In 2003 the Melville Charitable Trust made an original “big bet” when it purchased the historic Lyceum on Lawrence Street in Frog Hollow and renovated it as a center for housing policy and community development. The Lyceum also serves as the home base for the Partnership for Strong Communities, the housing policy and advocacy nonprofit founded by the Trust in 1998. The Partnership promotes proven solutions to homelessness, supportive and affordable housing, and community development.

When The Melville Charitable Trust first focused on Frog Hollow, one of the nation’s most impoverished Census tracts, its vision was unambiguous: an investment that would produce healthy children learning and playing, parents parlaying opportunity and training into personal success and stable families, and residents transforming their neighborhood into a model of vitality and shared experience.

From the Lyceum investment there sprang a series of additional community investments by the Trust, including:

  • The purchase of the 98-unit Billings Forge apartments
  • Renovations to several nearby properties
  • The launch of Firebox

These investments total over $20 million, and have reaped returns in the form of expanded access to quality housing, healthy food, and employment and job training for local residents. The Melville Trust retains ownership of Firebox, whose profits are earmarked for Billings Forge Community Works.


Our work began in the Frog Hollow neighborhood of Hartford in 2008. At that time, we were engaged in a wide breadth of programming, from artist in residence programs to community gardens, all of them focused on the residents of the Billings Forge apartment complex and the surrounding streets. Although all of these programs had value and great personal meaning to participants; their focus and long term purpose was not always clear.

Over the past decade, our work has become more defined and the area we serve has broadened. We have consistently and uncompromisingly focused on the impact our work has on the lives of our neighbors. In 2017, we began a process to formally and transparently state the mission and strategies of our organization.

After this work was completed, we looked at our name of Billings Forge Community Works and realized that it no longer fit what we were actually doing: providing culinary and customer service job training programs to more than 50 people yearly; providing food access through our farmers market; and running successful and sustainable social enterprises such as our cafes and catering businesses. After a long process and with input from many community members, we have chosen Forge City Works as our new name.

Because of its connection to our beginnings in the Billings name and for its other identity as a word meaning to move forward, to create, and to shape

Our initiatives empower and support residents throughout the city and surrounding communities, not just the Frog Hollow neighborhood

Because our programs are embedded in places of business; help people ready themselves for, and acquire jobs; and because what we do works in supporting people to change their own lives.