890s, returned to the country to resume charge of the hotel, fell ill and, leaving second son Aaron to manage the business, made his way back to Sydney where he died in 1894 at the Darlinghurst home of his oldest son Henry. His widow died at the Albion in 1895.
Hartford was home to the Levys’ Pomeranian dogs and the setting for Basil’s ‘ragtime evening and cocktail supper’ in 1913, his wedding to Claire Mavis Huxtable of Melbourne 10 years later and the birth of their son Ronald in 1925. Harry Levy died in 1925 and after Basil’s family moved out the household was reduced to two, supported by a succession of domestic helpers.
The Levy family’s round of engagements – musicales, ‘at home’ and card parties, balls, picnic races, dinner dances – featured in the Social Pages, even during the Depression. Claire possessed a smart wardrobe and was admired as ‘a frocker of distinction’. They spent holidays at Robertson and Basil travelled to Switzerland on buying trips for the firm. In 1914 Lizzie was involved in a court dispute with her Melbourne tailor over a bespoke 18 guinea suit which her lawyer claimed was more suited to a ‘tango girl’ than a dumpy woman. The story went that Mrs Levy, after winning £125 at the 1913 Melbourne Cup,ordered ‘something very, very, very smart’ for the next year’s Sydney Easter Festival. Although reluctant to make an outfit so far ahead of time, the tailor filled the order and despatched the suit to Sydney. Lizzie was displeased: it was tight and bulged in places it shouldn’t, ‘a misfit, lacking in style and cut’. The tailor, who claimed she’d been a difficult customer in the past, won the case.
Joseph died at Hartford on 31 October 1946; Lizzie died in November 1951. Basil, who had been fined for sales tax evasion in 1948, applied to the Supreme Court for Hartford to be used as other than a private dwelling – flats, boarding house, private hospital, convalescent home. The property was eventually purchased by the Presbyterian Church. In 1969, with diminishing attendances, the Glebe congregation left their place of worship in Bridge Rd and started holding services in a front room of 244 Glebe Rd, renamed the Presbyterian Centre, and erected a noticeboard in its grounds. As a social service local schoolchildren were tutored there by university students a couple of nights a week. It was occupied for a brief time in the 1970s by Dr Ross McLeod and his wife Jenny, and a flat at the rear by indigenous ceramicist Thancoupie.
Some time after the creation of the Uniting Church in 1977, Hartford reverted to private use. In the past decade it has changed hands several times. It retains the original five bedrooms of 1898, but its two bathrooms have been increased to six.