This morning we drove 24 miles to Hartford to visit and tour Connecticut's state capitol … our 50th!
From the time we approached the Connecticut State House it was clear it was one of the most architectually magnificent.
The capitol's dome is 54 feet in diameter and rises 257 feet above the hill top on which it stands. Surrounding the gold dome are twleve allegorial statues (two of each of six muses) strategically placed such that from any angle six are always visible. Adorning the stairways to the third flood are replicas of these statues.
On the facades of the capitol are 26 Gothic niches for sculptures (eight of these niches are presently empty – to be filled in the future)
The current building is the third capitol building for the State of Connecticut since the American Revolution. Prior to its occupancy, the state legislature, formally the General Assembly of Connecticut met alternately in New Haven
and Hartford. The First State House in Hartford served from 1720 until 1796,
Built circa 1720
when the adjacent and recently completed Old State House designed by Charles Bulfinch opened
After the Civil War, it became evident a single capitol was desirable and a competition between the two cities began. Ultimately, Hartford and the new sole capital needed one central capitol building.
The Connecticut state capitol building dominates a high point of ground overlooking Busnell Park, on property once owned by Washington College (not Trinity College). When Hartford won out over New Haven at the seat of state government, a commission was established to secure a site and select an architect to design a monumental structure that would symbolize the wealth and power of the state and its ties to its European cultural past.
The original design called for a modern secular Gothic brick building with a clock tower. In keeping with not only the allocated budget of $900,000, but for the then popular public architecture of the day. However, the clock tower concept met with resistance by the Board of Capitol Commissioners who preferred a dome. The budget was increased to $2.5 million and redesigned in a High Victorian Gothic style.
The exterior is of marble from East Canaan, Connecticut and granite from Westerly, Rhode Island. The building is roughly rectangular, the interior spaces organized around two open interior courts that run vertically to large skylights. In the center is a third circular open rotunda beneath the dome. The larger hall of the House of Representatives forms an extension on the south side.
The interior floors are inlaid with white marble and red slate from Connecticut and colored marble from Italy while the stenciling, stained glass windows and light fixtures were designed by a Boston company.
Atop the gold leaf dome originally stood the Genius of Connecticut, a 17’ 10” tall figure of a woman holding a wreath of Mountain Laurel (the state flower) in her left hand and a wreath of white oak (the state tree) leaves adorns her head. Her outstretched wings symbolize protection of Connecticut’s people. Weighing 6,000 pounds, the statue was cast of bronze in Munich and sat atop the state house until 1938 when the great hurricane of that year damaged it. Fearing it would topple, it was removed to the interior of the capitol.
An identical replica has been made and hopefully someday will be mounted on the capitol dome
Looking up from beneath the statue the interior of the domcan be seen far above
Actualy, our tour began in the adjacent Legislative Office Building (LOB) which is connected to the Capitol by an underground tunnel. The LOB is pretty remarkable itself.
Marble column is the only marble in the LOB which came from Conencticut
Stylized eagle rests atop the marble column
State Seal – The grape vines represent the first three settlemnts in the Connecticut Colony (Windsor, Wethersfield and Hartford) or the first three colonies (New Haven, Saybrook and Connecticut which became Harford in 1665). The motto translates to "He who is transplanted still sustains"
Legislative Hearing Room
Each hearing room is named after the center panel on its door. These panels are made of individual pices of wood, incluing those which make up the writing on the above panel. Some 20,000-plus pieces were required to complete the paanel's image.
We then returned to the Capitol via a moving walkway
The Charter Oak
Christening of the USS Nautilus (SSN-571) in 1954 – the world's first atomic-powered submarine
Harriett Beacher Stowe – author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
Hartford's Wadsworth Atheneum – est 1842
James Mars (1790-1880) was a Connecticut slave who, with his family, refused to follow his master, a minister named Thompson, to Virginia, where he would have been denied the emancipation guaranteed him at age twenty-five under Connecticut law. With the help of the white citizens of Norfolk, Connecticut, Mars successfully evaded his master's attempts to kidnap and smuggle him across state lines. In his later life, he enjoyed a prominent place in New England's African American community
Connecticut native Samuel Clemens – aka Mark Twain
Merritt Parkway in 1939
Pvt. Henry Cornwall – First Connecticut Casualty of the Civil War – 1862
Windsor Tobacco fields and barn
Campaign for women's sufferage
Wethersfield Academy for Women – founded in 1804
A Yankee Peddler
The Algonquin Man
and a series of posters addressing the suicide crisis, in part the result of the opiod crisis.
The architecture throughout the building is nothing short of breathtaking.
Much of the color throughout the building is made from silver and gold leaf as, when originally painted, it was thought the silver and gold would reflect the then-used gas lighting better
Some of the many statues and artifacts on display throughout the building.
Connecticut's Liberty Bell – President Truman had 55 cast, one for each state and territory, part of a plan to help sell U.S. bonds
Forlorn Soldier – Oldest Wooden Statue in America
Fountain fed from an undergournd brook from whch legislators in the early days of the building drew water to give to their horses
Governor WIlliam A. Buckingham – Often working around the clock, the governor felt personally obliged to give his all to the state, even investing his own capital to help fund the war. On several occasions he took out personal loans to pay soldiers for their service. During the war, the governor kept in close contact with Union leaders, including President Lincoln, who recognized the remarkable effort that he put forth. However, the governor had to fight opposition in Connecticut. Criticism for the war and the Union littered the papers, but Buckingham kept Connecticut largely unified.
Hand-carved Wooden hallway bench
Orville Hitchcock Platt
Prudence Crandall – A Quaker abolitionist and teacher, Prudence Crandall (1803-1890) defied prevailing patterns of racial discrimination when she opened one of the first schools for African American girls in Connecticut in 1833. Though supported by leading anti-slavery activists, Crandall, a white woman, faced legal harassment and social ridicule for her efforts to educate free blacks in the North.
Born in Hopkinton, Rhode Island on September 3, 1803 to farmers Pardon and Esther Carpenter Crandall, Prudence Crandall moved with her family to Canterbury, Connecticut when she was ten years old. She attended the New England Friends’ Boarding School in Providence, where she studied arithmetic, Latin and science—subjects not typical for women but embraced by Quakers who believed in equal educational opportunities. She taught briefly in Plainfield, and in 1831 opened a private girl’s academy in Canterbury, where she initially taught daughters from the town’s wealthiest families. Ranked as one of the state’s best schools, her rigorous curriculum provided female students with an education comparable to that of prominent schools for boys.
In 1832, Crandall admitted Sarah Harris, an African American woman from a successful family, who sought to become a teacher. Local white parents were outraged, urging Crandall to expel Harris. She refused. When white parents withdrew their children, Crandall transformed her boarding school into one for African American girls. That, too, met with hostility from local white men who feared that it would draw more African Americans into their community and would lead to interracial marriage. White Canterbury townspeople continuously protested Crandall’s school.
When African American students ventured beyond the school, they were met with taunts, threats and violence. Some whites pelted them with eggs, stones or manure. When Crandall continued undaunted, the Canterbury legislature passed its 1833 “Black Law” (repealed in 1838), making it illegal to run a school teaching African American students from a state other than Connecticut. Crandall was arrested and jailed. Her first trial ended in a hung jury; the second trial resulted in her conviction, which was overturned by a higher court. On the night of September 9,1834, an angry mob broke most of the school’s windows and smashed furniture. Fearing for her students’ safety, Crandall finally closed the school.
Early phone booth with a double door to ensure privacy
Allegedly the remnant of an oak tree containing pieces of artillery fire that were supposedly from the Civil War battle of Chickamauga.
Figurehead of the USS Hartford
Sloop USS Hartford – flagship of Admiral David Farragut at the Battle of Manilia Bay, where he famously declared, "Damn the torpedoes."
Vietnam Memorial in Miniature – Three soldiers
Vietnam Memorial in Miniature – Nurses Memorial
Korean War Memorial in Miniature
World War II Iwo Jima Memorial in Miniature
Connecticut recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor
Hallway outside the House Chamber
Collumbus water dispenser
Behind the Dais is the Charter Oak Chair (or Wishing Chair – the seat of the Lieutenant Governor who is the presiding office and president of the Senate). Legend has it that if one makes a wish while sitting in the chair it will eventualy become true … and many Lieutenant Governors have, indeed wished to become Governor and ultimately done so.
What do you suppose we wished for?
Unfortunately, the Governor was in a conference and our schedule did not permit us to remain around to meet him, we were able to see his outer office.
As with other state capitols, there are always statues and monuments of note, recognizing the state's history and its veterans who have defended our natiion since the Revolution.
Marquis de Lafayette
Col. Thomas Knowlton is widely recognized war hero. His service during the Seven Years' War and the American Revolution are memorialized. Knowlton first saw military action when he enlisted as a private in Colonel Phineas Lyman’s Connecticut provincial regiment in 1757 during the Seven Years’ War (known in America as the French and Indian War). He fought in numerous important battles during the war, including the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga in 1758. His service culminated with the siege of Havana in 1762, by which time he had risen to the rank of second lieutenant.
Civil War's Andersonville Prison Memorial
Corning Fountain features Native Americans representing local tribes, with a deer on top. The city’s name literally means “hart ford,” as in “a place where deer cross a river,”
First Connecticut Heavy Artillary (1860) – Internet photo
Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
City skyscraper and landmark – Traveler's Building
After leaving the Capitol building, we walked across the street to the Supreme Court building.
Old wall drinking fountain
As the Court was hearing a Freedome of Speech case (I listened in for several minutes), we could obviously not wander around it and take pictures. However, the following photo from the Internet does capture some of the grandeur of the court room.
We were, however, able to visit the state library in the building
Despite the fact that the library's volumes have been digitized, thousands of hard copy documents are stoerd in a seven story repository
as well as the state museum, also in the Supreme Court building.
There are four tile inlays with representations of the state's history
One of the first displays we encountered held the history of a toy almost everyone has played with at one time or another … the Frisbee. It antecedents date to the Frisbe Pie Company.
In an adjacent room was what we were told was the most comprehensive collection of guns made by the Colt Manufacturing Company.
There were many display cases with samples of the multitude of everyday products which were manufactured in the state.
There is an early mechanical voting machine, patented in the 1890s and still used up through the 1956 elections
and a special casting recognizing the contributions fo Pratt Whitney to the state and City of Hartford.
Parenthetically, my dad worked for Pratt Whitney (which was the largest manufacturer of air craft engines for American forces) during World War II … and the reason I was born just 1½ from the Capitol at St. Francis Hospital.
However, the most important exhibits involved Connecticut's three most important historical documents
The Fundamental Orders (1639)
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut was an early agreement between the colonial communities of Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor that established a representative government based on the example of a number of Massachusetts colonies. It's arguably the very first constitution of the American colonies and expanded Representative Government by allowing land owners to vote. Inspired by Thomas Hooker's sermon of May 31, 1638, they provided the framework for the government of Connecticut colony from 1639 to 1662. It expanded the idea of Representative Government by allowing non-church members to vote and limits the power of government. This document is also the justification for Connecticut being called the "Constitution State".
The Royal Charter of 1662 – signed by King Charles II
After the English Parliament restored the monarchy in 1660, and King Charles II assumed the English throne, Connecticut which had never been officially recognized as a colony by the British government, the General Court determined that the independence of Connecticut must be legitimized. Governor John Winthrop, Jr. was sent as an emissary to negotiate with the English government, and set sail for England on July 23, 1661. He proved successful in his mission, and the English attorney general approved a bill for incorporation of the Connecticut Charter. The document was returned to Connecticut after being officially sealed and registered, and was adopted by the General Court on October 9, 1662
Charles’s death in 1685 brought his brother, James II, to the throne. King James disapproved of the Royal Charters and demanded their return. The charters interfered with James’s plan to establish the Dominion of New England.
In 1687, Sir Edmond Andros, the Royal Governor of the Dominion, met with leaders of the Connecticut colony in Hartford. Debates continued for hours as the colonists steadfastly refused to give up the Charter. According to legend, all of the candles in the meeting house suddenly blew out and, during the confusion, the Charter disappeared. It was hidden in the trunk of a large white oak tree where it was protected from the King and from Andros. Despite Connecticut’s resistance, it became part of the Dominion of New England for the next two years. In 1689 James II was overthrown and Andros lost power in the colonies. The Connecticut Charter emerged from hiding and was used to govern Connecticut until 1818.
On August 21, 1856, the Charter Oak, estimated at nearly 1,000 years old, fell down during a violent storm. Original artifacts made from its wood, along with numerous images, are on display at the Connecticut Historical Society and continue to tell the legend today.
The State Constitution of 1818
Unlike most of the original colonies, Connecticut did not adopt a constitution when it became a state. Instead, it continued to operate under a charter granted by King Charles II to the Connecticut Colony in 1662. Under the charter the general assembly had pretty much unchecked power. Although in other respects the way the state operated was extremely democratic in principle (elections were held every six months, for example), it didn’t quite work that way in practice.
A convention met in the Old State House in Hartford from August 26 to September 16, 1818. There were about 200 delegates, one or two from each town in the state. Governor Wolcott was elected president of the convention. A 24-member drafting committee submitted a document for consideration. After some changes to the committee’s draft, on September 15, 1818, approved the finished product by a vote of 134 to 61.
The constitution had to be approved by a majority vote of the state’s electors. The vote was close. On October 5, 1818, the electors ratified the constitution by a vote of 13,918 to 12,364. As a result of the process the promise of the Preamble to the Connecticut Constitution was realized. The constitution was established by “the people of Connecticut.”
The Connecticut Constitution begins with a Declaration of Rights which has remained surprisingly intact during the last 200 years. A lthough there is a substantial overlap with the Bill of Rights to the Federal Constitution adopted in 1791, the overlap isn’t complete. Connecticut’s Declaration of Rights contains some rights not provided in the federal version, and some rights that are provided in both versions have been treated more expansively by the Connecticut courts than by the federal courts.
It contains three important rights not found in the Federal Bill of Rights. Section 1 provides “that all men when they form a social compact are equal in rights; and that no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive public emoluments or privileges from the community.” Section 10 provides that “No person shall be arrested, detained or punished, except in cases clearly warranted by law.” Section 12 provides that “All courts shall be open, and every person, for an injury done him in his person, property or reputation, shall have remedy by course of law, and right and justice administered without sale, denial or delay.”
After leaving Hartford, we had lunch with Debbies cousin Barbara and her husband Ned. While it was wonderfult to see them we were shcoked to learn that it had been 19 years since we'd last been together.